A decade in the works, the 11th Street Bridge Park in Washington, D.C., has yet to be built. But it could be a model for how to create public space while lessening the effects of gentrification.
I. What’s the purpose of a park?
In 2016, Faruq Bey moved into a one-bedroom apartment in a red brick rowhouse in Washington, D.C. A Cleveland native, Mr. Bey first came to the city to study theater at Howard University. He left after college and bounced around, but he missed the city. When a job running a black box theater at the Anacostia Arts Center came his way, he jumped at it. The nonprofit that ran the arts center rented out several affordable apartments in the neighborhood in southeast Washington, and Mr. Bey settled into one. He painted accent walls — sky blue in the living room, periwinkle in the kitchen. He could imagine staying a while.
Mr. Bey loved Anacostia. It felt like a small town nestled in a big city. Like Mr. Bey, most of the people who lived there were Black, and he relished the feeling of walking out the door and into a Black community. He took his dog on long walks in the park that ran in a narrow ribbon along the Anacostia River. He’d walk down the waterfront trail and across a new four-lane bridge at 11th Street, lingering to enjoy the breeze and the view from the wide pedestrian walkway or the overlooks built on the piers of an old highway that had once spanned the river.