Breaking ground on the Shepherd Park Community Center
Breaking ground on the Shepherd Park Community Center Credit: @SirMannyG/Twitter

We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.

For a proper D.C. groundbreaking, you need a few essential items: a sparkling white hard hat, so you fit in with the construction guys milling around; a shiny shovel with a big red bow to accessorize the ensemble; and of course, a really good looking box of dirt.

But some days you need to make alternate arrangements.

For Mayor Muriel Bowser, today was one of those days.

This afternoon, Bowser stood alongside her Council buddy, Ward 4’s Brandon Todd, and a handful of other D.C. government officials inside Shepherd Elementary School to announce a $13 million modernization and the construction of a community center.

LL really has to hand it to the mayor. The indoor celebration had all the trappings of a fabulous groundbreaking: hard hats (check), shovels (with seasonal red bows! check), and a fantastic box of dirt (check).

Yes, they moved the box of dirt inside. (This isn’t the first time dirt boxes have moved inside. The groundbreaking of the African American Civil War Memorial Museum in October also happened indoors.)

In response to LL’s questions about the indoor box of dirt (which really looks more like sand), mayoral spokesperson Susana Castillo says the event was originally planned to take place outside, like the other groundbreakings, but was moved inside because of the rain.

“We can’t have kids outside in the rain because we don’t want our children to get sick,” Castillo says, which LL will admit is a fair point. The kids pictured shoveling dirt next to Bowser and Todd appear to be getting a kick out of it.

Castillo could not say whether the box contained dirt or sand.

“I wasn’t there, so I don’t know,” she says.

“When Shepherd Elementary students came to the Council to testify two and a half years ago, they so eloquently spoke about the need for a full-sized gym,” Todd says in a press release from the mayor’s office. “This renovation will not only give our students the ability to play and exercise more regularly, it gives the neighborhood a new community space to wrap our arms around and fully embrace.”

The project will add a new community center attached to Shepherd Elementary School, which underwent a modernization in 2015. But that project did not include amenities such as a kitchen or dining area, according the mayor’s press release.

The community center can be used as the gymnasium and dining cafeteria, according to the mayor’s press release. It will also feature a multipurpose room, fitness center, office space, storage, and more bathrooms.

“Schools are the anchors of our communities, and it’s a win-win when we invest in beautiful facilities that serve both the needs of our neighbors and students,” Mayor Bowser says in the press release. “We thank everyone in the community and at Shepherd Park Elementary [note: the name of the school is Shepherd Elementary] who have helped make this project possible and give our Mustangs more opportunities to succeed in the classroom and on the court.”