Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Will the Existing Westport Community Benefit from Development?

The redevelopment of Westport's Waterfront has been a long time coming. It will be the crown and jewel of the Middle Branch transforming a vacant industrial wasteland into an upscale mixed use community. It will be close to the Blue and Yellow Lines and the MARC Camden Line and the more local Orange Line. When completed the Westport Waterfront will have 3 million square feet of Office and Retail Space, 2,000 Condos, and at least one Boutique Hotel. This will instantly transform the Westport Waterfront but what will it do for the existing Westport Community?
One thing the media hasn't shed light on is the fact that Westport is not new, it's been a community with long time residents and row homes that are close to 100 years old. Westport itself looks like a throw back to the 1960s as the industrial uses that were the back bone of employment in Westport shut down or were moved due to interstate construction. So far the promise of new development on the land that once housed the Community's jobs hasn't had much benefit on the existing Westport Community. Now lets see if the finished product will be a united Westport in every corner of the neighborhood.
The way I see it, Westport is divided into three distinct sections; the abandoned waterfront which is poised for redevelopment, the "core" of Westport which is centered along Annapolis Road, the community's Main Street, and Westport Homes a public housing development located west of the BW Parkway and the neighborhood's core which is east of the BW Parkway. The light rail tracks separate the core from the waterfront. One selling point of the new Westport development is its accessibility to major highways and rail lines. The truth is; it's anything but. It's near these things but just because it's near something doesn't make it accessible. In making the entire Westport Community more accessible the three sections of the neighborhood will be stream lined to make one neighborhood that is truly accessible. The BW Parkway and the light rail, although assets act as barriers between sections of Westport.
In order to accomplish this the roadways and rail tracks that divide Westport will have to be reworked and redesigned. I have always been a supporter of getting rid of highways in urban areas that don't benefit the city and act as a barrier. In this the culprit is the BW Parkway. I envision it as an at grade Boulevard with two lanes in each direction with row house type shops on either side with an upstairs apartment. This will serve as Westport's new Main Street. It will be pedestrian oriented with traffic and pedestrian signals at intersections. Upon entering the city the BW Parkway will cease being a highway and will turn into "South Russell Street. Part of Annapolis Road will be done away with at the the city/county line and will branch off from Russell St. upon entering the "core" of Westport. Turning the BW Parkway into an at grade Main St. will re enforce the urban grid that was disrupted when the Parkway was built.
This will reunite Westport Homes with the core of Westport, I will discuss Wesport Homes later. This will also reunite Westport with the MARC Camden Line tracks and the localized Orange Line which will have a stop here that will serve Westport, Mount Winans, Morrell Park, and Saint Paul.Speaking of rail tracks the other barrier of Westport is the light rail tracks. Having light rail service for Westport has been and will continue to be a community asset but it will act as a barrier between the Westport Waterfront and the "core" of Westport. The solution, you guessed it! Tunneling! The BW Parkway is set to be widened but instead we'd use those funds to turn it to South Russell St. and via my "Transit Fund Bundling" iniative, will partially pay for the tunneling of the tracks. Patrick Turner, the developer of the Westport Waterfront will pay for the tunneling as well.Now lets talk development, the development potential of Westport does not stop at the Waterfront by any stretch of the imagination. There are plenty of parcels ready for development. There are two that face I-95 on the north side one east of the BW Parkway one west. They will each be two high rise condos totaling four. There will be a fifth high rise but that will be a mixed population public housing high rise (The Elderly and Disabled) and will serve as a model for the city's existing mixed use high rises to renovate into the 21st century. Westport Elementary will close and its students will be redistricted to Lakeland Elmentary/Middle. The old Westport Elementary will be perfect for loft apartments. Two identical loft apartment buildings will be built on the fields surrounding the School.
As part of my phasing out of public housing family developments Westport Homes will be demolished. Westport Homes Extension has already met this fate. Many older Westport Homes residents may eligible to move into the new mixed population building. Town homes will go in place of Westport Homes. They will range in price and size starting with a two bedroom one and a half bath no garage no basement at $175,000 and topping out with a four bedroom three and a half bath with a two car garage and basement at $375,000. The "core of Westport will be surrounded by new development. However, this part of Westport will not hit the wrecking ball. Their value will obviously go up and homesteaders will jump at the opportunity to buy and rehab one. If older home owners or renters here feel they can no longer afford to live here due to tax increases they can move into the new mixed population building.The "core" may be eligible for historic designation, this would be great to further ensure that no demolition occurs here. One project of note is the restoration of Mount Auburn Cemetery. The disinvestment here was unacceptable but Community activists cleaned it up and now looks better than ever.
Now for the original question "Will the existing Wesport Community Benefit from Development?" It will but we'll have to knock down some barriers in order to make it an all around success.


Jess said...

hey there! we met Howard Live @ Turf Valley. I've been following your blogs since then, sorry for not commenting sooner! love the content, i have advertised them in the left column of my blog in my blog roll. keep up the good work! :)

Spence Lean said...

Jess, Great to hear from you! You keep reading I'll keep writing! I didn't know you had a blog what the address I'll have to check it out, thanks for linking my blogs to it!