By Southwest DC Action
On November 30, 2023, the DC Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) and the DC Department of General Services (DGS) held a town hall at the Southwest Library to discuss a proposed redesign of the Southwest Town Center Parks.
Developers shared that the Southwest Town Center Parks are intended to replace the Lots at 4th Street SW and M Street SW, which are a treasured gathering space that have hosted the Southwest Farmers’ Market for several years. With its unique size and location at the heart of 4th and M, the Lots brings together all members of our community, whether to invest in small local businesses, listen to music, sit and talk with friends, or just enjoy being outside.
The future of the Lots is currently unknown. Southwest DC Action has been advocating for public ownership of the space under a Community Land Trust since 2022. The land is currently privately owned, and the Zoning Commission already approved plans to build 598 units at the site with only 8% of those units to be “affordable” – which would eliminate the openness and accessibility of the space for public events, including markets and festivals that have long supported Black, Brown and minority-owned small businesses.
Under the proposed design for the new Southwest Town Center Parks, Parcel B would include a multi-purpose market space and serve as the new location for the Southwest Farmers’ Market. Parcel A would include an event stage and serve as the new location for music nights. Currently, there is only funding for the build out of Parcel B. Additional proposed features across both sites, which are separated by 4th Street SW, include a plaza, terraced seating, paved walkways, commissioned artwork, and a water feature (e.g. a fountain).
Southwest DC Action has major concerns about the proposed project design of the Southwest Town Center Parks as a “replacement” location for the amenities and community provided at the Lots at 4th Street SW and M Street SW. Our concerns and requests reflect the views amplified by community members at the November public meeting.
Size: The size of the Lots at 4th and M is larger than the new Town Center. Prioritizing the preservation of the Lots has been expressed directly to the DC Mayor, who offered to look into purchasing the lots, but has taken no action as of yet. To echo the words of one town hall attendee, the space is “not fit for purpose” – i.e. it is not large enough to comfortably accommodate the activities and the crowd of the Southwest DC Farmers’ Market and other gatherings like the Friday night markets.
Loss of Green Space: The Southwest Town Center Parks design team opened the town hall by affirming their commitment to “preserve trees and green space as much as possible” but may lack the accountability to follow through on this activity. This point appeared to spark concern among community members, with one participant recounting promises made, and broken, to preserve six massive oak trees on Maine Avenue during the development of the Wharf in 2021. Mature trees and greenspace should be valued and preserved as a top priority. How will the developers be held accountable for preserving green space to ensure that what has happened in the past, does not happen again?
Lack of Public Input: The proposed designs for the Southwest Town Center Parks are concerning because they appear to have been created in isolation from the community, a sentiment echoed by ANC Commissioner Gail Fast at the November meeting. Fast went on to share the success of the Southwest Library redesign, largely because it was grounded in community input. Participants at the town hall agreed, with many noting that this project was a surprise to them. How have community members’ input been integrated into the design since the process began more than five years ago?
Lack of Communication with DC Department of Transportation (DDOT): Lastly, we’d like to share that DDOT’s absence from the planning is concerning. Given that 4th Street SW separates Parcels A and B, how will we ensure public safety at the Southwest Town Center Parks? Will the proposed plan include road closures, parking and set-up availability for vendors and visitors? If so, how will these road closures affect residents of nearby apartment complexes and families at Amidon-Bowen, which is adjacent to this area?
Call to Action
We encourage the community to share their questions, concerns, and comments on the Town Center Parks project. Please complete the DPR survey before January 12 at https://dpr.dc.gov/SWTownCenterParkSurvey or direct your input to Christopher Dyer, who serves as the Community Engagement Manager at the Department of Parks and Recreation. He can be reached at Christopher.Dyer@dc.gov or 202-702-9453.
You can also share your thoughts with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Southwest DC Action is a group of Southwest residents who organize and advocate for a more equitable, anti-racist, and environmentally sustainable neighborhood. You can find us on Facebook, Twitter, or check out our website swdcaction.com. Anyone is welcome to join our meetings by emailing email@example.com.