CFA 20/OCT/22-2


rectangular park bounded by Malcolm X Avenue, Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, and Parkland Place, SE
Washington, DC
United States

National Park Service
Shepherd Parkway - Parkland
Rehabilitation of existing park
Review Type


Dear Ms. Hall:

In its public meeting of 20 October conducted by videoconference, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a concept design submission for the rehabilitation of Parkland, an area within Shepherd Parkway, a National Park Service property that is bounded by Malcolm X Avenue, Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, and Parkland Place, SE, in the Congress Heights neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Citing serious concerns with the proposal, the Commission did not take an action and provided the following comments to guide the development of a new concept design.

The Commission members expressed appreciation for the intention to rehabilitate Parkland, which is poorly maintained and in need of major reinvestment; however, they found the design to be wholly inadequate in its response to both the natural and built context, as well as to the surrounding community. They strongly advised that the proposal for this national park—at the intersection of roadways named after two iconic Black leaders from the Civil Rights Era—should be considered an act of responsibility and repair that achieves a level of design excellence commensurate with the promise of this site. In addition, they questioned the mediocre quality of design precedents and proposed design features offered for input by the community, which they said would inevitably lower expectations for the design of the park; they requested more information on the overall community consultation process in the next presentation.

Regarding the two concept alternatives, the Commission members commented that each may appear reasonable in plan, but the organization of program areas and pathways is not realistic in accommodating how people would actually use the park. For example, they found that the relatively small and heavily programmed central gathering area proposed in Concept A, contained within a circle of paving, would interrupt continuous movement through the site; moreover, the gazebo structure shown in this space has a generic, store-bought character that is not appropriate for this project. For Concept B, they commented that the three separate play areas would require extensive fencing, diminishing the space available for other public uses.

In general, they acknowledged the great pressure of the many needs for use and programming for the park, and they recommended that the park’s organization should respond constructively to the surrounding context, which includes residential and commercial areas, major roadways, pedestrian crosswalks, and a gas station. In addition, they requested further study of how and when the park is occupied to better inform any new spatial organization, as well as documentation of environmental goals such as tree protection, soil erosion, invasive species management, and stormwater management. In summary, they urged the National Park Service to develop the design of the park at a much higher standard of quality, with a long-term commitment to its comprehensive maintenance.

The Commission looks forward to reviewing a new concept proposal for this important project. Please consult with the staff which, as always, is available to assist you.


/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA

Kym A. Hall, Area Director
Region 1 – National Capital Area
National Park Service
1100 Ohio Drive, SW
Washington, DC 20242

cc: Claire Sale, AECOM