The Yards Park is closely linked with that of the neighboring Washington Navy Yard, located just to the east of the Park. The Yards Park is situated on land added to the Navy Yard in 1916 in reaction to World War I. The land was later deemed surplus in the early 1960s and transferred to the General Services Administration (GSA). Some of the historic buildings of the time still exist around the park and echo its Naval origins.
Following the Southeast Federal Center Public-Private Development Act of 2000, GSA awarded the 42-acre riverfront site to Forest City Washington for a new urban mixed-use development in 2003. The Anacostia Watershed Initiative, a large planning effort by the District and others, envisioned a waterfront park at the center of the redevelopment of this new mixed-use development. That vision became The Yards Park – a 5.4 acre open space that was a critical component of the development process for the larger 42 acre sub-neighborhood. Yards Park was completed in 2011 and is maintained for the District by the Capitol Riverfront BID.
The park’s operating budget is now over $1 million annually and provides for maintenance, programming, security and even renovation. These funds are derived primarily from the District foregoing a portion of sales tax on the adjacent Lumber Shed restaurants, but also from private contributions, program sponsorships and lease revenue for events held in Yards Park.
While most often an open park space for the enjoyment of neighbors and nearby employees - the programming in the park has taken many forms. During the summertime, the Friday Night Concert Series has swelled in size from a few hundred nearby neighbors to a weekly gathering of close to 3,000 people with acts that attract people to the neighborhood from around the region. Free fitness classes along the river’s edge provide a unique way to start or end a day.
As a destination venue, The Yards Park has repeatedly hosted large festivals such as Tour de Fat and DC Jazz Festival as well as smaller private events and even weddings. The revenue derived from these events is an important component of the park’s annual budget. While portions of the park can be closed for events, an area is always kept open and accessible to the public.