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I’m usually not one to engage in “I wish X looked like Y” thinking. As helpful as it can be to imagine an unsatisfactory status quo as something wholly different, that’s not much use if there’s no feasible way to make it so.
But the vision offered by Brooklyn Bridge Park, which only a few years ago was a Port Authority shipping depot, is too inspiring not to offer as the kind of route I’d like the Anacostia waterfront to take in the decades ahead. Kicked into action by a 2002 memorandum of understanding that committed funding for the area’s transformation, over the last few years it’s developed into an astonishing blend of commerce and recreation. The still-developing park, managed by a non-profit, packs restaurants, play areas, and public art into a relatively small area (though it’s planned to encompass 20 acres by the time it’s done).
Outside of the stunning Yards Park, and the tremendously exciting Wharf, it’s hard to see that kind of model advancing on the other side of the river in the near future. The other planned waterfront-proximate projects get the need to connect the city to the river—-the current plans for Hill East and Poplar Point, as well as a Cohen Companies project on Virginia Avenue—-state that as a goal. But the first two are quite far in the future, with no financing on the horizon. The rest of the waterfront, sadly, is either private industrial land or owned by the National Park Service or the military, severely limiting its redevelopment possibilities, barring some federal change of heart.
Yeah, I wish the area around Benning Road bridge could be the next DUMBO. Realistically, though, there are a lot of other projects—-most of them in other cities—-ahead in line.