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Evans, Schwartz ask mayor to kill giant Shaw garage

(Published July 12, 1999)

By REBECCA CHARRY

Staff Writer

D.C. City Council members have asked the mayor to scrap plans for a $300 million 7,200-car underground parking garage in Shaw and look for alternative sites.

At a hearing July 7, members of the councilís Committee on Public Works strongly criticized the idea of putting the so-called Intermodal Transportation Center into a six-block area bounded by New York and Massachusetts avenues from Fourth to Sixth streets NW.

"I donít think this is a good idea," said Councilman Jack Evans, D-Ward 2, who represents Shaw. "The people donít want it and they will fight it every step of the way."

Councilwoman Carol Schwartz, R-At large, chair of the committee, said she has asked Mayor Anthony A. Williams to direct the cityís public works department, which is overseeing study of the project, to remove the Shaw site from consideration.

Williams said he is not ready to submit to that request.

"Heís not ready to say absolutely yes or absolutely no on the Shaw site," said mayoral spokeswoman Peggy Armstrong. "He has heard the input from the community and wants to see what our new director of planning will have to say."

Evans said he plans to introduce a non-binding "sense of the council" resolution July 13 announcing the councilís opposition to the Shaw site for the center.

"I want the idea of the Shaw site dead, but only the mayor can make it dead," Evans said.

In theory, the transportation center would provide underground parking for vehicles exiting Interstate 395 and U.S. Route 50. Visitors would then leave their parked cars and board a trolley or light rail to other destinations.

But many Shaw residents say they believe the center is actually a plan to provide parking for a baseball stadium proposed above ground on the site and for the new convention center under construction north of Mount Vernon Square. At least one council member agrees.

"This is not the way to cope with the fact that the (new) convention center was designed with no adequate parking and loading facilities, " said Councilwoman Sharon Ambrose, D-Ward 6. "We are not going to spend one more penny figuring out how to park cars at a baseball stadium that only exists in some peopleís minds."

The city spent $250,000 studying the site, said Art Lawson, deputy director of the Department of Public Works. The Shaw site would be financed primarily with federal funds.

"That is funneling traffic to an already congested area," Schwartz said. "Urban planning policy is to intercept traffic outside of downtown; this is totally counter to that."

She suggested Union Station or the area around New York and Florida avenues as alternate sites.

In the meantime, supporters of the stadium plan say the defeat of the Shaw garage will not stop baseball from coming to the District.

"We have sufficient funding options to pay for the anticipated cost of parking at a baseball stadium even without the federal funds that the (transportation center) would have brought," said William Hall, a member of the D.C. Sports Commission. "Certainly the ITC would have been helpful, but we have adequate finances."

Shaw residents, meanwhile, expressed relief at Evansí stand.

"This is not going to be another convention center that just happens and we donít wake up to it until later," said Bud Lane, chairman of the Ward 2 Democrats who opposed the site. "I wonít believe this is really dead until I see it buried."

While Evans said he is against building the transportation center in Shaw, he is not opposed to building it elsewhere. Nor did he rule out building other parking facilities in Shaw if necessary to accommodate future development.

"You would need parking in that area in the sense of whatever gets created there could need parking," he said.

Copyright 1999, The Common Denominator