Field photo with logotype

Commission of Fine Arts Landscaping Plan Underway on Rear-Field Area

Posted: June 6, 2022.
Architect's rendering of 2501 M rear elevation
Architectural rendering of north elevation of proposed 2501 M Street conversion.

Our Friends of Francis Field (FFF) group had shovels in the ground in an exciting step last month, continuing the implementation of the rear-field landscaping, with the first planting of "Dragon Lady Holly," one of the dominant shrubs in the project.

Although this project is entirely on the public property managed by the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR), the landscaping is being financed by FFF as part of three-year partnership and donation agreement.

Because the 2501 M Street building at the rear of the field can be seen from a National Park—Rock Creek Park at the west—the building's architecture and landscaping were required to be reviewed by the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) when a developer converted the mixed-use office and residential building to a "luxury" condominium residence with big units overlooking what the sales office called "Francis Park."

Shown above is the rendering by Core Architecture of the rear elevation, which was submitted in November 2014 to the CFA. Francis Field is indicated in foreground with no detail.

The landscaping where the building meets the field is shown, pleasantly blending the ground level of the building with the green expanse of the field.

The expansion of the building out to its property line added new balconies, pop-outs, and a wing in the west. Nine trees were removed for a construction easement.

Landscape plan with red pointing arrows
Location of new planting on landscape plan.

The restoration plan for the rear field area changed in 2019, when the Urban Forestry Division of the D.C. Department of Transportation requested to plant eleven trees in addition to the nine required to replace the ones that had been removed.

FFF funded a revised landscape plan by the architectural firm Oculus, which had drawn the master plan for Francis Field that was required in a 2007 zoning order. (See Zoning Case order on this website.)

The new rear-landscape plan became part of the revised master plan of 2020 that went through a long approval process.

That entire landscape plan is on this website, and shows the plans and sub-plans in large size. See Master Plan.

Before and After: Dragon Ladies Arrive on May 7

Rear-field landscaping with red arrows pointing
Location of new planting in passive recreation space.

Implementation of the approved plan began in Spring 2021, and is being completed in stages.

On May 7, our landscaping contractor planted ten large "Dragon Lady Holly" (Ilex x aquipernyi) shrubs.

Four of those were planted in the passive recreation space near the 2501 M Street building.

The "before" photo is shown at left.

The "after" photo is shown below.

These will provide a green landscaping element to soften the bare concrete wall there, and provide more of a transition from park to building. Their increasing heights complement the upward curve of the tall pine tree

This area was designed in the 2009 master plan to provide space for non-athletic recreation, rest, and relaxation.

Hollies in Rebecca Coder Park
New planting of "Dragon Lady Holly" on May 7, as specified in approved plan.

It has six benches around a circular sidewalk, and is one of the most heavily used areas of Francis Field, particularly for walking dogs on-leash.

Legislation is in progress to name this area in memory of Rebecca Coder (1969-2018), who was responsible for the concept of adding park space for the neighbors to the athletic field.

(See related "Rebecca Coder Park" articles the Site Map of this website.)

Another six "Dragon Lady" hollies were planted on the same day in the playing-field area to the west, on the other side the black fence. That area is shown in the "before" photo below. It had a long stretch of bare wall which was inadequately relieved by small shrubs planted during the restoration of the construction easement.

Rear-field west, with pointing red arrows
Location of new planting at rear of playing field.

As the CFA-approved landscape plan indicates, the plantings in that area will be in bed that will extend about six feet north of the building, with layers of tall shrubs in the background, and shorter species in the foreground.

The six Dragon Ladies shown in the "after" photo below will make the outer row of tall shrubs. A second staggered row of the hollies, planted few feet closer to the playing field area, will further obscure the wall and add depth.

FFF is planning to plant as many as fifteen more Dragon Ladies in the fall. If fundraising is sufficient, it may be possible to complete the entire CFA plan then.

However, gradual implementation of the other plants that are specified, will allow us to monitor how they survive in the soil and light in that area. The rear-field area is in the shadow of the eight-story building during many hours of the day, depending on the time of year.

FFF is also working with the Urban Forestry Division of DDOT to replace two trees there that have not survived the 2018 planting to replace the trees that were cut down.

Six newly-planted hollies
New planting of six hollies on May 7 at rear of playing field.

Donate a Dragon Lady!

Each of the seven-foot Dragon Lady Hollies costs about $200 to purchase from a horticultural nursery.

The ten planted so far have been sponsored by donations from our members.

Four of the fifteen we want to plant in the fall have also been "sold" by $200 donations.

We are currently reaching out to raise the funds for our fall planting, and encourage our existing members—and new ones—to contribute.

A form in PDF format for donating one or more Dragon Lady Holly shrubs can be printed out from this website on one sheet of 8.5 x 11" paper. Click on printable form. Donations can be made by check or by credit card using the PayPal button on our About & Contact page.

Copyright 2022 Friends of Francis Field