Potential design for Cobb Park by MVT CID.

In DC's triangular Mount Vernon Triangle neighborhood is a smaller triangle, known as Cobb Park. It's not much of a park right now, but it could be. A new study from the Mount Vernon Triangle Community Improvement District looked at what such a park could look like and other possible places for parks around the neighborhood.

The Mount Vernon Triangle is just east of Mount Vernon Square and north of Mount Vernon Octagon (not really that last bit). It includes the CityVista building with the Busboys and Poets, the new buildings and restaurants along Massachusetts Avenue, and a lot more recent development. But it doesn't have a lot of parks.

The CID, which is a Business Improvement District but includes residents as well as commercial properties, conducted a recent survey of residents. In it, 3/4 of people said there weren't enough park spaces and this lack was a top five reason people thought they'd move out. The CID says that the District's Play DC plan found the area has three times the residents per playground as the DC average.

There's a good site, known as Cobb Park. Nobody is quite sure who Cobb is. It might be the first woman police officer killed in the line of duty in 1974, Gail Cobb; or the first African-American anthropology Ph.D. (in 1932) and president of the NAACP, Dr. William Montague Cobb; or Judge James A. Cobb, who worked to challenge racial covenants; or none of the above. It sits atop the I-395 freeway and was created when that was built 40 years ago.

Cobb Park today by MVT CID.

Right now, the park is a staging area for the Capitol Crossing development, which is decking over the freeway just south of there. But the 2015 Play DC plan talks about making it a priority to turn this into a real park, and the CID just published a more detailed study about the possibility.

The Play DC study suggested a basketball/tennis court, bocce ball, chess/checkers tables, a pavilion and amphitheater, a playground, sculptures, a movie projector for screenings, and more.

Cobb Park vision by Play DC.

This study seems to envision it more akin to Canal Park in the Navy Yard area, with a water feature, some kind of cool elevated structure, and space for events. (The basketball and bocce, meanwhile, would be on a different site — see below).

Funding to design and build a park isn't yet in the budget, but the CID hopes this will raise its priority.

In the past, the site has been hard to reach because of the mess of roadways where H Street NW meets Massachusetts Avenue. A new freeway on-ramp has been built in the middle of Massachusetts and the roadways were simplified made easier (mostly) for people to access the site.

Access to Cobb Park before the Capitol Crossing I-395 ramp project. Image by MVT CID.

Also, the study says, inattention and neglect led to it being seen as unsafe. Some people experiencing homelessness were using the park and nearby areas around the freeway on-ramps. The study recommends finding ways to activate the park as soon as construction ends, so people can start using it even before a full park can be created. The CID envisions taking a larger role in its upkeep and caretaking, much like other BIDs do or are proposing to do for parks like Franklin Square (Downtown BID), the C&O Canal (Georgetown), Farragut Square (Golden Triangle), and Yards Park and Canal Park (Capital Riverfront BID)

Other places for parks

The study also identified a number of other places for additional park space in the area. One is a two-story parking deck that also straddles the freeway just north of Cobb Park. Last year, a group of developers proposed building a park here and paying for it by putting a new building on the Cobb Park triangle instead of keeping it a park. The study doesn't recommend that, but does hope part of the parking deck could become a “village green” with recreation fields, tables and chairs with grills, and maybe a farmer's market.

Besides the park, the deck also could include some buildings on top; the initial 1972 EIS envisioned some housing there, and a 2016 analysis suggested the structure could handle townhouse-sized development or less.

The parking deck (center) and Cobb Park (bottom). Image by Google Maps.

The National Park Service also controls a few small triangles in the area, and the CID hopes these can become places to show art, like sculpture, and for people to eat lunch. Park Service restrictions limit what can be done, prohibiting things like permanent structures or off-leash dogs.

Finally, there is open space where the land slopes toward the freeway between K Street and New York Avenue. That land could be built up to be flat and higher than the freeway, the study suggests, to create more potential park space. It recommends playground, dog park, and community gardens could go here. There's also a vacant parcel of land nearby which Pepco plans to use for a future substation, but that's unlikely to be available.

Potential for space adjacent to the freeway by MVT CID.

What do you think of these park ideas?

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions in his GGWash posts are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.