Redeveloping a hole in the urban fabric


The New York Times described the plan for CityCenter, Washington, DC’s newest downtown icon, as a “modern day Rockefeller Center.” While comparisons to the iconic 1930s development may sound like hyperbole, CityCenter is an impressive addition to the city and one of the largest redevelopment projects in the US recent years.

CityCenter is influenced by principles of New Urbanism: The blocks are human-scale, and the buildings front the street in an inviting pedestrian-friendly fashion. Built on the site of the former DC convention center, which was torn down in 2004, the CityCenter property was a superblock-sized hole in the urban fabric—about three times the size of the typical DC block. The designers of CityCenter addressed that chasm with extensions of 10th Street and I Street through the project.

The $700 million, 10-acre complex offers a mix of housing, office space, retail stores, restaurants, and public spaces. The next phase will include a luxury hotel. Parking is primarily underground.

A new public park located inside CityCenter boasts one particularly noteworthy feature: A laser-cut fountain designed by Gustafson Guthrie Nichol—called “a reason to visit DC” by Kriston Capps of CityLab.

A fountain in CityCenter. Source: Photo by Payton Chung.

You don't need a car to live in CityCenter: The development is located one block from three Metro stations. Residents can get on any line to travel nearly anywhere in the region. In addition, two Bikeshare stations are located nearby. Car-share vehicles and bus stops abound. If you still want a car, there is parking—you can even wash your car on site.

Loads of cultural venues are within walking distance, including the Shakespeare Theater, the National Portrait Gallery, sports events at the Verizon Center, and almost unlimited restaurants and bars. CityCenter has a farmer's market, musical performers, outdoor movies, and other special events. The entire development has received a Gold certification for LEED Neighborhood Development. 

Although CityCenter has been criticized for its high-end retail and expensive residential units, 92 affordable units—20 percent of the total—are included among its 458 apartments.

Pritzker Prize-winner Norman Foster designed many of the buildings with sleek, modern architecture—and whether that suits your taste or not, the storefronts, curbsides, and public spaces are lively. 

A park in CityCenter. Source: Photo by Payton Chung.

“During the summer I recall three little girls playing in the flat fountain with jets of water coming out of the stone pavement, says Linda Brown, a resident of Rockville, Maryland, who works near CityCenter. “They each must have been around three years old, and were so full of wonder.”

Top Photo: A pedestrian street in CityCenter. Source: Photo by Payton Chung.

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