Right in front of the Commerce building is an overgrown, empty plaza that I usually pass by without much thought. There is no good line of sight from the sidewalk into the park, so it’s easy to not notice when walking by.
The pavilion meant to be for visitor info and refreshments sits empty and vacant. But upon browsing the ASLA website, I find that Pershing Park was designed to be a vibrant public space. The central basin filled with water, interesting seating options, and lush plants everywhere..!
I love the amphitheater seating, and the fact that it’s sunken from the street level makes it feel extra peaceful. Like an oasis from the traffic-heavy streets of Pennsylvania and Constitution Aves, just as a park should be.
Sadly, maintenance of the park seems to have fallen off completely, and it goes largely unused. It is disappointing that it is not kept in its intended state for the people to enjoy (I know one such Commerce employee who would directly benefit from having a beautiful park to sit in during lunch breaks…). But it has an soft beauty to it even while it is sitting empty. Also fall colors help.
The park is currently slated to be re-designed as a WWI memorial in a few years. I feel apprehensive, as public parks are meant for the benefit of residents and the local economy. By turning it into a national monument, it becomes a destination rather than a place for people to relax and enjoy public space. But maybe that will mean the park will be better taken care of. And with good design, it can be a monument that not only attracts people but makes them want to stay and spend time there, too.