Blog: 2024 – A Momentous Year For Bridge Park

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

2024 – A Momentous Year For Bridge Park

This year will prove to be a pivotal one for the 11th Street Bridge Park. After ten years working with local residents at every step of the way, we are finally breaking ground on this once in a generation new civic space that will bridge Washington D.C. Read on to see why we are so excited about 2024!

Building A Bridge…

The journey to build a community driven park has certainly had its twists and turns. When transforming an aged out federal highway over a navigable river into the city’s first elevated park that is wedged between an active U.S. Department of Defense installation and a National Park, things can get complicated. To date, the 11 Street Bridge Park has received approvals from: National Park Service (the lead agency for the National Environmental Policy Act review), D.C. State Historic Preservation Office, National Capital Planning Commission, U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, Department of Homeland Security and D.C. Fire & Emergency Services. This week, we’ll receive our permit from the D.C. Department of Energy and the Environment so we can move forward with the U.S. Army Corps Section 401 & 404 permit. And by March we should have our U.S. Coast Guard permit and D.C. Department of Buildings construction permit. Whew! 

Securing these permits means that our partners at the District Department of Transportation can solicit our general contractor in the spring and finally break ground later this year. An ENORMOUS thank you everyone who joined public meetings shaping this project, driving programming, selecting our design team and participating in our many festivals, art installations and public meetings. The native playwright Diane Glancy once shared that every right idea has a right time. And after 10 years, the time is right to put a shovel in the ground for the 11th Street Bridge Park 😊.

An Inclusive & Equitable Community

The 11th Street Bridge Park has always been more than a park. In 2015, we launched our first equitable development plan – 34 community driven strategies to ensure long term residents can stay and THRIVE in place. Over the past 12 months, we’ve worked with hundreds of stakeholders who participated in public meetings and gave thoughtful suggestions to update our equitable development plan. I’m thrilled to share that on the evening of February 8, we’ll release the third version of our equitable development plan as part of a public town hall meeting at Anacostia High School. These strategies include a brand new health & wellness category that addresses environmental justice goals and helps realize a key project aim to support the communities’ public health. 

As we address food justice East of the River, we’ll be kicking off a FREE farmers market every Friday afternoon from mid-May through November. It’s important to remove as many barriers as possible to healthy locally grown fresh food for a community that has only one full-service grocery store serving 75,000 residents. The free farmers market produce will be sourced from THEARC Farm and our Bridge Park Plots – six urban farms created six years ago by the Bridge Park in partnership with communities of faith and non-profits. Along with THEARC Farm, these include gardens at Union Temple Baptist Church, Allen Chapel AME, Hopkins Apartments, National Childrens Center and the latest site at Nationals Baseball Stadium. Our partners at DC Central Kitchen will provide free weekly cooking classes sharing tasty recipes using seasonal food.  

In 2024, we’re also launching the second year of our small business preservation pilot program – a collaboration between the Bridge Park, Anacostia Business Improvement District and the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. This year we’ll work with six small businesses and non-profits along a 5 block stretch of Martin Luther King Jr. Ave SE (from Marion Barry Jr. Ave SE to Chicago Street SE) to provide individualized pro bono technical assistance and $6,000 cash grants. And in 2024 we’ll also launch the second year of our mobile small business kiosk – or Bridge Spot – featuring eight Ward 8 entrepreneurs with the goal to increase sales and brand awareness. This program is also in partnership with the Anacostia BID and dedicated team from Accenture who are providing pro bono advice and counseling to each small business. In 2026, the Bridge Spot will find a permanent home on the park when open to the public.

Since we launched our first equitable development plan, we have invested over $91MM in our surrounding neighborhoods – that matches the cost of the park’s actual construction. And this effort has inspired similar work across the country. There are now equitable development plans in Buffalo, San Francisco and Los Angeles modeled on the work here in Washington, D.C. And in March, I will travel to Toronto to share lessons learned with our Canadian neighbors as they create anti-displacement plans of their own. We should all be proud that the nation’s capital has become an important model for equitable and inclusive growth from coast to coast. 

Honoring Our Past, Building Our Future

A key part of the Bridge Park’s equitable development plan is to amplify the voices, history and culture of the surrounding neighborhoods and residents. In 2024, this will include a complete refurbishment of our Anacostia Riverwalk giant sculptures by Ward 8 artist Tendani Mpulubisi-El designed by students at Ballou an Eastern High Schools. 

And this spring, we’ll produce our 10th annual Anacostia River Festival celebrating the Anacostia’s restoration, history and the communities that line its banks. Join us the afternoon of Saturday, May 4 as bring back Spoken Word a Go Go (another partnership with the Anacostia BID), performances by local bands, dozens of community partners offering hands on workshops, a parade down Marion Barry Jr. Ave and the ever-popular East of the River Artist Market. And this year, we are producing a one-of-a-kind baby river otter plush toy for sale – could be a future mascot for the park? Special thanks to the National Park Service, National Cherry Blossom Festival and the three dozen local NGOs who help make this much anticipated event a reality. 

In June, we’ll pilot new health and wellness strategies in Anacostia Park that will include free forest bathing workshops, art classes and yoga as we test future park when we open in a few short years. It wouldn’t be fall without our annual Taste of the Harvest Festival at THEARC where we bring together our six urban farms in SE DC for an evening of cooking classes, performances, roasting s’mores over an open fire and a sit-down dinner for 600 neighbors. We’ll end the year by participating in the holiday walk with the Woodland Terrace community and Metropolitan Police Department distributing hundreds of toys, singing Christman Carols and we just might have another visit by Santa Claus in the Great Ward 8.

You can see why we are so excited about 2024! We hope to see you at our upcoming Town Hall, summer walking tours, Anacostia River Festival and Taste of the Harvest celebration. And of course we always welcome your feedback! Feel free to shoot me an e-mail at: scott@bridgepark.org. We’d love to hear from you. 

In the meantime, wishing you and your family a healthy, happy and joyful 2024.