ULI Washington News

Release: New Report Provides Recommendations for Revitalizing Chinatown Park – Changes Would Enhance Public Realm of City

A new Technical Assistance Panel – or TAP – report sponsored by the D.C. Mayor’s Office on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs (MOAPIA) and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) has concluded that with the support of MOAPIA and partner organizations, new design and physical improvements, and a more active programming effort, Chinatown Park can be transformed into space that will serve as an important neighborhood asset that can enhance the public realm of Washington, D.C.

The report, titled “Realizing a New Vision for Chinatown Park” documents the findings of a panel of nine ULI Washington members who were convened October 17-18, 2017 to develop recommendations to activate Chinatown Park with a specific goal of identifying strategies that can be used to promote equity and protect the cultural identity of Chinatown.

Chinatown Park is a small National Park Service (NPS) park at the northeast corner of Chinatown, Washington, D.C., at the intersection of Fifth and Sixth Streets and Massachusetts Avenue and within the Downtown Business Improvement District (BID). The Park has similar characteristics to many of the other NPS properties within downtown Washington, including a large lawn panel as its main element, as well as street trees lining the perimeter.

Despite the fact that Chinatown Park is the only existing public space in Chinatown, the Park has been a passive public space, poorly maintained and underutilized by local residents and downtown workers. As an important gateway to Chinatown from Massachusetts Avenue and from points north in the city, it is an essential location to preserve and deserves much attention.

To successfully bring about change in the park, TAP panelists recommended that MOAPIA strategically coordinate with several key partners – both within and outside of D.C. government – to establish a collaboration strategy on ways to activate the park. The TAP panel also recommended creating a Friends of Chinatown and Milian Parks organization, which would serve as a champion for both Chinatown Park and adjacent Milian park, by fostering activity in both parks to ensure their successful design, programming and operation.

Panelists also provided a series of design recommendations, all of which stem from the importance of realizing a vision of the Park as a key neighborhood gateway, and incorporating Chinese themes and elements into the park’s design. They also envisioned the park serving as a window into broader Asian and Pacific Islander culture including a narrative that celebrates, promotes and facilitates understanding of the AAPI culture.

The Panel recommended that the redesign of Chinatown Park should recognize that the edges of the Park are important portals and frames for pedestrians and autos passing the park, and should be designed with this in mind. Three key recommendations from the Panel as it relates to the edges of Chinatown Park itself include 1) the creation of a woonerf—a street for both pedestrians and vehicles—on I Street, allowing the street to be used for events on special occasions; 2) the creation of a game table row along Sixth Street, which would help to activate the Park throughout the day and week; and 3) upgrades to landscaping to improve continuity along Massachusetts Avenue and to create a visual buffer between this busy street and the lawn.

You can find the full report of the TAP here:

Regarding the panel’s findings, David Do, Director of the Mayor’s Office on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs remarked:

“We are appreciative of ULI Washington’s efforts to help make Chinatown and Milian Parks a more dynamic and culturally vibrant part of downtown Washington, D.C. The recommendations provided by this Technical Assistance Panel will help revitalize the park, celebrate the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities residing in the District of Columbia and improve the quality of life for all Washingtonians. We look forward to working with the relevant community stakeholders to help implement these recommended improvements.”

The nine ULI members who comprised the TAP included:

  • Panel Chair: Robert S. Goodill, Torti Gallas + Partners,
  • Suzie Battista, Fairfax County Office of Community Revitalization
  • Tatiana S. Bendeck, Beyer Blinder Belle
  • Bill Bonstra, Bonstra | Haresign ARCHITECTS
  • Michael Durso, WGL/Washington Gas
  • Connie Fan, LSG Landscape Architecture Inc.
  • Mark Herbkersman, Massa Multimedia Architecture
  • Rob Mandle, Crystal City Business Improvement District
  • Dean Schwanke, Schwanke Consulting and Communications

About the Technical Assistance Panel (TAP) Program
The objective of ULI Washington’s Technical Assistance Panel (TAP) program is to provide expert, multidisciplinary advice on land use and real estate issues facing public agencies and nonprofit organizations in the Metropolitan Washington Region. Drawing from its extensive membership base, ULI Washington conducts one and one-half day panels offering objective and responsible advice to local decision-makers on a wide variety of land use and real estate issues, ranging from site-specific projects to public policy questions. The TAP program is intentionally flexible to provide a customized approach to specific land use and real estate issues. Learn more at http://washington.uli.org/TAPs. 

About ULI Washington
ULI Washington is a district council of the Urban Land Institute (ULI), a nonprofit education and research organization supported by its members. Founded in 1936, the Institute today has over 30,000 members worldwide representing the entire spectrum of land use planning and real estate development disciplines working in private enterprise and public service. As the preeminent, multidisciplinary real estate forum, ULI facilitates the open exchange of ideas, information, and experience among local, national, and international industry leaders and policy makers dedicated to creating better communities. 

ULI’s mission is to provide leadership in the responsible use of land and in creating and sustaining thriving communities worldwide. ULI Washington carries out the ULI mission locally by sharing best practices, building consensus, and advancing solutions through educational programs and community outreach initiatives. 

About the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments
The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) is an independent, nonprofit association that brings area leaders together to address major regional issues in the District of Columbia, suburban Maryland and Northern Virginia. COG’s membership is comprised of 300 elected officials from 22 local governments, the Maryland and Virginia state legislatures, and U.S. Congress.

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