Real Estate

The 11th Street Bridge Park Isn’t Just a Vanity Project

The 11th Street Bridge Park will physically connect both sides of the Anacostia River. It’s a 1,200-foot-long, pedestrian-only expanse that will let people stroll between Capitol Hill and Anacostia. The big question is whether it will socially connect them.

The park, roughly the size of three football fields, will no doubt get compared to New York City’s High Line. The design calls for a zone of green spaces, cultural amenities, and gathering spots suspended 30 feet above the river. That’s great news for people who want the dynamism of DC’s booming neighborhoods to move east. But the project’s director, Scott Kratz, is determined that it not become a one-way conveyor of gentrification. More than a year before construction starts, he’s focused on making sure residents on the Anacostia side lock in a chance to profit from rising property values before being priced out.

Kratz and his team are based east of the river. Besides helping train residents for jobs building the bridge, they’re working with City First Homes to establish a community land trust to permanently preserve affordable housing around it. They’ve also partnered with the nonprofit Manna to support homeownership opportunities through first-time-homebuyer clubs—24 members have moved into new homes so far. Though it won’t open till 2019 at the earliest, real-estate agents are already touting the park to house-hunters in Anacostia, where home prices soared more than 20 percent last year. Kratz’s efforts are meant to get residents into houses in time to benefit from the surge.

The actual design of the Bridge Park, created by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) and the landscape-architecture firm Olin Studio, is meant to encourage social and economic equality, too.

Here are some highlights:

  • The park will mostly comprise free spaces, including an environmental center, art exhibits, and lawns.
  • The sloping “X” form is intended to encourage people to interact. The shape allows for building upward‚ creating gathering spaces—such as a theater and cafe—that a flat plane would not.
  • The park team has partnered with George Washington University to determine whether health efforts such as urban farms—open since 2016 on both sides of the river—are making a difference.
  • To reach it on the Anacostia side, residents can go through an underpass. Designers are planning art installations to make the passageway more inviting.

This article appears in the April 2017 issue of Washingtonian.