11th Street Bridge Park’s Equitable Development Plan

11th Street Bridge Park. Washington D.C.'s first elevated park will span the Anacostia River and serve as a new venue for healthy recreation, environmental education, and the arts.

by Building Bridges Across The River

Since 2005, Building Bridges Across the River (BBAR) has sought to improve the quality of life for families living east of the Anacostia River by providing leadership, management and fiscal oversight of the Town Hall Education Arts Recreation Campus (THEARC), THEARC Theater, the 11th Street Bridge Park (Bridge Park) and THEARC Farm. Through these projects, BBAR combats systemic inequity facing black residents in Southeast D.C. with a multi-sector approach to address significant social, health, environmental and economic disparities in our city.

The Bridge Park, our largest capital project to date, will become the District of Columbia’s first elevated park, connecting the historic Anacostia and Capitol Hill neighborhoods that are geographically divided by the Anacostia River. From the beginning, community engagement and feedback have driven the conceptualization and design of the Bridge Park. The first two years were filled with hundreds of neighborhood meetings on both sides of the river leading to the identification of programming concepts for the design of the park. These concepts were seamlessly woven into the park’s design by architects OMA + OLIN who have been working with the community to develop a world-class public space for recreation, arts and environmental education.

Throughout this community-led process, it became clear that the Bridge Park had the potential to be more than a park. In particular, the Bridge Park could symbolize a new unity and connection between a booming area of the city and one that has long been excluded from the city’s economic progress.

This is especially important for D.C. residents and small businesses located east of the river. Decades of disinvestment, coupled with the economic, racial and geographic segregation of Wards 7 and 8, mean that many of the communities east of the river are areas of low homeownership, high poverty and unemployment. Indeed, the most recent data from the American Community Survey reveal multiple census tracts with child poverty rates above 50 percent and unemployment rates above 20 percent.

Given this stark reality, 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.

Partnering with a number of local non-profits, the Bridge Park is now implementing these equitable development strategies with over $56 million of direct investments going into the community; these dollars nearly match the capital costs of building the Bridge Park. This work has become a model across the country inspiring similar equity plans in St. Louis, Dallas and Los Angeles.

This Equitable Development Plan supports the unprecedented investments made by Mayor Bowser and the D.C. City Council supporting workforce development, small businesses, housing and cultural equity in an effort to create a more inclusive city.

About the Author

Building Bridges Across the River (BBAR) provides residents East of the Anacostia River access to the best-in-class facilities, programs and partnerships in arts and culture, economic opportunity, education, recreation, health and well-being.

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