Rendering of the 11th Street Bridge in Washington, D.C., slated to open in 2019.

Cornell in Washington partners with nonprofit to build inclusive communities

The Anacostia River has long divided Washington, D.C., by race and access to opportunity. On one side is affluent Capitol Hill; on the other is a food desert with one grocery store and few services.

In 2019, however, Washington, D.C.’s first elevated bridge park will open, connecting the two communities. And organizers hope the project will become a catalyzing force for equitable development for all of the district’s residents.

Cornell in Washington (CIW), a program in which students “live, learn and intern” in D.C. for a semester, recently partnered with 11th Street Bridge Park, a project spearheaded by the nonprofit Building Bridges Across the River, to implement inclusive, community-led development plans for the Anacostia neighborhood.

CIW’s new engaged learning course – ALS 4100 Community-based Research in D.C. – will link students with 11th Street Bridge Park staff and community leaders to work on needs such as planning urban gardens, organizing civic events and building capacity in neighborhoods traditionally excluded from the city’s economic progress.

Katie Crosley Beem, the CIW faculty member teaching the course, said, “Students will get to be active participants in these communities and will have the opportunity to contribute knowledge in a meaningful way.”

Said Scott Kratz, director of Building Bridges Across the River, “We are thrilled to partner with Cornell. CIW will bring added insight and resources to our mission to create a community-driven development plan for the 11th Street Bridge. We look forward to students engaging with D.C. residents and tackling these issues to ensure residents can thrive in place. These equity investments can become a model for the rest of the city and, indeed, the country.”

For more information about the partnership or Cornell in Washington, go to or email Kimberly Niefer.

Shelley Preston is communications specialist and events coordinatorfor the School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions.

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Rebecca Valli