“As I stand here, I want to thank the architect who decided that we needed some shade,” said Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) in her remarks kicking off the Eastern Market Metro Park (EMMP) Community Ribbon-cutting. “I’m thinking that was a very good decision right now.”
In so saying, Bowser touched upon only one of myriad debates that took place in the decade-long community process that led to the newly redesigned and reconstructed EMMP park. The pavillion under which she stood as she spoke on a sunny July 4th mid-day was requested by the EMMP Advisory Team.
“You can tell there’s a lot of love for the shade structure,” said Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen (D). “You wouldn’t know it, but at the beginning actually, it was a fight to get the shade structure in –but in the end, we know it as the right decision.”
A Shared Vision
Allen said the community meetings, discussions and debates had resulted in something amazing. “We had a shared vision, and that was that we need to transform this space,” he said, “from a place that you walk through to a place that you can walk to. And I think that’s something that we have accomplished here.”
The event, held after the conclusion of the Capitol Hill 4th of July Parade, was a way for the community to get together and celebrate the work and the journey they have been on together. That path has led to the park that surrounds Eastern Market Metro Station, located at Pennsylvania Ave. SE between Seventh and Eighth Streets SE.
The ceremony opened with a performance by the Potomac Gardens Drum Corp and concluded with music under the pavillion from the Capitol Hillbillies. Those kinds of performances and these kinds of gatherings were exactly what was envisioned for the space, said current Barracks Row Main Street (BRMS) Executive Director Martin Smith.
The project originated more than a dozen years ago, when former BRMS President Tip Tipton and Board Chair David Perry initiated the process.”The number or hours, of late-night phone calls, weekly meetings, committees and emails that he put into this –his contribution can not be understated,” said Martin, also acknowledging the work of former BRMS Deputy Director Sharon Bosworth.
Smith said he was thrilled with the result. “After 12 long, hard years of debate, discussion and work, it’s finally here, and it looks amazing,” he told the Hill Rag prior to the event. “I’m thrilled.”
Without Missing the Small Stuff
Speaking on behalf of the Community Advisory Team, Capitol Hill Community Foundation (CHCF) President Nicky Cymrot said that the community had succeeded in creating a center for relaxing, reading, meeting friends, music and dancing.
“We could not certainly have had this happen except for the hard work of Charles Allen and his staff, who never gave up –never gave up– finding the money to make this happen,” Cymrot said. “We can only say thank you to Charles, and show him how valuable it is over time.
Allen said that together, the community came up with a big bold vision, but without missing the small stuff.
As part of an Eagle Scout project many years ago, Peter Riehle led a team that built a bench on the parcel where the station entrance is now located. Riehe died in January 2015 at the age of 22. During construction, the community and project team rebuilt his bench on the site.
“To me, that’s who we are,” Allen said. “We remember the little things that help connect us, that really build this neighborhood and help us find each other in [it].”
“A Place to Walk to”
The park is in the Single Member District (SMD) of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) representative Gerald Sroufe (6B02). Acknowledging the four commissioners whose ANCs border the park, Sroufe said the project was the endpoint of a great deal of community discussion. But throughout all the debate, Sroufe said, the community “kept going back to Allen’s words: ‘this is a place to come to, not go through’, and that inspiration helped us with that debate.”
There are still three pieces of public art that will be added to the park. One will be placed near the metro station, another near the entrance of Trader Joe’s, and one more near the playground. The plans may be steps away from absolute fulfillment, but the journey is worth celebrating, Allen said.
“This is really just a community celebration of a shared vision of what we can do this space,” the Councilmember said in his concluding remarks. “I am so proud of it; I know that you are as well. It’s something that’s going to be really special for us for the years and decades to come.”