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Minneapolis Parks Foundation > Common Ground > Projects > Next Generation of Parks > Case Studies > The Next Generation of Parks | Canal Park, Washington DC

The Next Generation of Parks | Canal Park, Washington DC

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The Canal Park three-acre site – near the Navy Yard, the Near Southeast neighborhood and Capper/Carrollsburg housing area – has seen dramatic transitions in the last century.

Historically, a canal ran through this area, connecting the Anacostia River to the Potomac River through the National Mall. In the early 20th century, the canal was paved over and cars and trucks travelled where boats once sailed.

Within the last five years, the Canal Park site on the corner of Canal Street and 2nd Street SE was a school bus parking lot. The 21st century will see a sophisticated urban gathering place designed by Olin replace the parking lot with a model park for sustainability and partnership funding. Canal Park also a pilot project for Sustainable Sites Initiative and the EPA’s low-impact development, as well as LEED certification for its park pavilions.

Key Features

  • Interactive fountains
  • Ice skating rink in a meandering, creek-like configuration
  • Pavilions
  • Park Tavern (restaurant and bar)
  • Sculptural play structures
  • Light cube with projection panels
  • Water filtration and detention areas; re-use systems reduce water use by up to 95%
  • Electric car charging stations
  • Geothermal power reduces electricity needs by 40%

Key Players

The District of Columbia, Office of the Mayor
Canal Park Development Association
Capitol Riverfront Business Improvement District
Olin Studio


1815  Washington City Canal opened
1900  Canal Street paved
1990  Blocks paved for school bus parking lot
2000  Canal Park Development Association formed
2004  Anacostia Waterfront Initiative Design Competition, won by Gustafson Guthrie Nichol
2009  Olin begins design work
2010  National Capitol Planning Commission approval for park design
2012  Grand Opening

What makes this the Next Generation of Parks™?

Canal Park is a prime example of a park leveraged to accelerate city building and development. The integrated planning and programming of this park is exemplary of forward-thinking trends in park design and management, made possible through collaboration among government and private/non-profit groups.

Park designers looked for ways to reduce water and energy demands, and incorporate these systems in a way that educates the public. Careful planning allowed opportunities to find dual uses for activities on the site, such as summer fountains that become a skating rink in winter.

The Park Tavern and skating rink both provide some income to support park management.

Explore More

Canal Park Fact Sheet
Anacostia Waterfront Initiative
Washington DC Planning and Development
Sculptures and park opening
City Parks Alliance


Images courtesy of STUDIOS

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