I think we’d all agree that this was an odd and turbulent year as the pandemic continued to impact the communities we serve. Throughout 2021, we explored new ways we can support our residents, neighborhoods and communities while making continued progress on the park’s design. Read on for a recap of the last 12 months.
Park’s Design Charges Forward
Working remotely didn’t slow our incredible design and engineering team. Earlier this month, we picked up a giant stack of plans representing the park’s 65% design. This represents the bridge’s engineering, landscape plan, irrigation, refined drawings of our Environmental Education Center and café / community room and River Amphitheater. You can check out our latest renderings here (they are beautiful!) Now that our environmental review is complete per federal regulation, this puts us on track to be at 100% design by May, 2022 and begin the process soliciting our builder – exciting! And stay tuned in the next couple of months for several big announcements about our on-going capital campaign. We’re now at 89% towards our goal of $139MM which represents funds supporting the park’s construction and our equitable development investments – wow.
Engaging The Community
To ensure a safe experience for all, we transitioned several in person events to a virtual format. This included our annual Anacostia River Festival which featured presentations by community partners and an AMAZING concert by Go Go band Pure Elegance. You can see the full video here (already viewed by over 2,000 folks!) Our programming continued this summer with Community Conversations series exploring the power of partnerships highlighting our THRIVE East of the River partnership, how to put decision making power back into the hands of local residents and an exploration of our arts & culture equity strategies.
In the fall, our design team and engineers shared an update on the park’s progress to over 200 residents. We wrapped up the year with our annual Taste of the Harvest festival – in person! It was so refreshing to see our stakeholders in real life for a percussion concert and screening of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs on a giant outdoor screen. And just last week, we partnered with local community leader Brenda Richardson and the Metropolitan Police Department to hand out 37 bikes and hundreds of toys during the annual Ward 8 holiday walk. Special thanks to TD Bank for once again supporting this program making the season a little brighter.
A Resident Centered Process
Anyone who has been following our work knows that this has become so much more than a park. Since 2015, we’ve implemented community driven equity strategies ensuring that local residents can stay and thrive in place. This spring we were honored to join our partners at Manna for a ribbon cutting at Oramenta Gardens named after the late Oramenta Newsome who led the local LISC office for decades. At this affordable housing development, eight out of the twelve townhomes were purchased by members of our Ward 8 Homebuyers Club and three received down payment assistance from the Bridge Park creating generational wealth. We recently graduated our twentieth construction training class and now have 70 east of the residents placed in jobs. And we’re taking this work national as we received funding to support four similar transformed infrastructure into parks projects in Dallas, Buffalo, Grand Rapids and San Francisco. We are now advising nearly a dozen park projects on how to engage their residents to create their own equitable development strategies. We’re supporting black owned businesses east of the river with a new pilot to build new e-commerce revenue streams. Working with the Ward 8 design firm Creative Junk Food, we’ve built new websites, initiated search engine optimization and connected these businesses with a team of experts from Capital One – all at no charge thanks to the generous support from Target. Finally, we’ve continued our THRIVE East of the River partnership with Martha’s Table, Bread for the City and Far Southeast Family Strengthening Collaborative to launch what’s become the largest privately funded unconditional cash transfer program ever attempted in the United States. To date, we’ve transferred over $3.5MM to over 550 Ward 8 families who have been hard hit by the pandemic.
This has been a challenging year to put it mildly. But just like our resilient community, we’ve persevered. By acting intentionally and building on eight years of a community driven process, the Bridge Park will help stitch together Washington D.C. Thank you to everyone who has been on this journey and supporting thriving neighborhoods and vibrant civic life – a place for all of us. Wishing you all a very happy holidays and bright new year.