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Penn Branch Square Could Keep Condos Out Of Neighborhood

Union Square at 941 North Capitol Street, NE, currently hosts the Office of Tax and Revenue Customer Service Center (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Since the early 1960s, the once bright and modern shops of Penn Branch Center - bank, drugstore, barber shop, liquor store - have sat at the corner of Pennsylvania and Branch Avenues, in the Capitol Hill area of Southeast Washington, DC. My once very strong desire to see them renovated into a small 'town center', with condos, has ..evolved. There was a time, when I could imagine a new shopping complex resembling newly renovated Fox Chase in Alexandria, Virginia, ..and I still can, truthfully.

Though, I am not sure that would best serve Penn Branch and surrounding areas.

I simply do not think that, with new developments on the horizon, like Capital Gateway (also in Ward Seven), promising to fatten the city's coffers with more annual revenue than Penn Branch can presently generate, that having a stable taxbase of modestly well-off retirees and hard-working, middleclass families will be enough to keep local politicians interested in our concerns.  What's needed at the corner of Pennsylvania and Branch Avenues is a large, important government building and public square, with a few new retail stars added to the list of retail, presently there -Star Pizza, Wells Fargo Bank, CVS Pharmacy and Subway Sandwich Shop.

Imagine the new corner of Penn and Branch looking very much like this.

We need something big and important enough to keep our neighborhoods on the radar with the D.C. City Council and Mayor's Office ..and compettitive with upcoming and evolving developments, east-of-river - Capital Gateway, Southeast Gateway, Uniontown-Anacostia, Minnesota-Benning and nearby Skyland Town Center.  Putting a huge government office complex there -not too high or tall, either- will justify a strong police presence (at least, in Penn Branch) and a consistently reliable public works commitment (power, utilities, etc), ..without the addition of glamorous, upscale shops and [gag...choke] ..condominiums. Furthermore, a large office complex or business center would fall perfectly into compliance with Naylor Dupont Advisory Neighborhood Commission's Small Area Plan of 2008, which asserts that 'any and all...roof structures' should be no higher, than '50 feet' - essentially, that's a five-story building, perfectly suitable for a large office space. Since there really is no other place in that area to put condos, this could slow down unnecessary expansion of Penn Branch and the erosion of this neighborhood's quiet, small town culture, ..which I love.

Penn Branch doesn't need to be gentrified with an increased population of new, affluent people to stay civically and economically viable with the folks, Downtown.  Not sure we need anything down there that area outsiders will be coming far and wide to get to, after five o'clock p.m, either.  We don't even need a 'business improvement district' plan.

An Ethiopian coffeebar that makes irresistible paninis could work, though.
Think about it and get back to me.

Mel Dyer

[Second Edition]


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