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Franklin Park Vision and Transformation Plan

The National Park Service, the District of Columbia, and the Downtown Business Improvement District (the Partners) together are collectively committed to transform Franklin Park into an active, flexible, sustainable, and historic urban park connected to its community. The District has experienced significant population growth in Center City DC in recent years, resulting in increased demand for high quality open space and an urgent need for re-envisioning Franklin Park. Franklin Park, at five acres, is the largest National Park Service reservation in Center City DC and therefore provides a unique opportunity to serve the community and enhance urban living. Currently the park does not meet today’s diverse urban needs; however, the Partners see the potential to transform Franklin Park into one of our nation’s premier urban parks based on lessons learned from national models, including Madison and Union Square parks in New York City. To realize this dramatic transformation, we believe that an inclusive design process and a bold approach to improvements and programming is necessary to create a great park that can attract and serve users, as well as engage financial support from multiple partners for long-term maintenance and operation. The following goals elaborate this vision and shall guide this project:

As an urban park, Franklin Park should provide multiple active and passive recreational opportunities, essential services such as restrooms, food and flexible seating, and have actively managed daytime and evening events and programs.

The renovation of Franklin Park should celebrate and respect the historic character and sense of place through restored historic resources, rich landscaping and seasonal plantings, and high quality site and building materials.

  • Franklin Park should be designed as a sustainable, maintainable, and ecologically sensitive place that serves a diverse group of users including young and old District residents, workers, and visitors.
  • Franklin Park should be framed by an enhanced streetscape and public realm and integrated with multiple transportation modes, including Capital Bikeshare, Metrobus, Metrorail, and the future streetcar.
  • Franklin Park should utilize a public/private management structure to fund, program, maintain, and provide security for the park.

Background and History

Franklin Park is a historic urban park that occupies an entire city square of 4.79 acres in Downtown Washington, DC. It is bordered by K Street on the north, 13th Street on the east, I Street on the south, and 14th Street on the west. The square was first authorized to be used for public purposes by Congress in 1819 when natural springs on the park where used to supply water to the White House and other federal buildings. The square started being named Franklin Square in the 1830’s, and while it is assumed it is named for Benjamin Franklin, there is no definitive proof. The square has been in continuous operation as public park since the 1850’s and has had major redesigns in the in the 1870’s and 1880’s, and the 1930’s. Currently, the park has fallen into disrepair and primarily serves the area’s homeless population and nearby office workers at lunch time. The many pathways leading through the park are cracked and hazardous and desire lines crisscross through the grass creating eroded trails of mud and rocks. The park lacks public amenities save for occasional rows of static seating and there are currently no events or programming.
 
Attached below are recent planning reports and documents that are relevant to the revitalization of Franklin Park:
  • CapitalSpace Initiative: National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), District of Columbia Office of Planning (DCOP), District of Columbia Parks and Recreation Department (DPR), NPS (2010) Franklin Park is specifically addressed in the plan’s fifth Big Idea pertaining to Center City parks (pp. 77-79).
  • Center City Action Agenda (DCOP 2008): The Action Agenda broadly advances placemaking goals and creates a comprehensive plan for addressing parks and open space needs throughout the District.  Franklin Park is listed as key open space along the K Street corridor, one of seven corridors for focused investment on page 38.
  • Center City Urban Park Strategy (DCOP 2010): The plan presents five strategies for improving existing parks and creating new parks, which address funding, management, and activation.