The Anacostia River has been a dividing line between the historic Anacostia area and the Navy Yard and Capitol Hill in the District of Columbia for generations. Now a group of dedicated planners are hoping to change that.

They envision converting  the foundation of the 11th St. bridge with an elevated urban park that includes walking trails, playground areas, places for public art and performances, a nature center, and gardens and fruit orchards.  

A key goal is to literally bridge the divide between the two very different areas of D.C., says Scott Kratz who is leaving a full-time job at the National Building Museum to oversee this project.

The project is being spearheaded by THEARC, a non-profit dedicated to revitalizing the area of Washington, D.C. east of the Anacostia River. Also involved are the D.C. Office of Planning and the D.C. Department of Transportation.

So far, plans are pretty preliminary. The deck of the 11th St. bridge is not structurally sound, so will need to be replaced, but the piers supporting the bridge are all intact, and could potentially be the supporting structure for the new park, Kratz says.

The project’s organizers have held a number of public meetings, Kratz says, including one on Dec. 7 to identify what community members want from the space. “We need to be sure that this bridge park is deeply stitched into the enjoining neighborhoods,” Kratz says.

 The next steps, planners say, is to have a national design competition to conceptualize what the new, elevated park will look like and how it will be built. That competition will likely be announced some time in the next few months.

Since the bridge will no longer be holding traffic, the park does not need to be completely flat, and engineering studies have suggested that sections of the park can cantilever out to about 120 feet from the side of the supporting structures. “The engineers are going to have a real field day with this,” Kratz says.

Moreover, the project, if successful, could spur economic development in an area that is currently underdeveloped, Kratz says. Already, plans are in the works for a 40-acre parcel near the bridge to be developed into a mixed-use project

For more on the project, click here.