Last night a meeting to discuss the park at the confluence of 2nd, Mass and H Street was held. Attendees included, but not limited to, residents from the Sonata, a representative from the office building at 251 H Street, our MVT CID executive director Bill McLeod, president of the MVSNA Cary Silverman, Thor Nelson from the Office of Planning and Sarah Moulton from the Department of Park and Recreations.
The park is presently an under utilized eyesore. The heavy traffic surrounding the park isolates it. Homeless sleep in the park with one often camped inside the center ring of bushes. There was also talk of a recent illegal BBQ (by homeless?) at the park. The park is not well maintained, safe or inviting.
Funding is not presently available to perform a major overhaul of the park. Long term this could be negotiated with the developer seeking air rights over I-395 but improvements are needed in the short term. The Office of Planning (OP) has identified a transportation funds grant program that could provide the modest funding needed for small scale improvements including critical irrigation. With this intersection being one of the busiest in the city it qualifies and has the visibility to increase likelihood to receive the grant. However the grant will require that ongoing park maintenance is secured. If this comes together the improvements could begin as soon as October.
The Department of Parks and Recs (DPR) has developed a set of design guidelines for the site. These cite the short term objectives for the park to be primarily beautification of the space and creation of a marker for the surrounding neighborhoods and the immediate area on Massachusetts Ave. DPR has also identified materials and plants that could be relocated from the Art Walk at the Old Convention Center site to keep costs down.
From the Draft document distributed by DPR:
Short Term Scenario Implementations Guidance:
- Provide a minimal, but bold planting pallet to be both low maintenance and highly visible to passing motorists.
- Focus tree planting on streets edges and in areas with significant soil depth.
- Install focal artwork or monument to create a sense of place and draw for the area.
- Provide benches and other seating to allow lunchtime gathering and passive use of the park
- Preserve existing pavement areas and repair where needed
- Implement “quick fix” pedestrian safety measures like: new cross walk painting, adding parking lanes to Mass Avenue next to park
Discussion turned more towards the homeless impact on the park. The Central Union Mission is opening a 150 bed shelter at the Gales School within a year just a block from the park. DPR’s position is that parks are an amenity for everyone including the homeless. It should be designed to be safe and engage all people.
Cary Silverman expanded upon his previous point of the Gales School shelter opening and pointed out that the isolation of the park is appealing to the homeless. He suggested the space needs a draw to bring surrounding residents across the busy streets to the park. There is no design for a prominent draw in the short term plans. An expenditure of a fountain or statue could be taken on longer term. A Sonata owner chimed in with the benefits of the park embracing dog owners. Dogs owners want green space to walk their pets and most presently walk to the Building Museum. She suggested the added benefit to the community that dogs tend to discourage vagrancy
“scare people who know they are where they shouldn’t be.” I don’t think she’s suggesting anyone shouldn’t be at the park. But people shouldn’t be camping in the bushes . McLeod made note of this as he said “durable grass”.
Lastly, an important message was put forth that this park would NOT be THE PARK for the Triangle. Both DPR and the MVT CID want a larger more central green space less isolated by heavy traffic. There are some alternative that are being studied regarding this but they were not shared in the meeting. One possibility I have previously seen in the Mount Vernon Triangle Transportation and Public Realm Design Project suggests a park along a new extension of 3rd Street built out over I-395.
Note: Cary Silverman has also covered the meeting on his blog. Cary is spearheading a “Friend of the (name TBD) Park” effort.