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Washington, D.C.’s 11th Street Bridge Park gets blessing from National Capital Planning Commission

We’ll Cross That Bridge ... Sooner

Washington, D.C.’s 11th Street Bridge Park gets blessing from National Capital Planning Commission

The 11th Street Bridge Park, a vaguely High Line-y elevated park that’s eternally been in the works for Washington, D.C.’s Anacostia river-severed southeastern quadrant, has passed a major milestone by receiving the green light from the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC). The good news was shared by the New York office of OMA, one of two firms—the other being Philadelphia-based landscape design studio OLIN—behind the design of the programming-packed, 1.45-mile-long recreational park will span the Anacostia River along the revitalized bones of an old 1960s-era vehicular bridge.

In addition to being granted approval from the NCPC, OMA noted in a press statement that the long-awaited project, which kicked off in earnest in 2014 when the two firms won an international competition calling for a neighborhood-linking public green space in the form of a pedestrian converted into an elevated park, also received “positive feedback” from the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, and will present the project to the full Commission this coming fall.

“At a time when we are paradoxically isolated from one another but united in a common cause, public spaces that we all share and that benefit health have become more important than ever,” said OMA partner Jason Long. “Our work has focused on creating a new civic space that engages with the Anacostia River and refining the program for the park to ensure it will be a place for everyone in D.C.”

aerial view of a bridge-park spanning the anacostia river
A sunken public performance space is one of a multitude of features at the proposed 11th Street Bridge Park in Southeast D.C.  (Courtesy OMA and Luxigon)

With construction now slated to kick off in 2021, a key reason why the 11th Street Bridge Park has been such a long time coming—aside from the usual bureaucratic hurdles and fundraising—is the sheer numbers of private and public entities that are working alongside OMA and OLIN to help realize this first-of-its-kind-for-D.C. undertaking. Simply, there are a lot of disparate yet vital cooks in the proverbial kitchen.

As OMA details, just some of these project partners, public agencies, and stakeholders include the District Department of Transportation (a key funder), the nonprofit Building Bridges Across the River, structural engineering firms WRA and Delon Hampton, and the Anacostia Watershed Society.

And because the 11th Street Bridge Park, described by the NCPC in its eight-page report as a place that will “increase community connectivity and create welcoming and vibrant spaces that enhance the user experience and foster civic and local uses,” was designed expressly for the residents of and visitors to Southeast Washington, D.C., community stakeholders have played a major role in how the project has evolved over the past six years.

“This project would not have been possible without the efforts of key stakeholders and the community,” said OMA associate Yusef Ali Dennis. “Their comments and feedback truly shaped the bridge, from its overall design to its specific programs and features. It’s only fitting that a project of this size and importance has required such broad cooperation and collaboration.”

With an eye toward community equity, 11th Street Bridge Park will serve as a pedestrian link between the Navy Yard and the historic Anacostia neighborhood in D.C.’s eighth ward and, as mentioned, will be jam-packed with features including a hammock grove, public plaza, cafe, amphitheater, public art installations, community gardens, play spaces, and river access for additional recreational pursuits.

A somewhat newly added feature is the 11,000-square-foot, solar-powered Exelon Environmental Education Center, an asset made possible by a $5 million donation by the local utility company of the same name. As of late last year, the total estimated cost to construct the bridge-park stood at $74 million. The project is still slated to open in 2023.