Creating The Greater Duck Pond

The SW Foundation Preserves Green Space

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Historic photo of Southwest Duck Pond. Photo: WRT

The Southwest Community Foundation (SWCF) has granted the Southwest Business Improvement District (SWBID) $250,000 to establish a “Greater Duck Pond Park” stretching from Sixth Street to Delaware Avenue SW. The SWBID will use to this money to reestablish the 1960s vision of a central greenspace in Southwest.

Organized for charitable, educational and scientific purposes under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, SWCF receives funds and donations intended to benefit of residents of near Southwest, defined as the area bounded by 14th Street SW, Independence Avenue SW, South Capitol Street and the Potomac and Anacostia rivers.

“The Southwest Community Foundation is an important new institution in our community. ANC-6D is pleased to partner with them as they advance our plan to use the $250,000 Community Benefit that we had negotiated with Mill Creek to preserve and enhance all of the publicly owned green space from the SW Duck Pond to the Library Park,” said ANC 6D Vice Chair Andy Litsky.

A Central Park
The federal planners of the 1960s urban renewal of Southwest that created the area’s famous mid-century modernist buildings valued public spaces. These amenities formed an integral part of the landscapes of iconic developments such as Waterside and Tiber Island, which contain large interior plazas.

What many do not know realize is that federal planners also created three linked parks just north of the now-demolished Southwest commercial mall. While the central park was partially removed to make way for the reconstruction of Fourth Street SW, those on the east next to the Southwest Library and on the west, known colloquially as “The Duck Pond,” remain. They are connected by a pedestrian causeway that runs from east to west.

The three parks, designed by Wallace McHarg Roberts & Todd (WMRT), were built for the National Park Service in the early 1970s. The Duck Pond, on the east, according to one source, was conceived as “an urban retreat.” Inspired by the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River, it consists of a central pond edged with native riparian plants. Three promontories extend into center of the water edged with river rocks. Surrounding paths are structured as a sunken garden framed by low brick retaining walls.

The central park’s sunken Brutalist elements were removed with the restoration of Fourth St. SW as part of the Waterfront Planned Unit Development. This left intact the large green lawns that front Westminster Presbyterian and Christ United Methodist Churches. Also, remaining are pedestrian byways connecting the Duck Pond to the western park next to the Southwest Library.

The rapid development of center of Southwest as part of the Waterfront PUD has resulted in the addition of five large apartment complexes. Another six are in the planning stages. This makes the preservation of green space critical.

Restoring the Vision
The new SWCF grant will facilitate existing efforts of the SWBID “to meld several discrete spaces into a single park that can serve the new Southwest through a variety of opportunities such as open-air markets, art shows, musical performances and places to dream, walk and play,” stated SWCF President Donna Purchase.

“With almost unprecedented growth taking place in Southwest, it’s critically important to develop a shared vision for parks and green spaces. I’ve put a priority on securing new funds for investments in Lansburgh Park, the Southwest Library, and our public parks like the Duck Pond. The partnership between the Southwest Foundation and SW BID is a perfect example of the shared values put into action that will serve Southwest neighbors for the generations that follow,” stated Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen (D).

“The SW Duck Pond should be a neighborhood jewel. This grant is the first step in setting a new standard for public space in SW,” said SW BID Executive Director Steve Moore.