Franklin Park to be Transformed Downtown, Public Meeting October 2


From DC Office of Planning:

“The DC Office of Planning (OP) in partnership with the National Park Service (NPS), the District Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR), and the Downtown Business Improvement District (Downtown BID) announced today the launch of a collaborative comprehensive planning process to revitalize Franklin Park. At 4.79 acres, it is one of the largest parks in downtown Washington, DC.

Franklin Park is located between K and I Streets, NW and 13th and 14th Streets, NW in downtown Washington, DC and is owned by NPS. The park sits within the rapidly growing neighborhood of Center City DC that has seen a 31.6% increase in population over the last 10 years. Currently the park does not meet the diverse needs of neighborhood residents, workers or visitors; however, there is the potential to transform Franklin Park into one of our nation’s premier urban parks. To realize this dramatic transformation, OP and its partners will investigate options for increasing recreational opportunities, adding services such as food and restrooms, increasing events and programs, restoring historic resources, incorporating sustainable and ecologically sensitive materials and practices, enhancing surrounding streetscape and transportation connections, and using a public/private partnership to oversee the long-term maintenance and management of the park.

“Franklin Park has the potential to host options for creative play, formal and informal recreation, outdoor dining, and a wide range of programs and events, as well as provide a cool, shady, natural, green respite in the center of the city. We envision a park that will become a daily enhancement of the lives of Center City DC workers, residents and families, but also a public square for all to enjoy with civic celebrations and special gatherings,” said Harriet Tregoning, Director of the Office of Planning.

OP has contracted with OLIN Studio, a nationally award-winning landscape architecture firm with unique expertise in urban historic park restoration and design, to develop a comprehensive plan and conceptual design for transforming Franklin Park. In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), NPS is preparing an Environmental Assessment (EA) to evaluate these proposed actions. The EA will address the project background, the purpose and need for the proposed actions, a determination of environmental issues and potential impacts resulting from the alternatives considered (including the no action alternative), and public involvement and agency coordination.


The DC Office of Planning and its Franklin Park partners will hold a kick-off public presentation and open house on October 2, 2013 from 6:00pm to 8:00pm at the Four Points by Sheraton, 1201 K Street, NW, Washington, D.C. Anyone with an interest in Franklin Park is invited to come share their ideas for how to improve and enhance the visitor experience of the park. Attendees will hear a project overview and an initial site analysis and conditions report. The project team also will hold a visioning and programming workshop to gain a deeper understanding of desired park uses and current issues.”


40 Comment

  • I wonder how this will pan out – the park is a DUMP. I used to work right there and be followed/spoken to in a sexually crude manner by the many men who call this place home, so I stopped walking through it because I never felt safe. People who work/live nearby can’t use it as it’s full of human waste and trash. It’s just a disgrace to look at when you drive/walk by.

    • Actually, people who work nearby us the park every day. When the weather is decent it’s packed with workers sitting on the grass and on benches eating lunch, most of which were purchased from the food trucks that descend on the park every day. The park’s not much to look at – the grass has certainly seen better days. But it’s not really the pit you are describing.

      • I wouldn’t describe it as a pit, but I wouldn’t describe it as paradise either – there are sections of the park, more along K street where the trucks are stationed, that are lovely on certain days. But when you start cutting over to the Wells Fargo at the other corner or go deeper into the park by the fountains, there are a lot of homeless people and/or loiterers who’ve commandeered the benches for their own extended use. I never feel comfortable walking through there aside from lunchtime on weekdays – even with other people with me – because the atmosphere is uneasy, sometimes hostile.

        I think it would be used more overall if it was a flat, green space – the trees definitely contribute to the figuratively-shady feeling and all the concrete walkways look depressing. If I were designing the park, I’d take out the fountains (expensive to maintain, look hideous when empty in the winter) and commission a local artist to make some sculptures in their place.

        • justinbc

          What do you mean hostile? People have actually threatened or assaulted you?

          • Not the OP, but I had a funny if somewhat frightening encounter where I was walking through the park holding the book “Devil in the White City” and a (probably) homeless guy grabbed me and started shouting that I was worshipping the Devil. I had to push him off me. That said, I’ve walked through the park about a thousand times and don’t find it to be somewhere I feel threatened.

          • When I worked near by, I was harrassed multiple times, one guy almost crossed the line. I stopped cutting through the park and eventually moved jobs. Maybe it was the hours I kept, but I never walked through it when it was dark. There were a number of women on the floor of my office (not just my whole office, but that I worked directly with) who had horrible experiences in that park and would go out of their way to avoid it.

          • Leroy, that reminds me of when I was reading “Devil in the White City” and my psycho girlfriend went off on me for reading a racist book!

          • There is one homeless woman who calls anyone who doesn’t give her money “ugly”, but other than that, I’ve never had a problem with the loiterers, and I eat lunch and/or read papers and/or take personal calls in Franklin park most days of the week. (don’t have much experience post 7 pm though).

            Also, I like the fountain when it has water. As do the ducks.

        • Taking out all the trees would open sight lines, but would make the park totally unusable for half the year. Have you been to the Mall, the open untreed parts, from May until October? It’s brutal.

      • justinbc

        Agreed, I regularly walk through it and eat lunch there. Yes, there are quite a large number of homeless folk residing there, but the park itself is far from a “dump”.

    • You’re right, the biggest improvement would be getting the homeless/mentally ill/threatening people out of the park and cleaning up all of the trash they that generate. I know it’s not a popular opinion, but the people who live in this park make it inhospitable to others who want to enjoy it and ruin it for everyone else. Try walking through this place at night or on a weekend; the current vibe is intimidating, bordering on scary.

  • This park has tons of potential. I look forward to this project! 🙂

  • I tend to agree with jindc at 12:40pm. I similarly avoid this park, which is a shame because it’s huge and has huge potential for awesomeness. I hope the city and the BID’s keep working hard to return the green space in DC to the residents, visitors, and businesses that pay taxes to keep the city alive. While I feel for the homeless population in this city, the fact is that development must go on. No one wants this city to return to its glory days of the 90’s (yes, that is sarcasm) when this park represented the prostitution center of the city.

  • I work nearby and have used this park regularly since 1998. I’ve brought a blanket for lunch here, met colleagues for outdoor meetings and now take advantage of the food trucks. It’s a great park and the city could use more like it (ahem, City Center). Besides one or two minor incidents (in 15 years!) I have not had a problem with the people who are also there enjoying the park. I love the trees and sereneness of the park. I hope the city recognizes that many people like the park as is. I’m not interested in another Frisbee field or beerfest location.

    • On the weekends it’s a de facto shelter. It’s a good park and could be something much better but on the weekends I avoid it like the plague.

      • Agreed, on the weekends it’s packed with homeless people and every bench is occupied.

      • That’s mostly because of feeding programs run by suburban churches, most of which come from places like Alexandria, temple Hills, etc. which have plenty of poverty and often homelessness in their own backyards. get them to leave and that will reduce the homeless population.

        • Absolutely agree. I lived here for 3 years and I cannot tell you how irritated I was with those church groups. Every weekend they came by and left the park full of trash before departing to their suburban homes. They didn’t use the park or live in the area, so you know, who cares?

      • Would we expect this park to get a lot of weekend use? It seems much more like a weekday location.

  • justinbc

    I like Franklin Park, but then again I’m not a woman. I don’t have to deal with the same kind of harassment, so it’s hard to really dislike it in the same manner. I think it has tremendous potential to be even better. I once saw two guys giving each other a bath in one of the fountains. It wasn’t the most pleasant site, but hey that’s part of the fabric of city living. Lunch and a show, if you will.

  • I am glad to hear this. The park is vastly under developed compared to similar areas in cities like London and Paris. It can be very off putting when such a central public space has little more to offer than patches of dying grass and passed out vagrants.

  • Are they thinking of a playground? Downtown is in desperate need of a playground for all of the young families that live in the area!

    • And for the daycares whose only way to meet the outdoor time requirement is to walk the kids around the block.

    • Playground space would go unused most of the day. there are very nice playgrounds not far away that are almost never in use.

      • Do tell? I know the one up at 6th and R, and of one in DuPont on P and 16th… Otherwise where? You can’t use the school playgrounds during the day.

      • This would be an interesting assertion for the study group to consider. My intuition says that between office day cares and younger families moving into the city core a playground might well see more use than one might imagine.

  • Would be cool if they could do something like Bryant Park to Franklin Park.
    Jazz in the park is great – but the Sculpture Garden isn’t really suited to hosting events. The attempt at World Cup at Dupont was fun but again – not really suited to an event like that. Franklin Park on the other hand is – if it were developed and managed appropriately.
    Perhaps spots at the corners for food trucks to park, plug in and pay rent to support the maintenance and programming at the park.

  • I’d love to see this park turn into something like Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia. Varied landscaping with bushes and flowerbeds, some grassy spots for picnics, maybe a fountain and plaza in the middle. Most importantly, keep plenty of the trees!

    • yes! i was recently in philly and found Rittenhouse Square to be charming. that is an excellent model for what franklin park could be!

    • But I think the use of the surrounding area contributes to why Rittenhouse is like it is. The area around Franklin is, unfortunately, a different type of neighborhood. FWIW, Franklin does have grassy spots for picnics and a fountain (and plaza?) in the middle. Adding the landscaping won’t turn it into Rittenhouse. Although I agree it would be nice! And I do love the trees. It is a cool respite on a hot D.C. day.

  • lovefifteen

    I work next to this park so this is excellent news. It’s a great space that would definitely benefit from being transformed. I’m a man, and when I’ve left work after 9:00 PM, I have found this park intimidating so I can only imagine it’s even worse for women. Most homeless people in the park are alright, but a few are definitely mental unstable and sometimes threatening. I wish the city would reach out to them and get them help.

    • Honestly, I think most (if not all) parks are intimidating at 9pm. I would not walk though one after dark unless there was some event going on.

      • At night, Dupont Circle is not intimidating. Nor is Logan particularly scary. And Kalorama Park at night is actually pretty nice. The issue is that a huge homeless population makes this their living room/bedroom/bar/crack house/garbage can at night and reacts badly to any interlopers (e.g., general public) coming in.

  • It needs dedicated NPS staff. I think Rittenhouse Square in Philly has some type of staffed center.

  • Franklin Park is sketchier than Leonardo da Vinci

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