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Little-Known Small Park at 2nd & Mass., NW Focus of Plans for Enhancing Mt. Vernon East

Accompanying images can be viewed on page 1 of the May issue 2017 issue pdf

[Editor’s Note: The following article, edited and with photos & links added, was brought to our attention by its preparers, the Mt. Vernon Triangle CID. In light of its newsworthiness, we requested and received permission to reprint, subject to editing for meeting layout & space requirements.]

To address consistent and overwhelming community feedback regarding the insufficient quality, availability, and supply of green, open, and public space in and around the Mt. Vernon Triangle community, the Mt. Vernon Triangle Community Improvement District (MVT CID) recently released itsMVT Open Space Study,” a comprehensive analysis with findings and recommendations.

This strategic, transparent and in-depth effort offers a comprehensive master plan for the enhanced use and activation of multiple community open space resources, and expresses a bold new vision for a “re-imagined” Cobb Park to serve as an open, artistic space and gateway into Mt. Vernon Triangle and downtown DC.

“The community-led and data-driven conclusions of the MVT Open Space Study affirmed that investing in high-quality parks and amenities will improve neighborhood livability, amplify the downtown destination experience and enhance the value of adjacent properties — all important ingredients to building stronger community,” said Kenyattah A. Robinson, MVT CID’s President &and CEO. “Our community has voiced its strong desire for more open space, and given significant recent property development that has created a rapidly diminishing availability of this resource plus Mt. Vernon Triangle’s projected build-out by the early part of next decade, it is vital that the study recommendations be implemented now on land that is available today, and while it remains cost-effective to do so.

Created as an open space parcel 40 years ago resulting from the I-395 Center Leg Freeway extension, Cobb Park is officially recognized by the DC Department of Parks and Recreation as a “small park” and currently is identified in the DC Comprehensive Plan Future Land Use Map under “Parks, Recreation, and Open Space.” Furthermore, in 2016 DC officials pledged that its status is to be that of an improved park.

Reconfigured roadways have increased the size of and simplified access to Cobb Park, which will be publicly available open space once again when the site will no longer be needed for the Capitol Crossing project’s construction staging. Included in the District’s budget for FY 2019 is $500,000 for community planning and design of an improved Cobb Park pending funding release by the city.

[Editor’s Note: Developers who are lobbying the Office of Planning to undo the parcel’s designation as a park and allow in its place a commercial structure, say that pedestrian access is fraught with danger from conflicting traffic patterns & lack of dedicated pedestrian access so, therefore, having a park at this location is just too dangerous. The problem with this argument is that it is based on conditions that existed before the city widened the streets, realigned traffic patterns, and created new pedestrian crossings.]

“From the start we recognized this study effort must be transparent, community-driven and built upon previous planning efforts to be successful, and intentionally designed a process that reflected these principles,” said Berkeley M. Shervin, chairman of the MVT CID board of directors and president of The Wilkes Company, a DC-based real estate development firm and long-time owner and builder in Mt. Vernon Triangle. Continuing, Further, said Shervin, “As the critical centerpiece of a network of parks and open space amenities that will enhance our ability to attract and retain residents, businesses and patrons, Cobb Park is central and essential to Mt. Vernon Triangle’s future as a vibrant and green community. It’s Master Planning 101 and simply the right thing to do for our city.”

The study is designed to articulate the open space preferences and priorities of Mt. Vernon Triangle’s residents, workers and visitors, key stakeholders, and the broader community, and to offer recommendations that provide a viable strategy for the creation of much-needed parks and open space amenities in Mt. Vernon Triangle. The MVT CID encourages anyone with feedback about the analysis, findings and recommendations in the MVT Open Space Study to share their comments at info@mvtcid.org. To follow progress, check in on Twitter @mvtcid and sign up for updates at www.mvtcid.org/OpenSpaceStudy.

The MVT CID organization <www.mvtcid.org> is a private, nonprofit organization established to enhance the overall quality of life for all residents, visitors, retailers and property owners in the Mt. Vernon Triangle in Washington, DC. Its boundaries include 17 blocks within the East End of downtown DC, bordered by 7th Street to the west, Massachusetts Avenue to the south, New York Avenue to the north, and New Jersey Avenue to the east, and encompasses a vibrant neighborhood that mirrors the District’s unique mix of historic and modern buildings, long-time and new residents, cultural diversity, restaurants, retail stores, and urban experiences.

[Editor’s Note: In response to our inquiry, according to MVT CID’s Robinson “the source of a name for Cobb Park (sometimes referred to as ‘Cobb’s Park’) remains unclear. However, various historical figures contemporaneous with the park’s creation may have been associated with its naming:

“■ Gail Cobb. DC police officer shot and killed while on patrol in 1974. Officer Cobb’s death marked the first time a female American police officer had been killed in the line of duty. Her funeral was highly publicized and drew thousands of mourners and police officers from across the country.

“■ Dr. William Montague Cobb. Attended Dunbar High School and in 1932 became the first African-American to earn a PhD in anthropology. During his nearly four decades teaching at Howard University Medical School, Dr. Cobb utilized his professional platform to serve as a civic leader and social and political activist, including serving for seven years as the president of the NAACP.

“■ Judge James A. Cobb. Was Vice Dean of Howard University Law School prior to his appointment as a judge in 1926. Was also a private practice attorney in partnership with George E.C. Hayes, with whom he’s associated with local cases challenging racially restrictive deed covenants.]