D.C.’s highly anticipated 11th Street Bridge Park, a project that some have compared to Manhattan’s High Line, is taking greater shape thanks to efforts to ensure the river connector serves as an economic anchor for neighborhoods east and west of the Anacostia.
An “equitable development plan” released today by a collective of local organizations and government officials outlines eight strategies for job creation, small business growth, and housing opportunities focused on residents in the immediate area of the bridge. The (relatively) short-term strategies include hiring residents who live in Wards 6, 7, and 8 to help construct the park as well as preserving existing affordable housing near the bridge since home values will almost certainly rise as the park nears completion. On the longer-term side, the plan recommends creating a kiosk-based food service model that permits D.C. entrepreneurs to sell their goods in the park and improving walkability between the bridge and both sides of the river to move people to surrounding commercial corridors.
“The Bridge Park could symbolize a new unity and connection between a booming area of the city and one that has long been overlooked and excluded from the city’s economic progress,” the plan reads. “This is especially important for D.C. residents and small businesses located east of the river. Decades of disinvestment, coupled with the economic, racial, and geographic segregation of Ward 7 and 8, mean that many of the communities east of the river…are areas of low homeownership [and] high poverty and unemployment.”
The plan notes that more than 40,000 people live in the census tracts located on either side of the 11th Street Bridge, in roughly equal numbers. Still, those living in the tract east of the Anacostia River experience more than three times the unemployment rate than those living in the western tract do, while the median home value in the former is nearly $400,000 less than that in the latter. “Recognizing that signature parks can increase surrounding property values, the 11th Street Bridge Park is committed to ensuring that existing residents surrounding the Bridge Park can continue to afford to live in their neighborhood once the park is built, and that affordable homeownership and rental opportunities exist nearby.”
Whether that bears out remains unclear, particularly as other major development projects in Wards 7 and 8 come down the pipeline. In New York, property values within a five-minute walk of the High Line (also an elevated park) rose 103 percent between 2003 and 2011.
Screenshots via 11th Street Bridge Park Equitable Development Task Force report