Parks and Plazas in DowntownDC
DowntownDC is home to 32 public parks, memorials, and plazas that, together, total 27 acres of open space. Good parks — well-designed green spaces that are regularly used — improve the quality of life in downtowns, serving as oases in a densely built urban environment. Additionally, they are good for public health, encouraging physical activity and socialization, and drawing people out of their offices, homes, and cars. Finally, parks are crucial for two environmental reasons: (1) they improve air quality, as greenery both filters pollution and minimizes the urban heat island effect; and (2) they play an increasingly important role in stormwater management. With green space at a premium in the urban core, even a small pocket park can make a neighborhood more livable and enhance commercial and residential property values.
The largest parks in DowntownDC, including Franklin Park, Mount Vernon Square, and McPherson Square, are characterized by open green space, central defining elements, and long histories. In all, there are eight parks and plazas more than an acre in size. Yet nearly all of the 32 public spaces DowntownDC are federal property under the jurisdiction of the U.S. National Park Service (NPS). Many of these NPS properties are smaller triangular parks, or pocket parks, located at the nexus of diagonal avenues and east-west streets. More than a dozen of these pocket parks are typically a half-acre or smaller and offer opportunities for creative programming and activation.
DowntownDC Parks Master Plan
In the fall of 2021, the BID embarked on a year-long process to inventory and reimagine parks and open spaces that exist throughout our 138 blocks. The effort engaged with the NPS, the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation, and DowntownDC stakeholders to identify challenges and opportunities to improve parks, open spaces, and streetscapes to make the public realm more engaging, adaptable, connected, authentic, and iconic. The resulting document, the DowntownDC Parks Master Plan, was released by the BID in March 2023. Learn more and download a copy at this page.
The NPS and the BID
Since 2007, the BID has had a general partnership agreement with the NPS, which enables us to supplement the agency’s maintenance efforts through trash collection, cleaning, and landscaping services within NPS parks. It also allows the BID and the NPS to plan for park improvements together.
In contrast, the BID is the sole general maintenance provider of Franklin Park (the NPS is responsible for the trees on the site), which received a $21 million overhaul and redesign and reopened in September 2021. As part of the historic cooperative management agreement (CMA) between the District of Columbia and the NPS, the BID operates, maintains, and programs the park. Funding for this effort is provided in part by the DowntownDC Foundation. This public-private partnership has been successful in reactivating this nearly 5-acre urban park and can serve as a blueprint for future investments in, and management of, open spaces throughout DowntownDC.
In several instances, the care of a small park has been undertaken by the adjacent property owner through a partnership agreement with the NPS. These partnership agreements provide property owners with an opportunity to enhance the open space adjacent to their building. The BID can assist properties that are interested in working with the NPS to improve these small parks. For more information on partnership agreements, please contact the BID by emailing email@example.com.