Canal Park to Open Next Week

The newest addition to the ballpark neighborhood includes an art space, an ice rink, and a restaurant.

By: Sophie Gilbert

The Capitol Riverfront neighborhood is already home to Yards Park (voted one of the best new parks in America by Atlantic Cities), Nationals Park, the Fairgrounds concert and events space, and the coming-in-2013 complex of restaurants and retail that’ll include Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s Bluejacket Brewery and Buzz Bakery. But as of next week, the area south of Capitol Hill is also getting a brand new, $12 million, three-block park, complete with an ice rink, a large-scale cube for art installations and light displays, two water features, and a new restaurant helmed by Barracks Row restaurateur Xavier Cervera.

Canal Park is the product of a public/private partnership between the city and developers William C. Smith and Co. and JGB, and takes up almost two acres between I, M, Second, and Third streets, southeast. The design of the park—LEED-certified as gold for its water reuse strategies, vegetated roof surfaces, and heating and cooling systems—was primarily led by OLIN, a landscape architecture and design firm based in Philadelphia and Los Angeles. Artist David Hess also designed water-inspired sculptural components, which were installed in August.The project dates back to the 1990s, when developers first designated the area as green space in homage to its roots as a waterway. In 2004, Mayor Anthony Williams held a public competition for its design. “All of our citizens deserve great open spaces,” said Williams at the time. “Canal Park will become the heart of the mixed-use, mixed-income neighborhood that is emerging in what was once a forgotten part of our city.” Although the park was supposed to be the first public park built on the Anacostia waterfront and was scheduled to open in 2008, bureaucratic woes and other delays put it four years behind schedule, and made it a runner-up to the larger Yards Park. “After years of seeing this park under construction, I can guarantee that there’s going to be a community-wide exhale when the park is finally finished and we can enjoy it,” says ANC commissioner David Garber.

Taking up most of the park’s block closest to M Street is a new ice rink in a figure-eight shape that snakes past the Park Tavern, the newest restaurant from the owner of the Chesapeake Room, Senart’s, Molly Malone’s, and Pacifico Cantina. The restaurant doesn’t have a website yet; we'll update if and when we get more information on what it plans to serve. The Park Tavern is also aiming to become DC’s first LEED gold-certified dining establishment.

Image courtesy of Bruce McKaig.

The DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities has been working with local artist and professor Bruce McKaig on the 20-foot transparent cube that sits on top of the restaurant. McKaig will curate the art and video installations that will be projected onto the cube’s exterior, and he also created the first work, scheduled tentatively to debut in early December. The installation fuses music, video, and photography, including time-lapse images of the neighborhood McKaig took from a rooftop and portraits of longtime area residents who live in the nearby Capper Senior Center. The work also includes an original soundtrack by Adrienne Penebre. “Art is one of the ways a community grows and shares,” says McKaig. “In a neighborhood that’s had so much change and has so much history, we wanted to have something that speaks both to and for the community.”

Both Canal Park and the Park Tavern officially open in a ribbon-cutting ceremony by Mayor Gray next Friday, November 16. On Saturday, November 17, the park hosts a family day with performances by Justin Trawick, a marching band, and more; face-painting; ice-skating (admission is $8, skate rental is $3); and fitness classes. For more information, visit the Canal Park website.