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DC’s Most High Line-Like of High Line Spin-offs—Transforming the Georgetown Canal

by Nena Perry-Brown

DC's Most High Line-Like of High Line Spin-offs -- Transforming the Georgetown Canal: Figure 1
A rendering of a potential design for the new Georgetown Canal.

UrbanTurf usually stays away from publishing rankings or lists…except at the end of the year when we look back at what DC’s residential real estate scene had to offer during the previous 12 months. So, this week we are looking at not only the best but the most intriguing and peculiar things that came across our radar over the course of 2017. Enjoy.


In 2017, a number of developments evoked the name of popular Manhattan destination (and harbinger of gentrification) the High Line. However, the DC concept that shares an architect with the High Line might have the biggest claim to that comparison: the redevelopment of the C&O Canal.

Georgetown Heritage, the National Park Service and the Georgetown Business Improvement District announced earlier this year that design and architecture firm James Corner Field Operations had been selected to reimagine and enliven the one-mile stretch of the Canal that runs through Georgetown. James Corner designed the High Line park, and although the two sites have very little in common at first glance, the goals and experience of both do share some parallels. Those similarities are described below:

DC's Most High Line-Like of High Line Spin-offs -- Transforming the Georgetown Canal: Figure 2
A rendering of a potential design for the Aqueduct

  • The one-mile portion of the Canal would reenvision an existing and neglected natural resource as a functional, attractive gathering place for the community and for visitors. The High Line is a 1.45-mile stretch of neglected and disused railroad tracks that was redeveloped into a dynamic and attractive park for the community and for visitors. Both redevelopments aimed to celebrate each site’s historical significance, repair and improve access to the site, and program the site in a way that draws people in.

DC's Most High Line-Like of High Line Spin-offs -- Transforming the Georgetown Canal: Figure 3
A rendering of a potential design for the Wisconsin Cutout with elevator

  • Both sites have a series of zones that offer different experiences. Each has elevated portions and will incorporate both stair and elevator access at multiple points, creating sky decks, water features, “spurs” and overlooks. Both sites also incorporate native vegetation into the landscape design and integrate natural resources into the walkways.

DC's Most High Line-Like of High Line Spin-offs -- Transforming the Georgetown Canal: Figure 4
A rendering of a potential design for the classroom and pier directly across from WHP

One area that may distinguish the two projects — or that certainly gives DC the opportunity to learn from the High Line’s pitfalls — is the issue of gentrification and displacement. Gentrification became a runaway unintended result of the High Line’s opening in 2009, spurring additional development and causing real estate prices to skyrocket adjacent to the park. The C&O Canal already runs through one of DC’s multi-million dollar neighborhoods and it’s hard to imagine the same effect happening — especially as there isn’t much developable land adjacent to the Canal.

The Canal will have to ensure that it remains a welcoming attraction for current city residents, perhaps by avoiding naming various zones and attractions along the Canal after wealthy donors like is seen along the High Line (“Tiffany and Co. Foundation Overlook”, “Diller-Von Furstenburg Water Feature”, etc.). After all, Rock Creek Confluence and Wisconsin Cutout sound a lot better than “Rubenstein Creek Confluence” and “Cooper Cafritz Cutout”.

The Rest of UrbanTurf’s Year in Review

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/dcs_most_high_line-like_of_high_line_spin-offs_--_transforming_the_georgeto/13336

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