New Barry Farm Recreation Center Gets Started
By summer time residents of Barry Farm and folks throughout the metropolitan area who converge on the neighborhood to take in spirited basketball games at the famed George Goodman League will notice activity that has been a long time coming – the construction of a new recreation center. Initially conceived as a $15 million public works project during the previous mayoral administration, the center now has a projected price tag of $26 million, which Mayor Gray advanced in his budget released to the city council late last month.
“The scope of the recreation center has grown in response to the direction and input we have received in ongoing conversations with the community,” said John Stokes, chief of staff for the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR). “This is a critical project for us.” Despite vocal concerns from residents and activist group Empower DC, who protested last month’s groundbreaking, Stokes confirmed that the existing Barry Farm recreation center at 1230 Sumner Road SE will remain open “at minimum through August.”
The Barry Farm facility “will be 47,000 square feet, which will be one of the largest in the city. There are a couple that are larger, but very few that are,” said Mayor Gray, before donning the ceremonial hard hat and moving the traditional first shovel-full of dirt. Included in the new recreation center will be a “natatorium,” said Gray. “It’s essentially an indoor pool that will be available.” According to Stokes, “Our goal is to have the new in-door swimming pool completed in time for next summer, which is pretty aggressive.”
When completed, the new recreation center will include an 11,000 square-foot indoor gymnasium, senior room, multipurpose rooms, teen room, computer lab, game area, locker room, kitchen, multipurpose field, basketball courts and bleachers, and playground. In addition it will have a parking garage. The existing court for the Goodman League, where local basketball talent competes with professional hoopsters from European leagues and stars from the NBA, such as Prince George’s County native Kevin Durant and Washington Wizards point guard John Wall, will not be touched.
To finance the construction of the new recreation center, monies will be combined from the New Communities Initiative and DPR’s capital budget. “Because the new recreation center will be on a housing property, we have to work through the US Department of Housing and Urban Development,” Stokes said, which adds another layer of permitting. “We are on track in getting all of those approvals.”
Only then will the current recreation center be demolished. Inhis remarks at the groundbreaking Mayor Gray said mobile recreation vans will service the community until the new Barry Farm recreation center opens.
With nearly 40 percent of the city’s children living in neighborhoods east of the river and disparities in health outcomes, such as high concentrations of obesity and diabetes, the Barry Farm recreation center is designed for and will serve multiple needs. It will complement new facilities in Ward 7’s Deanwood, which opened in 2009, and in nearby Fort Stanton on Morris Road SE, slated to open later this summer.
Surveyors at Work
Wasting no time in Barry Farm, on the first of April stakes were in the ground around the perimeter of the existing recreation center. Orange spray paint declared “LOD,” an abbreviation for “Limit of Disturbance,” meaning the area to be cleared or graded. “Excuse me,” a young man said as he reached down and retrieved a football that had rolled to a stop under a surveyor’s tripod set up in an alley behind Sumner Road. A dozen students on spring break were playing touch-football, oblivious to the preliminary work going on around them. Chain-link fencing had gone up over the weekend around the recreation center grounds, limiting access to some playgrounds but not sealing off the recreation center as some had feared.
Master Developer-Planner Proposals under Review
Fighting through the chants and persistent heckling of a dozen residents and activists with Empower DC, Mayor Gray led off his remarks at the groundbreaking with the promise that “in addition to the recreation center, there will be new housing that’s going to be constructed.” Before that happens the DC Housing Authority (DCHA) will close out a $300,000 Choice Neighborhood planning grant that they were awarded last year from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, and continue moving forward with the process of selecting a master developer-planner for the redevelopment of Barry Farm Dwellings.
“The Planning grant is moving right along,” said Dena Michaelson, DCHA’s director of public affairs and communications. “We are holding meetings and developing the plans that the grant funds. We hope residents will be full and active participants in all of the committees and sub-committees in developing the transformation plan.” The separate call last autumn for applications for a master planning and development team drew seven submissions. According to Michaelson all seven were deemed qualified and advanced to the next round of the selection process. “We have invited all seven applicants to submit proposals which will be under evaluation by a panel that includes Barry Farm residents. Through this process it is our intention to select a single master developer.”