Bridging the Opportunity Divide

The Latest City to Build an Elevated Park Is…

January 13, 2015
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The Latest City to Build an Elevated Park Is…
The 11th Street Bridge Project would be built on top of piers that once carried a freeway bridge over the river. Facebook/11th Street Bridge Project
Residents will be treated to waterfalls, gardens and more.

Washington, D.C. has high hopes of building a park to not only attract more tourists, but also unite two very different parts of America’s capital city.

The 11th Street Bridge Project, a plan for an elevated park similar to New York’s High Line, is designed to sit atop a bridge over the Anascostia river. To the west of the river is D.C.’s more familiar parts, dotted with museums and monuments on the National Mall, while the east side is home to a part of the city forgotten in the economic and housing boom. Predominantly African-American, the Anascostia community has been home to black leaders including Frederick Douglass and former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, who was a city councilman for Ward 8 until his death last month.

“Looking at Ward 8, there are a lot of struggling families in the community,” says Rolanda Wilson, a Ward 8 resident and project volunteer. “So to be able to bring something so monumental to the neighborhood and to be able to give people [from both neighborhoods] a chance to connect is more important than anything.”

Park planners want the project to be more of a destination than a walkway, much like the High Line, which is built on an abandoned elevated rail bed on Manhattan’s west side. Using public and private money, D.C.’s bridge park is the size of three football fields laid end to end, erected atop piers that previously held up a freeway bridge over the river, according to Governing.

The park features space for three waterfalls, gardens, a boat launch, an environmental education center, an auditorium and a cafe. The winning design was created by Netherlands-based OMA and OLIN of Philadelphia and is shaped as an “X” over the river.

Project planners have four goals in mind for the 11th Street Bridge Project including: improving community health, encouraging locals to connect with the Anascostia river, uniting neighborhoods on each side of the river and also creating new jobs and economic opportunities, reports Governing.

For example, a new canoe and kayak launch promotes exercise and brings more people to engage with the river, while a waterfall is not only a picturesque spot, but also improves river water quality.

The District of Columbia has already committed $14.5 million toward the project, covering half of construction costs while community leaders from across the city, Virginia and Maryland have gotten on board, along with the federal and municipal governments. Planners aim to raise a total of $45 million in order to include money for pre-construction planning and an endowment to pay for programming at the park, according to project director Scott Kratz.

If all goes according to planned, D.C. residents could find themselves in a new park in 2018, at the earliest.

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