Early planning was finished a few months ago, says the Downtown Business Improvement District (BID), a principal project partner. The project also passed a federal environmental assessment.
The next steps for updating one of downtown D.C.’s largest parks? Working through issues of money and management. Who will cover the $43.5 million price tag for the 4.79 acres to be modernized in the growing commercial district? And who will have final say on what happens in the park?
Franklin Park, across from The Post’s new building, is bounded by 13th, 14th, K and I streets NW. It’s a transportation hub (dozens of bus lines pass through, and McPherson Square Metro station is across the street), a major lunch-hour site and an encampment for the homeless.
By 2018, planners hope it will be a shiny urban island of amenities, including a small cafe and a kids’ splash area. “The Edge,” as the proposed redesign is called, also includes restrooms, reading areas, 24/7 security and seasonal programming (a farmers market, yoga classes and movie nights). “Having a comfortable, safe and inviting green oasis in the heart of downtown will be amazing,” Ellen Jones, BID’s head of infrastructure and sustainability, said via e-mail.
The private, nonprofit BID is teaming with the District government and the National Park Service to try to make the “amazing” happen.
In October, BID released its financing proposal, with the District being asked to cover $18.8 million in upfront costs, says Gerry Widdicombe, BID’s head of economic development.
The city already budgeted $1.3 million to aid with planning, and BID wants $17.5 million to be included in the fiscal 2017 budget. Then, $24.7 million in operating costs for 25 years would be split among the private sector (47 percent), the Park Service and park revenue (27 percent) and the city (26 percent). The city administrator’s office says the proposal is under review.
There are also questions being worked out between the city and the Park Service, says Tommy Wells, head of the D.C. Department of Energy & Environment and a former D.C. Council member. At issue is who will oversee event planning and the cafe.
“The D.C. government is going to be the primary funder for infrastructure on national park land — land that it doesn’t own. So, they are managing through what that means,” Wells says.
Says the Park Service’s Mike Litterst, “We’re confident that ... because of the partners who are all working on this ... it’s going to be a standout place for residents.”
Also, BID and the D.C. Department of Human Services say they are looking for a site for a downtown day center to serve the park’s homeless population.