On the Waterfront

October 9, 2008

Georgetown Waterfront Park opened last week nearly two decades after the initial proposal was put forward, and after several delays and design changes.

The park, which occupies the area between K Street and the Potomac from Wisconsin Ave. to the Key Bridge, consists mostly of green space, and is dotted with newly planted trees and crisscrossed by paved walkways. A walkway running parallel to the river has a view of Rosslyn, the Kennedy Center, and part of D.C. and Virginia’s waterfronts. Several outlooks, which remain under construction, have been placed closer to the river.

A maze of controversy: The park that nears completion along the Potomac was the subject of neighborhood contention before opening.

“I’m just thrilled. I think it looks great, with a lot of open space,” Barbara Downs, a member of the Citizens Association of Georgetown who had done work for the park project on a volunteer basis, said.

According to Peter May, the associate regional director of D.C. area parks, the second phase of the park, which is expected to begin construction soon, will lie between 31st Street and Wisconsin Ave and include space for new boathouses, one of which would be owned by Georgetown. City approval for the University boathouse is awaiting the completion of an environmental impact study.

Plans for the park had been the subject of controversy in the past. Steve Kurzman, a former CAG president, opposed deviations from the original plan and backed a petition with around 200 signatures in opposition to the proposed changes.

“There were a handful of people who wanted to build other things,” said Kurzman. “There were ideas for putting stuff in the park. It should be like the original plan—a plain green park. What we need is green, not stuff.”

The Friends of the Georgetown Waterfront, a private group that raised funds for the park’s construction, circulated a countering petition, with around 500 signatories, in support of the plan that eventually became known as Phase II.

The approval process for the final design was extensive. Upwards of 50 public meetings were held on the final design, according to Robert vom Eigen, President of the Friends of Georgetown Waterfront Park.

“It was a very public process, and a consensus was reached,” vom Eigen said. “Most people are blown away [by the result].”

The first phase of the park was funded through revenue from the parking lot, which used to occupy that space, and private and public funding, according to vom Eigen. Phase II funding, which has seen the project through to its point of near-completion, has been supported by private funding and grants from the District and the National Park Service.

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