On May 30, 2018, the Anacostia Waterfront Trust partnered with Resilient DC and the Urban Waters Federal Partnership to host a one-day conference and ideas forum titled “Equity, Resilience & the Anacostia River Corridor.” The purpose of this event was to convene experts, leaders and practitioners in park programming and urban planning to share experiences and best practices in building equitable and resilient urban waterfronts.
Long a historic barrier dividing the District of Columbia into separate and unequal parts, the Anacostia River Corridor is now “taking off.” Major investments in infrastructure and remediation efforts have significantly improved the health of the river, and the Anacostia’s western shores are now home to DC’s fastest growing neighborhoods. The largest areas of developable land remaining in the District are along the Anacostia River. Across the river, the National Park Service plans to create a “Signature Urban Park” with more than a thousand acres of riverfront park space.
Meanwhile, the primarily African American neighborhoods east of the river have the lowest incomes, highest poverty rates and highest unemployment rates in the District. Rapid change in the District’s central corridor gives immediacy to civic discourse around how to maximize not only the corridor’s economic value, but its long-term public value for all DC residents. Some advocates fear that, by raising land values in neighborhoods adjacent to the river, the improvement of the corridor may push out residents who suffered through its darker years.
Today’s Anacostia River Corridor is a real-life case study, with real-life implications, of the intersection of urban rivers, urban parks, urban resilience, gentrification and equitable development, all in the heart of the nation’s capital city.
The May 30th Conference and Ideas Forum explored ways that the Corridor might build its resilience by maximizing the public benefits of the river and its parks while minimizing the negative impacts of gentrification, including the potential displacement of current residents.