A rendering of a post-development Southwest Town Center Parks. Courtesy DC Department of Parks and Recreation
By Melissa Silverman
The District’s Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) launched a series of public engagement events on the planned redevelopment of a project called Southwest Town Center Parks. The land, which is already owned by DPR, consists of two L-shaped parcels on either side of 4th Street SW just south of I Street SW.
Parcel A is made up of the sidewalk and land in front of Westminster Presbyterian Church and the alley that runs from 4th Street SW west to the Duck Pond, next to the Eliot apartments.
Parcel B is made up of the sidewalk and land in front of Christ United Methodist Church and the alley that runs from 4th Street SW east to the library, next to the newly completed Westerly apartments.
The proposed redevelopment includes a multi-purpose market space and event stage with terraced seating, which are envisioned as potential permanent homes for the Saturday Southwest Farmer’s Market and Friday night art market if the lot at 4th Street and M Street SW where they are currently held were to be developed.
DPR’s initial concept for a Southwest Town Center Parks would also include lighting, utilities, plantings, landscaping and plumbing, including an eventual possible water feature.
According to a presentation delivered by DPR Community Engagement Manager Christopher Dyer, the reimagining process for the area was launched in 2018 by the Southwest Business Improvement District (BID).
In 2022, the DC Council approved $3.5 million for the project, which DPR confirmed is sufficient to cover only the design and a portion of the build. First to be built with approved funding would be Parcel B, which sits on the east side of 4th Street SW and abuts Christ United Methodist Church.
Parcel A, which sits on the west side of 4th Street SW and abuts Westminster Presbyterian Church, could only be redeveloped if additional funding is allocated. Westminster’s private redevelopment plan, which is also underway, is not related to DPR’s project, but Dyer assured community members there would be communication and collaboration between the two design teams.
Using the city’s Request for Proposal process, a design and build team for the Southwest Town Center Parks redevelopment was selected in August 2023. Since being selected, architect Lee and Associates and general contractor Thiha, Inc. have been conducting existing conditions analysis, a tree survey with an arborist and a geotechnical survey.
On November 30, 2023, representatives from the architect and contractor joined Dyer and other DPR staff members to brief the community during a meeting at the Southwest Library. The team also hosted a community walk-through of the proposed parks space on December 15, 2023.
At the public events, community members expressed strong views on the potential approach, design and use of space. Concerns ranging from traffic, noise, construction and environmental impact, including potential flooding and tree preservation, were raised.
According to Dyer’s presentation, the project’s goals include “preserving green space and trees as much as possible” and utilizing “resilient design – especially flood mitigation.”
The DPR team stressed their desire to coordinate with leaders at both Christ United Methodist Church and Westminster Presbyterian Church, whose property lines run parallel to the outer boundaries of the project.
DPR also responded to community concerns about cooperation with the District Department of Transportation, which would ultimately make the determination whether to issue temporary closures of 4th Street SW during the hours of operation of the Friday or Saturday markets.
Dyer gave examples of Eastern Market and the Dupont Circle Farmers’ Market where regular, temporary street closures are utilized for pedestrian access and safety. As long-time neighborhood residents know, 4th Street was previously permanently closed to traffic as the site of the Waterside Mall, described by Nena Perry-Brown, writing for Greater Greater Washington, as a “bulky, modernist office/retail shopping center completed in the early 1970s.” The mall was demolished in 2007, opening the artery of 4th Street for regular pedestrian and vehicular traffic.
For community members interested in the next phase of the Southwest Town Center Parks redevelopment, DPR is conducting a survey to gather input. The survey is available at https://dpr.dc.gov/SWTownCenterParkSurvey and will be open through Friday, January 12, 2024.
Information from DPR about the Southwest Town Center Parks redevelopment project can be found at https://dgs.dc.gov/page/sw-town-center-park. The project website includes a link to the slides Dyer presented at the November community meeting.
To sign up for email updates from DPR, visit dpr.dc.gov/stakeholder.