Can D.C. Build its Bridge Park Without Displacement?

The park's non-profit developer has engaged in a years-long community outreach process and invested over $60 million in community initiatives.

February 18, 2021, 5:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Anacostia River

The 11th Street Bridge Park is designed to connect either side of the Anacostia River and revitalize surrounding neighborhoods without displacing existing communities. | OMA+OLIN

Community activists hope that a new Washington D.C. park, slated to open in 2023, will have positive impacts on the surrounding community and prevent the displacement that traditionally occurs around similar projects. According to Lauri Mazur in NextCity, the 11th Street Bridge Park, situated on an abandoned bridge across the Anacostia River, "will link upscale Capitol Hill with Anacostia – a historically African-American, predominantly low-income neighborhood east of the river." The park promises a slew of amenities including "playgrounds, gardens, performance spaces, an environmental education center, public art and a boat launch."

The park is a project of the non-profit Building Bridges across the River, which aims to create projects that leverage resources to support local communities and help legacy residents and businesses stay in their neighborhood. "The strategies used by Building Bridges and its partners – engaging the community, building trust, backstopping existing residents and businesses – offer a model for the Biden administration and others working to rebuild from the wreckage of the last year."

Although many residents were at first wary of the $30 million project, the organization's comprehensive outreach strategy sought to get meaningful feedback from local stakeholders and address concerns about displacement and gentrification. The 11th Street Bridge Park project centers equitable development in its plans, having invested more than $60 million in community development efforts so far. It helped launch the Douglass Community Land Trust, which maintains 200 affordable properties, and collaborated with another non-profit to start a "home-buyers' club" to help prospective buyers "navigate the complexity of purchasing a home."

Building Bridges Across the River acknowledges that neighborhood change is inevitable. "Inevitably, the bridge park will bring new visitors and resources to the neighborhoods east of the river. Building Bridges Across the River and its partners are working to position existing residents and businesses to benefit from that influx of investment — and avoid getting pushed out."

Wednesday, February 10, 2021 in NextCity

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