2017 - Year in Review!

Written by Scott Kratz

2017 was an amazing year for the 11th Street Bridge Park. We crossed several important milestones on our way to building this new civic space, installed three giant art works on both sides of the river, continued our effort to ensure local residents can stay and thrive in place by implementing our Equitable Development Plan strategies and brought residents together from across the city through cultural programming. As we wrap up this busy and productive year, we wanted to share some of our highlights!

In January we kicked off the second year of our Ward 8 Home Buyers Club – an amazing partnership with the affordable housing non-profit MANNA that aims to provide access to home ownership and generational wealth creation. To date the program has seen over 160 participants and fifty – three Ward 8 residents are now in the process of purchasing their own homes. Wow!

In the second month of the year – February – we produced TWO fabulous cultural programs celebrating the rich history of the region. Deep River: A Blues Speakeasy honored the Piedmont Blues and was hosted at a local Anacostia resident’s home. District of Dance: A D.C. Rhythm & Blues Celebration took place at the Anacostia High School and featured local music from the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s and included hand-dance lessons (Did you know Hand Dancing is D.C.’s official dance?) Both events were produced with our fabulous colleagues from Washington Performing Arts.

In March, we led a screening of the powerful documentary The Arc of Justice that ties the birth of the Community Land Trusts (CLT) to the civil rights movement. A panel of CLT experts followed the film engaging the audience in a discussion about our efforts to stand up a CLT around the future Bridge Park as one tool to preserve affordable housing. We are currently in the process of acquiring property for the CLT in collaboration with the D.C. non-profit City First Homes.

If it’s April, it must mean it’s time for the annual Anacostia River Festival! This year saw over 9,000 residents gather on the banks of the river for canoeing, music, bike parade, a new Ward 8 Artist Market and hands-on activities with 46 non-profit organizations. Thanks to our partners at the National Park Service and the National Cherry Blossom Festival. Save the date for our fourth annual festival on April 15, 2018!

May brought warm weather, walks down to the river and the unveiling of “Behind These Walls” art installation, a collaboration between the Bridge Park, U.S. Navy Museum and Capitol Riverfront Business Improvement District. We selected historic images from the Navy Museum’s collections highlighting the rich history of America’s oldest Navy base. These enormous images are mounted on the Navy Yard’s historic brick walls along 11th Street and M Street SE.

In June, we built our sixth Bridge Park Plot at National Children’s Center in Congress Heights. Our Bridge Park Plots are a collaboration with the University of the District of Columbia and nearby communities of faith / non-profits to build and sustain healthy food access in Wards 8 & 6. Along with our farm at THEARC, we grew 6,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables in a neighborhood that has one full service grocery store.

Every summer, our friends at the National Park Service’s Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens present the Lotus & Water Lily Festival. This July, we partnered with Double Nickels Theater to share stories from Ward 7’s Mayfair Mansions from our mobile front porch. This is part of our larger effort to honor and amplify stories of long-term residents around the future Bridge Park.

Starting in 2016, artist Tendani Mpulubusi El worked with talented students from Ballou High School in Ward 8 and Eastern High School in Ward 6 to create giant art installations that share the history of the Anacostia River and the communities that line its banks. In August, we partnered with the National Park Service to install four of their sculptures along the Anacostia River Trail. They are amazing!

September saw the installation of lighted frames in the 295 Good Hope Road underpass. The six-lane concrete mess known as the 295 freeway has long separated residents from Anacostia Park, the river and the future Bridge Park. This installation was a collaboration with our friends at the Anacostia Arts Center. Our inaugural exhibit features the award winning Ward 7 photographer Bruce McNeil who has been capturing the river’s beauty for the last 20+ years.

As we moved into fall, we produced our first ever Harvest Festival – an opportunity to bring together our Bridge Park Plot families and larger community for a giant pot-luck dinner at THEARC. This October event featured original recipes from each of our farm sites, music & dance curated by Washington Performing Arts and s’mores roasting over a huge campfire outside THEARC garden.

In November, we received unanimous approval for the Bridge Park’s design concept from two important federal review agencies – the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission. Commissioners commended the project team for a “strong design” and noted that “the park will increase community connectivity and create welcoming and vibrant spaces that enhance the user experience and foster civic and local uses.” We agree!

And that brings us to December.  As we wrap up an incredibly exciting and productive 2017, we encourage you to consider a year-end gift to support this iconic new civic space that will bring together residents from both sides of the river and across the city. Donations are tax-deductible and support our work to build an equitable, inclusive and iconic new civic space in the nation’s capital. Thank you for being a Bridge Park Champion!