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Pre-Construction on 11th Street Bridge Park Could Begin in September

by Nena Perry-Brown

While it may not seem as though much has happened since the design for the 11th Street Bridge Park was unveiled two years ago, UrbanTurf has learned that pre-construction for the highly-anticipated park could begin next month, putting it on a schedule to be complete in three years.

The Park is a years-long effort by Building Bridges Across the River at THEARC to repurpose the old 11th Street Bridge’s three concrete piers (map). A design from architectural team OLIN, OMA and Arup was selected in 2014. The park, which will be three football fields-long, involves two intersecting ramps, one projecting from each shore, that will be activated with an amphitheater, environmental education center, sculpture garden and boat launch.

Although a conversation a year ago with park director Scott Kratz indicated that pre-construction would begin last year, shifting priorities as well as a more thorough understanding of all the steps and groundwork required to accomplish a project of this magnitude delayed the start.

The first six months of pre-construction will involve permitting, as well as load-testing the old piers, and mapping out the various federal and local approvals that will be required. The ensuing year will see the design developed from the conceptual phase to construction drawings. Required environmental assessments and other reviews will also be done at this time. This timeline puts construction starting in about a year and a half.

“We’ve secured about [$15.5] million in public and private funding,” Kratz told UrbanTurf recently. This includes two seven-figure gifts from a private foundation, individual donors and a Fortune 500 company, that are expected to be secured by the end of the year, as well as an $11.35 million appropriation that the District has already committed to — a $3 million increase over what they had previously allocated.

The city’s money is line-itemed in the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) budget in small portions to be released each fiscal year. Building Bridges is also encouraging DDOT to apply for federal TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant funds. Efforts are currently being made to secure an additional $10 million through the New Markets Tax Credit program.

Now the challenge is two-fold: to maintain the momentum to keep private fundraising on track through the construction process, and to ensure continuous efforts are made to minimize any potential displacement that the park may cause in the surrounding neighborhoods.

Kratz believes that getting people to re-engage with the River as a civic space and environmental resource will go a long way toward encouraging more donations to the park and toward improving the overall health and functionality of the river.

Large-scale programming like the Anacostia River Festival gives the park’s team an opportunity to test and pilot various ideas that may influence how the design evolves. Smaller initiatives, such as partnerships with area churches and faith-based organizations to install urban agricultural beds on both sides of the river, may also be ongoing components of the park’s community improvements.

Meanwhile, an Equitable Development Plan (EDP) was announced in November to address the looming specter of potential gentrification — all the more crucial when comparing this plan to that of New York City’s High Line park and the development spurred by that amenity-turned-attraction. Various facets of the EDP are already underway, such as Manna’s Ward 8 homebuyers club, which started in February and has 64 participants thus far.

Building Bridges has also partnered with City First Homes to explore creating a community land trust in the neighborhood. There is also the Local Initiatives Support Corp.‘s commitment of $50 million toward preventing displacement within a mile of the park.

“How do you invest in these places without displacing the same people that you’re serving?” Kratz asks, identifying that question as key to how near-term work on the project has unfolded. “We’re trying to keep pushing forward but we’ve been [fairly successful]. Providing that constant feedback loop with area residents to help shape this project at every step and to continue to have ownership stake and involvement in the project has been absolutely critical.”

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/a_status_update_for_the_11th_street_bridge_park/11598

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