Shepherd Park Community Center Update – May 2019

On Thursday evening, representatives from the D.C. Department of General Services (DGS) and the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) welcomed the community to the Shepherd Elementary School multi-purpose room. The purpose of the meeting was for them to share the latest updates on the Shepherd Park Community Center project.

As you know, Shepherd Elementary recently completed a major renovation.  However, even after those extensive additions, there are still several areas of the building that were not upgraded.  The multi-purpose room and the cafeteria are the biggest concerns. The multi-purpose room is too small to host regulation basketball games.  The cafeteria is also too small and requires students to eat lunch in four shifts.

Parents and community members engaged in a vigorous advocacy campaign to support the school.  The goal was to ensure that Shepherd’s physical plant could remain at least on par with nearby schools, which had received full modernizations. Councilmember Brandon Todd combined the renovation with the creation of a DPR-administered recreation center. By doing so, he was able to secure and protect $13.4 million in capital funding to make the following additions:

  • Provide a regulation sized gymnasium
  • Introduce a cooking kitchen, so that staff can prepare fresh food for students
  • Add a fitness room
  • Create a new multipurpose room, which will also serve as the students’ cafeteria during the school day
  • Lightly upgrade the existing multipurpose room.

Updated Design

DGS and DPR selected Bell Architects and MCN Build as the Design-Build team for the project. Recent projects that involved these companies include the renovations of Murch and Garrison Elementary Schools here in the District.  Both companies are experienced at operating in the city and delivering educational projects within tight deadlines.

Here are a few views of the latest designs.

Artist Render Looking NE from Jonquil

This is an artist’s rendering of how the addition would appear when looking northeast from Jonquil Street.  The colorful mural is just a placeholder. It marks the location of a large retaining wall which will be required due to the slope of the site.

Shepherd Elementary School Site Plan

This image shows the location of the proposed addition in relation to the rest of the school building, the soccer field and playground.

Shepherd Ground Floor Plan

The image above displays the detailed ground floor plan. It shows the orientation of the gym (blue) and the location of the fitness center (blue). The multi-purpose room (fuschia/pink) and cooking kitchen & staging rooms (yellow) are also displayed.

Safety of students is the overarching priority for the design team.  Students and the general public will not be able to intermingle during the school day.  DCPS will have exclusive access to the shared spaces until all students have left for the day (6:30 PM).

SES South Elevation

Finally, here is a view of the addition’s elevation looking from the south on Jonquil Street.

You can view the entire presentation here: Final_Shepherd Meeting Presentation_2019.05.23.

Working Schedule

This project is working with a tight window, but so far it seems to be on track.

  • The Design/Build contract was awarded this past winter.
  • Design/Permitting: Spring – Summer 2019
    • Digging and shoring the hillside is anticipated to take place this summer, before students return from break.
  • Construction begins: Fall 2019
  • Project Completion: Fall 2020

As you can imagine, this is a very ambitious schedule. Most audience members were openly skeptical that excavation and building permits could be obtained in a timely fashion. However, the DGS team feels very confident that they can make it happen on time.

Parental Questions

Community members and Shepherd Elementary parents provided the Design/Build team with productive feedback at the meeting. Attendees expressed concerns about play space and construction logistics.

Lack of Playspace for Younger Students

SES old design
An older design contained a much-heralded rooftop play space. Unfortunately, this feature has been removed from the plans.

Shepherd has a thriving Early Childhood Education program, but doesn’t necessarily have a readily accessible outdoor play space to match.  The lower field playground is a great space, but it is too far away for the 3 and 4 year olds to walk to and from during a 30 minute recess period.  The previous design thrilled parents. It included a dedicated play space on the roof area above the new multipurpose room.  One parent did an informal “poll” with some of the young students. He found that the rooftop playground was their favorite feature.

Sadly, budget reality seems to have prevailed. That exciting rooftop play space has been removed from the latest design. The architects replaced it with a “green” vegetative roof that doesn’t allow student access.  This revelation was a big disappointment for many in attendance.

Construction Logistics

SES Site Logistics and Impact Plan
Click to enlarge

Building an addition of this size will require clockwork integration between the construction workers, trucks delivering material and the school’s regular users.  The team plans to work continuously until the project is complete in the fall of 2020. As a result, the team created a detail logistics and impact plan to bring all activities into alignment.

A few of the standout items are

  • The team will move the current “big kid” playground equipment on the upper field about 50 feet to the north.
  • The north curb lane of Jonquil will become a No Parking zone for the duration of the project.
  • Construction workers will park off-site and be shuttled to the school.
  • Almost all construction traffic will access the site via Jonquil Street.
  • During the final phase, a light “man lift” is will occasionally need to cross through the playground on the upper field.
  • There will be no impact to the lower field playground or soccer field.
  • Safety fencing and wind screens will encircle the site.
  • The noisiest digging and boring activities will take place over this coming summer while the students are out of school
  • All existing emergency egress pathways will remain.

Bottom Line

The build team has quite a challenge ahead with the Shepherd Park Community Center project.  The addition will be valuable asset that benefits the school and the community for decades to come.  As always, you can get the latest updates on this addition at the project website:



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