Housing Complex

The Future of Franklin Park, in Four Design Concepts

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One proposal for overhauling Franklin Square, dubbed "The Center."

Yesterday afternoon, four men planted their feet, lowered their center of gravity, and heaved their collective weight into a van stuck in the mud in the middle of Franklin Park. The men were employees of the National Park Service, which manages the bulk of D.C.'s green space, including the downtown square that's fallen into a messy state of disrepair. The van, bearing the Park Service's green and brown coat of arms, didn't budge.

The symbolism couldn't have been better timed. Just a few hours later, the Park Service and D.C.'s Office of Planning held a public meeting to reveal four possible designs for an overhauled Franklin Park.

Park Service regulations have generally restricted amenities like cafes, playgrounds, and restrooms on D.C.'s federally owned squares and circles—the kinds of amenities that would inject needed life into Franklin Park, which often feels desolate outside of work hours. But the Park Service has indicated that it might be willing to go beyond its usual bounds in sprucing up Franklin Park. The proposals unveiled yesterday reflect that newfound flexibility.

Bob Vogel, the Park Service's superintendent for the National Mall and memorial parks, said the proposals took into account feedback from the public, which asked for restrooms, food service, and the restoration of historic resources. "And did I mention playgrounds?" he added, referring to a design element common to all the proposals.

The first two proposals, both iterations of a concept called "The Center," leave the park mostly unchanged, with a focus on the center of the park, including a "refurbished quatrefoil fountain, framed by seasonal plantings." This concept also includes a children's play area on the east side and a slightly moved Commodore John Barry statue. At the north end would be a new terrace; the two proposals differ in that one includes a building there to house restrooms and information.

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The next proposal is called "The Edge." Like the other proposals, it includes a children's play area in the eastern part of the park, a shifted Barry statue, and a restored fountain. Here, though, the terrace, or "plaza," would move to the south side of the park, flanked by two buildings, one for a cafe and restrooms and the other for park information. There would also be a water feature at the north end of the park that would extend across to the children's play area.

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Finally, there's "The Diagonal Concept," so named because of the diagonal path cutting from the park's southwest corner to its northeast corner. This proposal involves some slightly bigger changes, including moving the Barry statue to the north side of the park and creating a plaza with a cafe in its place on 14th Street. An interactive fountain at the center of the park could be turned off to accommodate events there. There would also be a paved pedestrian mall to "allow park users to promenade along the southern edge of the park."

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The plans would have differing effects on the park's existing tree canopy: The first plan would preserve 90 percent of the trees, while the last plan would preserve just 49 percent.

The Park Service will be accepting public comments on the designs until March 14 at this website.

Renderings from the National Park Service, the D.C. Office of Planning, and the Downtown Business Improvement District

  • Guest

    If those charging stations are there, does that mean food trucks would no longer be allowed by the park?

  • Typical DC BS

    Oh yes, restrooms in Franklin Park. Who dreamed up that doozy? Besides the issue of keeping them clean, who will police them to keep homeless and criminals from setting up camp in them?

    And charging stations? Please. Enough with that - let the greenies juice up their rides where they live.

  • Payton Chung

    A cafe along the southern or western edges might get more use than one at the northern edge, but then again those are also the edges where the bus stops are. Hmm.

    @BS: Charging stations are going to become more common, and gas stations less common, now that most automakers offer battery electric vehicles. Not sure how that hurts you.

  • jch2k

    I work right across from this park, I'll be interested to see what they do. The food trucks will still probably be able to park there for core lunch hours (11-2) ? Not a fan of the restrooms as there are plenty of restaurants nearby. With NPS redesigning this park, it'll probably take 3 years to complete this project versus the 1 year that it should take.

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