Our nation’s founders decided to build their new capital city on a square of land at the confluence of two rivers — the Potomac and the Anacostia. In the years since, the Potomac has been acclaimed as “the Nation’s River.” The Anacostia, however, has been known by less illustrious nicknames: “the forgotten river,” or simply “one of the most polluted rivers in the United States.”
Now D.C. is rediscovering the long-neglected waterway. Rowers, kayakers and stand-up paddlers are taking to the river, after years of dedicated cleanup efforts and a multi-billion-dollar sewer upgrade that just went online. Some of the fanciest new development in the District is sprouting up on the banks of the Anacostia, too.
This comes after decades of underinvestment in the river and the neighborhoods around it, where mostly poor, black residents have suffered the effects of pollution.
WAMU reporter Jacob Fenston and visuals editor Tyrone Turner explore the Anacostia, asking: What does a revitalized river mean for Washington, and who will benefit?
For Dennis Chestnut, growing up in Northeast Washington in the 1950s and 1960s, there weren’t a lot of places to cool off in the summer. Getting to the nearest public pool meant going through an all-white neighborhood, where the kids were not friendly.
“Those kids would just throw rocks, bottles, I mean, whatever. We were just not welcome,” Chestnut remembered.
So Chestnut and his friends found their own spot to swim: the Anacostia River. It was less than a mile from his house, following along Watts Branch.
He recalls it fondly — lounging by the water, jumping off trees into the river.
“There’s one in particular we’d swing off and drop in,” Chestnut said. “That was my test swim, to determine whether I could be over here with the bigger kids.”
It’s an idyllic childhood memory — but an incomplete one. If you were to turn 180 degrees from the water, in those days you would see the sprawling Kenilworth dump, smoke wafting from open-air trash fires.
The river and its banks were literally Washington’s dumping grounds, and not just for trash, but also industrial waste, raw sewage and polluted runoff. To understand how this happened, you have to go back a good 400 years. Since way back in colonial days, the degradation of the river has gone hand in hand with the mistreatment of people who lived in its watershed.
It all started with tobacco.
The Anacostia takes its name from the Nacotchtank or Nacostan Indians, who had a large village at the mouth of the river. In 1608, Captain John Smith traveled up the Anacostia and found a much different river than the one we know today.
“This river would have been 40 feet deep, crystal clear,” said Krista Schlyer, a writer and photographer who has an upcoming book on the ecology and history of the Anacostia. “Just immense numbers of fish, forests all along it, and incredible wild species that we can’t imagine being here now, like bears and wolves, bison. Just an incredibly diverse ecosystem.”
By the mid-1600s, what’s now the D.C. region was tobacco country. Prince George’s County was one of the most productive tobacco-producing areas in the British Empire. Overland travel was difficult, so the rivers and creeks of the Chesapeake were Maryland’s highways, linking tobacco plantations with the world market.
The second-largest port on the entire eastern seaboard was here — and no, it wasn’t Alexandria or Georgetown or Annapolis. It was Bladensburg — now a Maryland suburb you could easily commute through and never notice the river — welcomed tall ships at bustling docks.
Tobacco, of course brought masses of enslaved people. By 1710, more than half the county’s inhabitants were slaves. Tobacco also started the Anacostia River’s downward spiral.
“What you see today is a river you could almost walk across during low tide, and tobacco is the primary reason for that,” said Schlyer. “The forests were all cut down, and when the forests were cut down, when the rains came, it would wash the land off into the river. So a 40-foot-deep river became almost no river at all.”
The last tall ship sailed from Bladensburg in 1835. Today the river at Bladensburg is so silted up, you could probably walk across it at low tide without getting your ankles wet.
While agriculture started the Anacostia’s decline, there’s also a long history of pollution from industry, starting with the founding of Washington. For most of its history, the Navy Yard wasn’t the tidy collection of office buildings you see there today. It was a huge industrial operation, starting in 1799.
By World War II, the Navy Yard was the largest artillery factory in the world, with tens of thousands of workers building the Navy’s big guns and ammunition. Many of the toxic byproducts — like PCBs — ended up in the Anacostia River.
It wasn’t just the Navy Yard dumping in and around the river.
Robert Boone founded the Anacostia Watershed Society in 1989. In those days, much of the pollution was out in the open, like the giant pile of poop on the riverbank at the National Arboretum.
“It was huge. It was ten, twenty, thirty feet high,” Boone estimated, looking at the grassy spot where he found it years ago.
At first he couldn’t figure out what it was.
“It was not cow, it wasn’t human. It was big,” Boone said. It turned out, the National Zoo was piling up dung from its animals here. “It was right on the banks of the river, draining into the river.”
By the end of the 20th century, power plants, dumps and incinerators crowded the banks of the Anacostia. And as the river suffered, so did many of the people who lived near it.
“We were getting breast cancers and brain cancers and things like that. Really serious things that were really puzzling for doctors and families to deal with,” said Malissa Freese, a resident of River Terrace, in Ward 7, and president of the River Terrace Community Organization.
River Terrace is a picturesque neighborhood, with houses looking right out onto the Anacostia. But the neighborhood is also just downstream from an old Pepco plant and a decommissioned trash incinerator that polluted the air and water with things like dioxins and mercury.
Even though the power plant closed in 2012, the site hasn’t been fully cleaned up, and while the garbage is no longer burning, there is still a trash transfer station there on Benning Road.
“They have a seafood company that when they drop off their trash — literally you were almost nauseous walking down Benning Road at 5:45 in the morning,” Freese said.
The Potomac River has also struggled with pollution, but major cleanups there began in the 1960s — not the 1990s. Jim Connolly, a former executive director of the Anacostia Watershed Society, said there was a disparity in how the two rivers were treated.
“President Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson made an effort to highlight that we need to clean up the Potomac — it’s the ‘nation’s river,’ and there was a lot of attention put there, a lot of funding was actually advanced toward the cleanup of the Potomac, which was needed, but that didn’t translate over to the Anacostia,” Connolly said.
Writer Krista Schlyer said there was a straightforward reason.
“I think you couldn’t really argue the point that it’s because the people who lived along this river didn’t have money,” she said. “They were disenfranchised in society because of their race. And we’re still trying to figure out how to turn that around.”
The story of the Kenilworth dump had a tragic ending. In 1968, a 7-year-old boy playing in the dump died in the trash fires. The dump was officially closed the next day — but illegal dumping continued for years.
“I felt so bad about it,” said Dennis Chestnut, who used to swim by the dump as a kid. “My mom was saying, ‘That could have been you.’ I said, ‘Yeah, very true.’”
Years later, Chestnut went on to found a local environmental group, Groundwork DC, which now operates trash traps to keep garbage out of the river, including one right where the dump used to be.
Chestnut says the river has gotten much better — now it needs a new nickname.
“The Anacostia needs to be viewed as Washington D.C.’s river. Not the forgotten river, but the river,” he said.
Chestnut hopes that he’ll one day be able to swim in the Anacostia again — and take his grandkids — without worrying about bacteria or toxins in the water or smoke from burning trash piles. That day may be coming soon.
Most Washingtonians would be hesitant to jump in the Anacostia for a swim.
That’s not surprising, considering that the river has been polluted with raw sewage for at least the past 100 years. But the opening in March of a new $2.6 billion sewer tunnel has the potential to change that.
George Hawkins spent eight years as CEO and General Manager of D.C. Water, the city’s water and sewage authority. He said that the original sewer system, designed to expel raw sewage into the Anacostia, was a major engineering accomplishment in the 19th century.
“When the system was first built, the public health need was to get all of that waste out of where people were living day-to-day,” Hawkins said. “Literally it was in people’s basements. There were pits in the basement, there were folks who would come every night, they would shovel it out. And it was in the street. It was all around where we lived our lives.”
The big pipes constructed at that time flushed all this waste underground, out of the city and into the river. It was big leap forward for public health, but not for the health of the Anacostia.
At first, there was no sewage treatment at all. But even after D.C. Water constructed one of the most advanced sewage treatment plants in the world, the old pipes weren’t big enough.
Modern sewers separate stormwater and sewage in different pipes, but in D.C.’s old system it’s all combined, so any big rainfall can quickly fill up the pipes, forcing an overflow into the river.
Sewer overflows happened 75 to 80 times a year, totaling, on average 2 billion gallons.
For many years, Hawkins said, there didn’t seem to be a solution, other than digging up the entire system and starting over. That would have been prohibitively expensive and disruptive.
Early cleanup efforts tackled problems that were easier to fix.
Anthony Satterthwaite was part of one of those early efforts, as one of the founding members of the Earth Conservation Corps, starting in 1992. The group’s first project was cleaning up Beaverdam Creek, a tributary of the Anacostia. The creek runs behind a row of car shops in Prince George’s County. It was filled with tires.
“If you can imagine a tire with thick heavy mud in it, it’s going to be extremely heavy. Now, imagine a 18-wheeler tire, with the rim still on it. So that’s like five times the weight,” Satterthwaite remembered.
In the end, the team pulled 5,000 tires from this one tributary.
Robert Boone, who founded the Anacostia Watershed Society in 1989, participated in plenty of muddy cleanups. But he also took aim at the sewage problem, the problem officials said couldn’t be fixed.
“I’m not one of these people that goes for the way it is,” Boone said. The Watershed Society filed suit against D.C. Water. “We won that lawsuit over hounding, and hounding, and hounding them.”
New technology provided a solution to the sewage problem: A giant tunnel boring machine chewed a tunnel 26 feet in diameter for more than 2 miles under the river, from near RFK Stadium south to the Blue Plains Treatment Plant. The new technology allowed tunneling in soft ground, without risking collapse.
The sewer tunnel went online in March, and takes a big step toward fixing the overflow problem. It can hold 180 million gallons of sewage and rainwater, or the same amount as almost 300 Olympic-sized swimming pools. It’s expected to reduce sewer overflows by 81 percent — making the water dramatically cleaner, starting immediately.
It’s the biggest infrastructure project in Washington since Metro.
The change is so significant for the river that city officials are openly talking about something that has been banned since 1972 — swimming in the Anacostia.
“We’re spending a lot of money to clean up this river. So we don’t want to just have a river where we’re sitting in a restaurant and saying, ’Oh, it’s nice to have this nice river.’ We want to get our money’s worth for this investment,” said Gretchen Mikeska, the Anacostia Coordinator for D.C.’s Department of Energy and Environment. She noted that discussions about swimming in the Anacostia are in the very early stages, however.
Washington wouldn’t be the first U.S. city to reclaim a polluted river for swimmers. Several, including Portland, Ore. and Boston have recently completed big sewer upgrades, and are now allowing swimmers to jump in.
Erin Garnaas-Holmes used to live in Boston, which has been holding “splash days” in the formerly filthy Charles River since 2013. He tried the water. “I dragged my girlfriend, I made her jump in the river despite protests, and we swam around for about half an hour, and it was blast,” he said.
Now Garnaas-Holmes works for the Anacostia Waterfront Trust and is heading a project considering all the options for swimming on the Anacostia, based on models elsewhere in the world.
“There’s the Copenhagen Harbor Baths, which is essentially a giant floating dock structure that creates a pool area in the middle and sort of a diving platform,” Garnaas-Holmes said.
There could be a swim platform like this on the Anacostia two or three years from now. There could even be “splash days” as soon as next summer.
Even if the water is technically cleaner, getting people to swim in it may be an uphill battle. For many who grew up in Washington, the image of a mucky brown Anacostia, filled with sewage and trash, is a hard one to forget.
“People never envisioned that they would be able to swim in urban rivers. To actually convince the older people that, yeah, you can swim in this is really going to be a feat,” said Gretchen Mikeska.
Audrey Hipkins and Lawrence Thurston, who are members of the D.C. Water Wizards senior swim team, echoed Mikeska.
“Even as a kid, we used to go down. I wouldn’t even put my feet in the water, and this was in the early, mid-’60s. It was dirty then!” Thurston said.
Hipkins, who has competed in several open water swimming events, liked the idea of a swimmable Anacostia, but was skeptical it could happen so soon.
“Hmm,” she said. “We’ll see.”
There is still plenty of reason for skepticism — after all, the cleanup is far from over. The District is still figuring out what to do about the river bottom, filled with legacy toxins from industry.
And even though most of the main stem of the river is in D.C., three quarters of the watershed is in Maryland. There’s no sewage overflow problem in the suburbs — the newer generation of sewer systems there have a different problem: rain washes straight from storm drains into the creeks.
“There’s a lot of old-school concrete and blacktop and shopping centers that have a lot of untreated bad stuff going into the water, which, of course, ends up downstream,” said Adam Ortiz, director of the Prince George’s County Department of the Environment.
In the coming months, D.C. will be finishing up its plan to clean up or cap the Anacostia’s dirty sediments. Officials will also be testing the Anacostia regularly to find out just how clean the water is, now that the new tunnel is online. The results will tell us how soon in might be safe to jump in.
The Anacostia River has been a place to pass over on Metro, or crawl over stuck in traffic for many people. But now as the water gets cleaner, people are starting to enjoy the river in all sorts of new ways.
On an afternoon last fall, Ginger Faulk and her daughter Sylvie were gliding along on stand-up paddle boards.
“This is our second time out here stand-up paddle boarding on the Anacostia. We did it the first time last week, and couldn’t get enough of it,” Ginger Faulk said. They rented the boards from Capital SUP, which just opened up on the Anacostia last summer.
Co-owner Christopher Norman said there was some fear and hesitation from customers during the first season. He thinks the sewer cleanup will help.
“I think it’ll be more greenlight from people,” Norman said.
Even during its dirtiest years, many people found ways to enjoy the river, whether picnicking in Anacostia Park, fishing or water skiing.
As a kid, Charles “Bob” Martin always wanted a boat, but in segregated 1940s Washington, he was turned away when he tried to rent one. Martin wasn’t discouraged. He went on to help found the Seafarers Yacht Club, one of the oldest black yacht clubs in the country, on an unused patch of land along the Anacostia.
Bob Martin’s son, Charles “Chubby” Martin grew up boating with his dad on the Anacostia. He was water skiing by age 6 and racing boats by 12.
“I used to ski with a cigarette, sunglasses and a hat on. And the cigarette never got wet,” the younger Martin remembered.
The Seafarers saw the river’s potential even when most people didn’t. The group started what may be the earliest regular trash pickup on the river.
They weren’t the only ones who saw potential in the Anacostia. Urban planners have spent the past century dreaming up schemes to transform the river into a recreational paradise of one sort or another. One of these schemes was even partially built, and you can still see the evidence.
The McMillan Plan, which helped shape the National Mall as we know it today, also envisioned a kind of grand water park in the Anacostia, with a series of lakes for boating and swimming.
In 1901, members of the Senate-appointed McMillan Commission, which included the famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, traveled to England to research great urban parks. They brought back photos: from Oxford, crowds of boaters in Victorian garb; from Henley, crew teams racing on the Thames. This was their idea for the future of the Anacostia.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers started the lake construction, along with a larger plan to dredge a navigable channel. The lakes didn’t work though. One of them, Kingman Lake, quickly silted in, though you can still see the abandoned dam near RFK Stadium. The other lake that was built eventually became the Kenilworth dump.
Now, decades later, the vision of an Anacostia River crowded with rowing shells is becoming reality. It’s not exactly Oxford or Henley, but theses days, you’re almost as likely to see a crew team gliding down the Anacostia as the Potomac.
Nathan Ballou started the Capital Juniors team at Capital Rowing 10 years ago. The team is based out of the Anacostia Boathouse on the west side of the river. He started the program to help kids who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity get involved with the sport. That’s most kids in D.C.
The only public school in the District with a crew team is Wilson High School, on the opposite side of the city in wealthy upper Northwest. A lot of kids who live in neighborhoods around the Anacostia didn’t grow up spending time on the water.
“Part of it’s a cultural thing. You know, rowing is a sort of rich, white sport, honestly,” Ballou said.
Two seniors on the Capital Juniors varsity team, Aissatu Diop and Tiona Herring, said they were skeptical about rowing on the Anacostia at first, especially in the narrow rowing sculls.
“I never knew anyone other than people at my school who did it so it was kind of like, this is a completely foreign sport to me,” said Diop.
Herring added: “The idea of being completely in the center of a body of water definitely kind of scared me. But I was like, we probably won’t flip, right?”
It’s not too surprising that few kids living near the Anacostia would ever spend time on it: For decades the city has faced away from the river, using its shores for things like gravel yards, railroad tracks and freeways.
Scott Kratz has a plan to overcome those barriers.
He’s the director of the 11th Street Bridge Park, a park that will be built on the piers from a section of the 11th Street Bridge that was abandoned when the span was redesigned in the 2000s.
“We’ve done a pretty stellar job of building as many barriers as we can between humans and the river. In this case, the the six-lane monstrosity concrete ribbon that’s known as the 295 freeway,” Kratz said.
The renderings of the planned park are stunning — it’s been compared to New York City’s High Line — and if built as planned, the park will have many amenities currently lacking along much of the river. These include an environmental education center, a 280-person amphitheater, boat launches and a plaza for farmers markets.
The 11th Street Bridge Park is just one of the ambitious plans currently in development for recreation around the Anacostia. The National Park Service has a proposal to make Anacostia Park into a “signature urban park.” The 1,100-acre park, which runs along most of the east bank, hasn’t seen a major upgrade in decades; basics like bathrooms and benches are few and far between.
“We want to make sure that as a signature urban park it’s a place that is welcoming, is connected to communities and it’s a space where everyone feels they can come and enjoy themselves,” said Tara Morrison, the park’s superintendent. The plans stress both restoring natural areas like wetlands, and improving recreational facilities at the park.
The District government also has plans for upgrading parks. Earlier this year, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the city will invest $4.7 million in improvements to Kingman Island, including a “state-of-the-art nature center.”
But what are the chances these plans will be any more successful than the ones from a century ago?
Kingman Island actually owes its existence to the grand ideas of that previous era. The island was created out of soil dredged up from the river bottom during the construction of Kingman Lake. The island’s terrain is uneven — construction debris was dumped here at some point, and bits of tile and concrete poke out among the trees.
“This is this unnatural sort of island, but nature finds a use for it,” said Lee Cain, who manages the island, with the nonprofit Living Classrooms.
But, Cain says, these days, the grand vision for recreation here isn’t to try to conquer nature, but to work with it. For example, he’s working on a project to allow camping on Kingman Island.
“You could have a zero carbon footprint camping experience if you come to Kingman. You could ride there on your bike, set up a tent. There are not too many other places that you can find that,” he said.
The thought of roasting marshmallows and singing around the campfire in the middle of Washington D.C. might seem far-fetched.
And these plans are a ways off: Cain hopes to open the island to organized groups of campers this summer, but not yet to just anyone.
As for the Bridge Park, construction could start next year, but the group behind the project has only secured about half the funding they need.
In the meantime, people who have been enjoying the river for generations will keep doing so.
Christopher Floyd says the fishing here is lot better than it used to be. Not too long ago, people would walk by and ask him if he’d caught anything. “Yeah I got a log or a rock or a TV,” he’d answer.
Now he catches more fish than junk, but it’s still not safe to eat them. It’s harder to get toxins out of the food chain than to make the water safe for swimming.
Doug Siglin, executive director of the Anacostia Waterfront Trust, said even though the Anacostia today looks nothing like what the McMillan Commission envisioned in 1902, “The vision is fundamentally the same.” It’s to get people out on the river, enjoying the outdoors.
“Maybe we’re all Victorians now,” he said.
On the west side of the Anacostia, in Ward 6, the median family income is $122,000. Across the 11th Street Bridge, in Ward 8, it’s $24,000. The Anacostia River has long been one of D.C.’s dividing lines, separating the haves from the have-nots.
Over the past decade, close to $3 billion has been invested in the area that includes Navy Yard, Nationals Stadium and Buzzard Point. An old cement factory is now a luxury apartment building. An abandoned Navy Yard boiler factory is now a brewery. An old gravel yard is now a beer garden, right on the water.
The Anacostia River has gone from being seen as a liability, a polluted place to avoid, to an amenity. In fact, this is the fastest-growing area in D.C.
D.C.’s first winery, District Winery, opened last summer, right on the water, and is booked for weddings every weekend in 2018. Owner John Stires says the river is a big draw.
“Who doesn’t want a river view for the backdrop of your wedding ceremony or reception?” Stires said.
The river was the main reason Janelle Baliko moved to the area — and not just for the views from her eighth-floor apartment. She’s an avid kayaker and can be in the water in five minutes.
“The longest part is the elevator down from my apartment unit down to the ground floor,” Baliko said.
East of the river has been the poorest part of the city for decades, and so far it hasn’t seen the investment that’s been pouring in on the west side.
“It’s a stark difference. Let’s be real. It’s a stark difference, said Greta Fuller, an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in Historic Anacostia. On the west side she sees lights and activity.
When she crosses the 11th Street Bridge into her neighborhood, “You see vacant, abandoned, boarded-up buildings and houses. You tell me. What am I supposed to feel?” Fuller said.
She’s been trying to bring more investment to the east side of the river for years, and now it is starting to happen: the first Starbucks east of the river is under construction, and there’s an enormous development planned for Poplar Point, next to the Anacostia Metro Station. It will include more than 700 residential units and more than a million square feet of office and retail space.
“I look at that stuff and it’s foreboding,” said Ari Theresa. “When I see the buildings across the river, it’s almost like the Borg. I’m waiting for them to drop these buildings in the area and just transform everything.”
Theresa is a lawyer — he calls himself a “gentrification attorney” — and he says gentrification is already happening all over his neighborhood.
“On every side of my house, behind me, to the side, across the street, on the other side of me, theres some sort of activity, some sort of speculation going on,” Theresa added, pointing out the construction projects in various states of completion.
George Musgrove, co-author of the recent book “Chocolate City: A History of Race and Democracy in the Nation’s Capital,” said fears of gentrification east of the river are reasonable.
“It’s a relatively historically grounded understanding of what happens when money moves into a poor, black neighborhood,” Musgrove said. “Whether it was Georgetown in the 1930s, or Foggy Bottom in the ‘50s, Capitol Hill in the ‘60s or ‘70s, what these D.C. residents have witnessed, is that when that money comes in, we get pushed out.”
In fact, the concentrated poverty east of the river is a result of gentrification in those other neighborhoods. As residents were priced out west of the river, many landed in Wards 7 and 8. Eventually “east of the river” became synonymous with poverty, and the “forgotten river” became associated with these “forgotten neighborhoods.”
“The two just sort of come together and people say, ‘Well, it’s the other side of a neglected, muddy river. It’s the other side of the tracks,’” said Musgrove.
With the revitalization of the river, however, the other side of the tracks is looking more and more like the next big thing.
Melissa Checker, an urban studies professor at Queens College in New York, calls this process “environmental gentrification,” and says there’s an inherent paradox in it.
“For historic reasons, often having to do with redlining and various forms of institutional racism, people of color have lived around industrial neighborhoods,” she said.
In many of those neighborhoods, activists have spent years fighting to get them cleaned up. Now it’s finally starting to happen, but, said Checker, “It’s coming along with this redevelopment that is going to price them out of the neighborhood.”
Checker says gentrification doesn’t have to be a bad word. It’s not the improvement that’s the problem, it’s the displacement. There are ways to slow down or stop displacement near these green projects, including zoning laws requiring affordable units and programs that help low-income buyers with down payments.
Brian Kenner, D.C.’s deputy mayor for economic development, says development along the river can be good for everyone.
“We’ve got to have development because we have to have jobs. And that’s not just construction jobs, but it comes with office tenants that are going to be located east of the river, or retail opportunities,” Kenner said.
He says the city is working to prepare people for these new kinds of jobs: he points to a job-training program aimed at residents in public housing. And, the District also has one of the most generous programs to help low-income residents buy their own homes — with up to $80,000 toward a down payment.
Erica Armstrong is hoping to take advantage of such a program, and she’s getting ready to buy through a home-buying club organized by the group behind the planned 11th Street Bridge Park. The idea is to help current residents buy into the neighborhood, mitigating any negative effects of the park.
Armstrong, who has an 11-month-old daughter, says she wants to buy a house so she’ll have something to pass on.
“A history for her, so she can look back at something and say, ‘I grew up there,’” Armstrong said.
The bungalow she’s looking at, close to the river, but also right next to the railroad tracks and freeway, is listed for $314,000.
If Armstrong becomes a homeowner, she’ll be able to benefit from the changing neighborhood. Rather than getting pushed out by rising costs, she’ll be building up equity and wealth.
In the early days after Washington’s founding, the Anacostia River was a physical barrier, with just two bridges crossing it. Later, it became so polluted people stayed away.
For generations, it’s been a dividing line.
“When I was a child, you were dissuaded from coming down, or going to the river,” said Vaughn Perry, a lifelong east-of-the-river resident.
Now, as the city turns toward the Anacostia, there’s an opportunity for the river to play a different role. Perry, now director of equitable development for the 11th Street Bridge Park, says the river can just as easily bring the city together as divide it.
If we do it right, he says, people on both sides of the river will benefit.
“We can serve as a model for other development that’s coming, not just into Washington D.C., but across the country,” Perry said.
It depends on whether the city invests not just in the river and the buildings going up around it, but also in the people who live beside it.
Reporting: Jacob Fenston
Visuals: Tyrone Turner
Editing: Cindy Johnston, Lara McCoy, Kelsey Proud, Jeffrey Katz
Published March 26, 2018