2022 - Year in Review

Written by Scott Kratz, Senior Vice President, Building Bridges Across the River

December is often a time for looking back and reflecting on the last 12 months. In 2022 we reached 100% design of the park and a ton of project milestones, positioning us to break ground next year – WOW! We amplified the voices of local residents through programs like the Anacostia River Festival and commissioned public art for this new civic space. And we continued our work ensuring that the 11th Street Bridge Park can be an anchor for inclusive and equitable economic growth. Read on for a review of 2022!

Giant Step Closer to Groundbreaking!

After many years of hard work, we are now at 100% design of the park! In the spring, we showed off plans for our 11,000 sq ft. intergenerational playspace Mussel Beach. Designed by award-winning firm Studio Ludo, this interactive space features slides, giant climbing mollusks and driftwood balance beams. You can read all about it in this NPR article. Learning about our natural world continues in the Environmental Education Center led by our partners at the Anacostia Watershed Society who will also manage our 100 ft. long kayak and canoe launch. The entire park embodies principles of sustainability with two Gold LEED buildings, 175 new native trees, a giant green roof that captures every drop of storm water into giant cisterns to be reused for irrigation and solar panels capturing the sun’s power. 

In the fall, we received unanimous approval of the park’s final design from two important federal review agencies, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission. NCPC Chair Beth White remarked “I think the park design is very innovative and it is a public space that will better connect the communities on both sides of the Anacostia River. I am certain that this will be a space for everyone to enjoy and come together.” We agree! You can see our latest designs in this Washingtonian piece. 

In 2022, our capital campaign raced ahead by securing an additional $30MM bringing us within $10MM of our goal. This included additional funding from the District (thank you DC Councilmembers and Mayor Bowser!), a Congressional community funded project grant (thank you Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton!), a $6MM grant from the Economic Development Administration, and gifts from a number of local families, foundations and corporations. We are so grateful for all this support. 

Amplifying Community Voices

A key goal of the Bridge Park is to share the rich history and culture of the surrounding neighborhoods through art and community programming. Earlier this year, we announced our first major sculpture commission, Anacostia Sunrise Sunset Portals by the mother daughter team of Jackson Jarvis Studios. You can see more about their stunning work in this CBS piece. Later in the year, we announced another four artworks (all women!) including a giant mural honoring the earliest Native inhabitants, a light sculpture and hammock grove. DCist covered this announcement and you can read about these commissioned works here. 

It wouldn’t be spring without the annual Anacostia River Festival and in April we brought together several thousand residents for fishing demonstrations, hands on art activities and rocking the beat to four Go Go Bands produced by Don’t Mute DC. (Save the date for May 20, 2023 for our 9th annual festival!) In the fall we hosted our annual Taste of the Harvest Festival with garlic planting, recipes from our seven Bridge Park Plots, and the ever-popular roasting s’mores under the stars. We also installed our seventh art installing in SE DC, this time a giant mural at our Allen Chapel AME Bridge Park Plot created by local artists Dietrich Williams and Mark Garrett. 

An Inclusive Economy

Beyond investing in the bricks and mortar of the actual park, for the last seven years, we’ve been investing in the surrounding neighborhoods to ensure that the thousands of local residents who shaped the park can benefit from it. This work is outlined in our Equitable Development Plan and includes affordable housing, workforce development, preservation of Black small businesses and arts & culture strategies. 

In February, the Urban Institute published their full report on our THRIVE East of the River program – a partnership between the Bridge Park, Martha’s Table, Bread for the City and Far Southeast Family Strengthening Collaborative. THRIVE has become the largest privately funded unconditional cash transfer program ever attempted in the United States providing $5,500 no strings attached funds to over 600 Ward 8 families – a direct response to the pandemic. One THRIVE participant noted “It helped tremendously. I’m very grateful. It’s just amazing when you think about how much they’re giving.” You can read more about this important initiative in this Washington Post article. 

We’re also working to ensure local Anacostia businesses can prosper as we launched a new small business preservation pilot in partnership with the Anacostia Business Improvement District. This program provides pro bono technical assistance from the international consulting firm Booz Allen focusing on marketing assistance, back of house financial services and to being in a better compete for government grants. We’re working with 10 Black owned businesses along Good Hope Road SE who will each receive $8,000 cash grants. Special thanks to Booz Allen, Target, LISC DC, PNC and Prince Charitable Trusts for their support!

In 2022, we announced the Geico Closing Cost Assistance Program providing $2,500 to graduates of our Ward 8 Home Buyers Club, a partnership with local affordable housing partner Manna. Closing costs can be a major barrier for first time homeowners. Huge thank you to Geico for supporting this new initiative. One hundred and four Ward 8 renters have purchased a home they can call their own after going through the program!

Finally, as we get closer to groundbreaking next year, we’ve graduated 26 construction training classes at Skyland Workforce Center and over 150 east of the river residents have been hired in the construction trades. We’re sharing lessons learned with our Five City Workforce Cohort – a partnership with similar parks in Buffalo, Dallas, Grand Rapids and San Francisco.  You can read more about our equitable development investments in this comprehensive New York Times article Can Anacostia Build A Bridge Without Displacing People.

As we wrap up this year, we’d like to give a MASSIVE thank you to all of our supporters, partners and champions for realizing this community driven vision. We wish you all a happy, safe and cheerful holiday season.

-Scott Kratz, Senior Vice President, Building Bridge Across the River