Council committee adds funds for two Ward 2 park projects

The Stead Recreation Center is located at 1625 P St. NW. (Brian Kapur/The Current/June 2014)

Two Ward 2 recreation facilities could see significant improvements earlier than expected after a D.C. Council committee revised Mayor Muriel Bowser’s budget proposal last Thursday.

The Committee on Transportation and the Environment, which oversees the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation, moved up funding for renovations to Stead Recreation Center and added money for the Foggy Bottom Dog and Tot Park. The committee adopted its budget markup on May 18, and the full council is due to vote on a finalized budget early next month.

For Stead, 1625 P St. NW, the mayor’s April budget proposal allocated $1 million for designing an expansion of the rec center in fiscal year 2020; $7 million to begin construction in 2021; and $3 million for final construction in 2022. But the park’s friends group and other neighborhood leaders urged the council earlier this month to fast-track those funds. Advocates say the dilapidated, cramped structure doesn’t have room for community meetings or family-friendly events, and it hasn’t been renovated in more than a decade.

During a May 18 budget markup, the environment committee, chaired by Ward 3 member Mary Cheh, approved funds in a single year rather than spread across three. Under this budget version, Stead Recreation Center would receive $10 million from the city in fiscal year 2019, and the Friends of Stead Park would contribute $1 million for designs, permits and other preliminary work. Early plans emphasize multi-use spaces and efforts toward Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification.

“It’s going to be a busy year of getting ready for this project,” friends group vice president Kishan Putta told The Current. Community input sessions will take place in September, he said.

Stead Park was established in 1953 by a private bequest from local architect Robert Stead in memory of his late wife Mary Force Stead. The group’s considerable reserve can be attributed in part to financial support from a private trust that Robert Stead created.

Kishan Putta, right, and Kari Cunningham, center, of the Friends of Stead Park, and ANC 2B member Randy Downs lobbied for the rec center funds. (photo courtesy of Kishan Putta)

Earlier this month, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2B (Dupont Circle) requested that the Office of Planning add the park building’s expansion — including the addition of a children’s library inside — as an amendment in the upcoming revision of the city’s broad Comprehensive Plan document.

Meanwhile, the Foggy Bottom Dog and Tot Park — located on the west side of 26th Street between I and K streets NW — is now slated for $1 million in repairs during fiscal year 2022, including adding a retaining wall and drainage system; replacing park substrate; installing water dispensers, a waste station and trash compactor; and removing sidewalk obstructions on the west side of 26th. Bowser’s April proposal didn’t allocate any funds for this project.

Work scheduled for 2022 at the Foggy Bottom park follows some preliminary improvements last year to dirty playground equipment, contaminated soil and collapsed fencing. As part of that budget allocation, the environment committee is also urging the General Services Department to coordinate with the Foggy Bottom Association on managing the park going forward. During years of neglect from the city, the association performed annual improvements at the park on its own.

Separately, during last month’s meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2A (Foggy Bottom, West End), the developer Boston Properties floated the possibility of improving the 26th and I park as a community benefit for its building project at 2100 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. A spokesperson for Boston Properties didn’t return messages in time for publication.

To secure the park project funds, the environment committee undertook a routine process of identifying excesses over hundreds of projects in the budget and then pooled those funds together.