by Wallace Mlyniec
April 10, 2013
You may have noticed some activity on the road bed and on the streets surrounding the I 395 freeway west of the Law Center. If so you would have seen engineers drilling core samples to test the composition of the soil and to search for archeological remnants in the area. A construction company, Balfour Beatty, has also converted the pink building at the corner of 3rd Street and Massachusetts Avenue into a construction management center. These activities signal the early stages of the development project over the highway. The development was formerly known as the Air Rights Project or the Return to L’Enfant, but is now known as Capitol Crossing.
As you may recall, the developers, Property Group Partners (PGP), intend to build a deck over the freeway between E Street and Massachusetts Avenue. Depending on how one counts, 5 or 6 buildings will be erected on the deck for offices, housing, and retail activities. The retail spaces, which will be located on the first floor of Massachusetts Avenue, 2nd Street, and 3rd Street, will add vibrancy and needed services to our neighborhood. The apartment building will add new residents in about one hundred and fifty rental units. When completed, the project will contain approximately 2.4 million square feet of occupiable space, bringing 24-hour activity to the neighborhood. The buildings, all LEED certified with green roofs, will be 12 stories tall. Unfortunately, this will eliminate our views to the west.
The rectory of Holy Rosary church, which now sits in the middle of F Street at 3rd on the other side of the freeway, will be demolished and rebuilt behind the church. This is where it was sited before the freeway was built. The Jewish historical synagogue, now located on 3rd Street near Massachusetts Avenue, will be moved to the Building Museum grounds during construction and then to a site on the corner of 3rd and F Streets.
The current entrance to and exit from the freeway heading south, now located on 3rd Street, will be eliminated and a new freeway entrance heading south will be created from Massachusetts Avenue. The exit going north on 2nd Street, now reaching street level alongside the Williams Library, will be relocated slightly to the south of where it is now. Our driveway on the 2nd Street side of McDonough Hall will remain once construction is completed.
G Street between 2nd and 3rd Streets will be open only to pedestrians and bicycles. F Street between 2nd and 3rd will be open to automobile traffic but will have traffic calming devices to discourage automobile traffic. Reopening these streets will unite the west and east ends of downtown and give us quicker access the center of the city. Opening F Street between 2nd and 3rd Streets, however, allows the Mayor to terminate our easement for the Tower Green and to reestablish F Street though our campus. Ultimately, this is an issue of contract and politics. We do not expect any conversations between Georgetown and the Mayor concerning this issue to begin for at least three years.
Construction will commence sometime between mid-July and the end of August of this year. The first stage will involve utility replacements under 2nd, 3rd, E, and H Streets and under Massachusetts Avenue. The developers are still studying the civil engineering drawings to determine which utilities need to be replaced. As of today, we are unsure about where utility work will commence, but once started, it will last for 6 months to a year.
The construction of the deck will commence in 2014 after the utility work is substantially completed. Construction will begin at Massachusetts Avenue and move south. If the freeway remains open, it will take 4 years and $250 million to build the deck. If it is closed, the deck can be constructed in 1 ½ to 2 years. The Department of Transportation has not yet issued a decision regarding the freeway closing. Once the deck is completed between Massachusetts Avenue and G Street, construction of the North buildings along Massachusetts Avenue will begin.
Needless to say, our operations will be disrupted. It appears at this time that the most disruptive work will take place during utility replacements on 2nd Street and during reconstruction of the freeway exit onto 2nd Street. Peter Brown and I are working closely with the construction team and thus far, they seem willing to accommodate our needs. They have yet to develop a construction schedule, but we will be working with them to try to have their schedule accommodate the rhythms of our academic year.
We have a team in place at the Law Center to advise Peter and me about Law Center concerns. We have members from the Registrar’s Office, the Department of Security, the Day Care Center, the Gewirz Center, the Facilities Department, the Admissions Office, and the Library. If your work will be substantially impacted by construction and feel the need to be on this working group, please let me know. Once we get closer to the commencement of construction, I intend to send e mails to the Law Center community to keep everyone apprised of the issues.
I have discussed the project with the Associate Deans and the Dean’s senior staff. They will be able to answer many of your questions. Feel free to contact me they are unable to provide an answer.
This project is truly an extraordinary engineering feat. When the project is complete, and that may be ten to twelve years from now, our neighborhood will have a completely different look and feel. Most of the changes will be to the Law Center community’s benefit. I hope you enjoy watching the project evolve.