Washington Canal Park
Location: Washington, D.C.
Owner: Canal Park Development Association
Designer: OLIN and STUDIOS Architecture, dcpc
Size: 3 acres (1.2 ha)
Project website: www.canalparkdc.org

One of the first parks built as part of the District of Columbia’s Anacostia Waterfront Initiative, Canal Park presents a model of sustainability, a social gathering place, and an economic trigger for the rapidly developing surrounding neighborhood.

Located on three acres (1.2 ha) of a former parking lot for district school buses, this three-block-long park is sited along the historic former Washington Canal system. Inspired by the site’s waterfront heritage, the design evokes the history of the space with a linear rain garden and three pavilions reminiscent of floating barges. In collaboration with OLIN, STUDIOS Architecture designed one pavilion to host a café, while a second pavilion serves as a stage and a third offers storage for park amenities.

The rain garden functions as an integrated stormwater system that is estimated to save the city 1.5 million gallons (5.7 million l) of potable water per year. Stormwater is captured, treated on site, and reused, satisfying up to 95 percent of the park’s water needs for irrigation, building use, fountains, toilet flushing, and the ice rink. Twenty-eight geothermal wells beneath the ice rink provide efficient energy supply for utilities. Other sustainable design elements in Canal Park include dark-sky lighting elements, high-albedo paving, traffic-calming strategies, native and adapted vegetation, and site elements that encourage sustainable practices, such as electric car– charging stations, bicycle racks, and recycling bins.

Providing a green pedestrian link between Capitol Hill and the Anacostia River, Canal Park is a centerpiece for nearly 10,000 office workers and 2,000 new mixed market-rate and affordable housing units, which replaced 700 public housing units from across the District as part of the Arthur Capper-Carrollsburg revitalization. According to surveys administered by the Capitol Riverfront Business Improvement District, the percentage of residents who view the neighborhood as “clean and safe” has gone from 30 percent six years ago to 90 percent today. Canal Park uses public open space and green infrastructure as an economic driver and acts as a catalyst for the revitalization of the Near Southeast neighborhood.