Eleven years ago, Leona Agouridis remembers, the most notable features of Duke Ellington Park were probably its broken benches and rusty trash cans.
Last Friday, Agouridis, the executive director of the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District, opened the first phase of the park’s renovations, featuring new rainwater collection technology, plantings and seating.
In the past decade, new residences have appeared around the park, bringing diversity to its office-heavy downtown location — a small triangle bordered by New Hampshire Avenue and 21st and M streets NW. Across the District’s growing landscape, neighborhoods increasingly host a mix of office workers and permanent residents. Officials at the opening ceremony said the aim of the new park is to create an attractive meeting point for all.
The city will use Ellington Park as a positive example, said Department of Parks and Recreation deputy director John Stokes. “We have 375 parks, so this park is going to be the model moving forward about how we build our parks and make them sustainable,” Stokes said.
To address rainwater runoff, the park includes permeable pavement and a rain garden. Rain will be captured through the ground and the garden, filter into an underground storage tank and be pumped back to water plants and operate a fountain. The garden includes “native wildflowers to provide habitat for butterflies and bees,” according to a project poster.
The Golden Triangle BID has worked with the city to construct rain gardens nearby on 19th Street NW, and Agouridis said she hopes to extend those in the future. The sustainability measures are in accordance with the District’s goal of eliminating water pollution seeping into the Potomac and Anacostia rivers.
Agouridis hopes to host small events and jazz at the park in the future, such as during lunchtime.
The second phase of the park renovation will include extending the M Street sidewalk 10 feet, removing a parking lane and reconfiguring an existing bicycle lane. The northern half of the park will also be “spruced up,” said Mike Van Atta of the Golden Triangle BID. Planning has already started, and construction is slated to begin in the summer and conclude next fall.
The goal of the project is more than just sustainability, Van Atta added. “Overall, a lot of it is to create a sense of place in this neighborhood, where a lot of redevelopment is coming,” he said.