This is a guest blog by D.C. Department of Transportation Director Jeff Marootian and Bridge Park Director Scott Kratz.
The 11th Street Bridge Park in Washington, D.C.—a planned repurposing of the retired 11th Street Bridge across the Anacostia River between the East of the River neighborhoods and Capitol Hill into a vibrant city park—will connect communities and create new shared experiences across and along the Anacostia River. This innovative public-private partnership in the nation’s capital is re-connecting neighborhoods to the river’s banks and to each other.
A Community-Led Approach
This project, which is a partnership between the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) and the local nonprofit Building Bridges Across the River (BBAR), will become the District of Columbia’s first elevated park, transforming a retired freeway span into a civic space that connects the historic Anacostia and Capitol Hill neighborhoods—which are geographically divided by the Anacostia River.
Building Bridges Across the River has led stakeholder engagement for the project and will manage the 11th Street Bridge Park when it opens. DDOT is managing the design, construction, and permitting of the park. The estimated $70 million budget for the new park is also being split evenly between the city and BBAR, with many corporations and philanthropic organizations contributing to BBAR’s support of the project.
From the beginning, BBAR led extensive community engagement on the project, working to ensure that the park will benefit the community and not displace residents and businesses that call East of the River home.
Feedback from hundreds of community meetings drove the work of two top design and engineering firms, Whitman Requardt & Associates and OMA + OLIN, to identify concepts for the Bridge Park’s design that reflected the interests of local residents in programming spaces for recreation, arts, and environmental education. Even before construction is scheduled to begin in 2021, BBAR has partnered with local cultural non-profit organizations to install a series of art installations celebrating local history and providing cultural bread crumbs beckoning residents down to the banks of the Anacostia River.
Throughout this community-led process, it became clear that the Bridge Park had the potential to be more than a park—it is a symbol of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s efforts to unify and bring prosperity to all eight wards of the District.
[Learn more about how cities can address systems that perpetuate barriers for low-income children and communities of color so all children can benefit from nature in their everyday lives.]
A Connection to Housing and Jobs
We are working together to “Bridge D.C.” By leveraging this investment in physical infrastructure, the District of Columbia and Bridge Park team are investing in the local neighborhoods to ensure residents can stay and thrive in place. Mayor Bowser has made big investments to keep the District affordable for all Washingtonians, especially families.
A key goal of the Bridge Park is to serve as an anchor for equitable and inclusive economic growth. The Bridge Park’s design strategies will increase connectivity between those living on both sides of the Anacostia River, but more must be done to ensure that residents and small businesses nearby will continually benefit from the success of this signature new civic space.
In 2015, the Bridge Park staff met with local officials, faith leaders, business owners, civic associations and key stakeholders to create action items in four key areas: housing; workforce development; small business; and cultural equity strategies. This community-driven Equitable Development Plan includes a Ward 8 Home Buyers Club where 72 renters have become homeowners. Other investments include a construction training program that 119 graduates have completed, to date; standing up a Community Land Trust; piloting a 5 to 1 matched Children Savings Accounts; and, providing $530,000 in loans to small businesses East of the River.
Richard Sullivan, a Ward 8 resident who participated in our construction training and has since been hired shared, “For me, when I got my job, I feel like the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulder, that I could be a husband, that I can be a dad, that I could contribute to the household.”
This Equitable Development Plan supports the unprecedented investments made by Mayor Bowser and the D.C. Council to support the workforce development, small business, housing and cultural equity programs that create a more inclusive city. For more information, check out these short videos that demonstrate the Bridge Park’s commitment to equity.
About the Authors:
Jeff Marootian is the Director of the Washington, D.C. District Department of Transportation where he leads the 1100-employee agency in its mission to create a safe and sustainable transportation system for the District of Columbia.
Scott Kratz is the Vice President of the Ward 8 non-profit Building Bridges Across the River and Director of the 11th Street Bridge Park.