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Monday, January 23, 2017

Raising a Toast in DC's Last Towers?

I recently came upon some information regarding the possible fates of Washington DC's two remaining interlocking towers.  These are the still active K Tower, at Amtrak's Union Station, and the former PRR VIRGINIA tower at the junction of the passenger route through Union Station and the Landover freight bypass.  Both locations have been the subject of recent development efforts and preservation of both towers have actually been addressed in the planning. 

When CSX started its Virginia Ave Tunnel clearance project in 2015, part of the agreement with the city was that VIRGINIA tower was to not only be left in place, but also cleaned up and stabilized.  That means roof and window repair along with some sort of move towards adaptive reuse.  It was reported that some of the ideas include a bar, museum or even a boutique micro hotel.  So called "security concerns" might derail some or all of these plans, but given the size of the building I would say that a museum might be the most likely option. 

The same article also links to Amtrak's Union Station Master Plan that portends a similar far for the iconic K Tower, which would be covered over by some sort of terminal roof desk that would support an urban redevelopment project.  The active tower itself would be moved into some sort of office, while the physical building would be moved around and turned into a cafe or bar.  While the Union Station plan seems a bit more certain about the bar idea, cities reaching "peak millennial" or a Trump induced economic collapse could put the development on hold (at least for a time, like with the West Side Rail yard redevelopment). 

Needless to say I am unenthusiastic about any project that would turn an active tower into a stuffed animal head on the wall.  As tempting as selling air rights are, having trains scamper into underground rabbit dens are never a good way to enter a great city.  Development comes in waves and both DC and NYC have been cresting for some time now.  Hopefully the cycle will turn around and travelers on the NEC will be treated to K Towers cheery copper facade for decades to some.

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