Funding technicalities have held up $2,500,000 in funds dedicated for a Shaw park. D.C. government agencies have put the park on “hold” for over one year all because they can’t find a way to approve funds to an artist for a commemorative sculpture.
The triangle park above is located adjacent the home of noted historian Carter G. Woodson, recently purchased by the National Park Service to convert into a museum. City officials planned to convert it into commemorative park with money set aside for neighborhood enhancement during the construction of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center and matching federal funds. Planning was moving forward and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which administered the Convention Center neighborhood funds, announced two years ago an artist had been selected to create a sculpture of Dr. Woodson.
Legal technicalities have put the project on permanent hold. In an email to me last fall, D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans described what happened next:
in January 2007, the MOU (memorandum of agreement) between DDOT, Federal Highways and the National Trust was distributed to the parties for execution. The final stop was the [D.C.] Office of Procurement, however after reviewing the document, OCP has determined that DDOT is not authorized to enter into an MOU with an outside entity. This came as a surprise to DDOT since the agency has several contracts, including the Heritage Trail contract with Cultural Tourism DC and to make a long story short, OCP has indicated that DDOT needs to either go through a competitive process or follow the procedures to justify a “sole source contract”. In the meantime, I understand DDOT is trying to find the appropriate documentation in the Federal legislation that authorizes DDOT to enter into MOU’s such as this.
Evans pledged to help move the project forward: “The city agencies need to work together to find a timely solution to this problem. If the project falls through, the City’s investment of thousands of dollars already invested in this work will go for naught. I will do all in my power to see that this does not happen.” Sadly, I have heard nothing since this correspondence.
The local ANC Commissioner Alex Padro told me last fall he was “getting ready to go public with the facts” about how the Fenty administration is allowing the project to “go down the drain,” although if he tried to win press attention I did not see it. Mayor Fenty’s office was unhelpful as well, writing in response to my correspondence, “We agree that this is an important project for the neighborhood and for Dr. Woodson’s legacy. Right now, the project is on hold. We are in communication with the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities to see if they will be willing to take on management of this project. …”
The Case for the Park
Despite its diminutive site, the Carter G. Woodson Park presents a unique opportunity to celebrate neighborhood history and provide an amenity to neighborhood residents. A celebrated scholar, journalist, and publisher Carter G. Woodson is credited with virtually single-handily founding the field of African American history. His efforts to fight racial discrimination, improve public education, and introduce African American history to America and the world deserves to be studied and celebrated.
The park site also presents interesting opportunities for neighborhood improvement. Located at a prominent intersection at Rhode Island Avenue and Q Street NW, it could be an important gateway to the neighborhood. If developed, the park could be used by the women in residence at the YWCA, school children at Shaw Junior High and Seaton Elementary, and thousands of residents of apartments, row homes, and subsidized housing in the neighborhood. People waiting for the G8 bus also have no benches or shelter from the weather, something which a new design could accommodate. (Below, left) Furthermore, three longtime vacant properties border the park. New city investment could help spark redevelopment of these longtime eyesores.
Since my polite inquiries and the assistance of the neighborhood’s elected officials has not resolved the problem, I encourage all District residents to contact the officials below. Tell them to find a solution to the legal technicalities, approve funds for design and construction of the Carter G. Woodson Park. I have no doubt a legal solution can be found to pay for the art for this much-needed park.
Emeka C. Moneme
Director, D.C. Department of Transportation
David P. Gragan, CPPO
Chief Procurement Officer, D.C. Office of Contracting and Procurement
CEO and General Manager, Washington Convention Center Authority