As design work progresses, Stead Rec Center project team weighs program options

A proposed design for Stead features a steel roof over the basketball court and a three-story addition with a green roof. (rendering courtesy of D.C. government)

As the District prepares to renovate and expand the Stead Recreation Center starting next fall, officials recently released the latest designs for the project, focusing on new programs the Dupont Circle site could accommodate.

Located at 1625 P St. NW, the center has faced criticisms about its size and condition, prompting the D.C. Council to allocate $10 million for a comprehensive overhaul.

This fall, the project team for the Stead center conducted a survey about possible uses for the facility, collecting 147 responses as of Nov. 28. Respondents called for an arts and crafts program; afternoon access for kids ages 6 to 12; a garden-oriented fall festival; classes on guitar, yoga, youth dance, digital photography, and drawing and painting; after-school tutoring; and a children’s story hour.

Officials plan to start up four working groups tasked with different aspects of the project: adult programming, artwork and photography, rat mitigation strategies and the overall site.

Some neighbors questioned the project’s focus on children, given that the Dupont area has many young single adults. But many organizers, including Friends of Stead Park president Kari Cunningham, said that’s part of the center’s original mission — as outlined by Robert Stead, who founded a trust that created the park in 1953.

“Our core vision is to serve the children of the District of Columbia,” said Cunningham, also an advisory neighborhood commissioner. “That’s our mandate by the trust.”

Planners have also proposed to start an early childhood program through the Department of Parks and Recreation’s Cooperative Play Program, consisting of play-time sessions in the mornings for babies and young children.

While there is some debate about programming, there’s broad support for the idea of updating the outdated recreation center, a prized public amenity in crowded Dupont.

“Right now, it is really not a very usable space,” Cunningham said, describing the center — originally built as a small carriage house in 1888 — as small, outdated, and inaccessible to those with disabilities.

Overall plans to redo the recreation center include restoring the existing carriage house, constructing a three-level rear addition with a green roof, and renovating on-site play areas. The rear addition is expected to measure two stories above-ground — the same height as the existing building — and will feature multiple activity rooms with flexible partitions.

Plans also include a new outdoor playground with sculptural “solar trees” and shade. The property’s outdoor basketball court is set to receive a new steel roof fitted with solar panels.

The project is slated to improve accessibility so that the center adheres to Americans with Disabilities Act standards. The existing ramp at the east side of the property along P Street will provide access from the sidewalk into the site, while playground surfaces will be covered with surfacing suitable for wheelchair travel. The center itself will be fitted with an elevator.

Project organizers also aim to hit various environmental goals. Officials hope to secure LEED Platinum certification as well as Net Zero status, meaning the building’s energy consumption won’t exceed the amount of renewable energy generated on site.

A fourth meeting on the Stead project is set for Jan. 8.