By Lauren Kotkin, Exponent Philanthropy
The riots of 1968 destroyed many parts of the District of Columbia; buildings were left in rubble and residents moved away leaving vacancies across the city. This 1979 map, from a report by the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development, marks neighborhoods then considered “sound” or “distressed.”
Fast forward 25 years. The good news is some distressed neighborhoods are now sound. The not-so-good news is others remain the same. Still others are in transition. What happened over the past decades to allow some distressed neighborhoods to rebound while others wait for development? How did redevelopment come about? By whom? Why?
At Exponent Philanthropy’s 2014 National Conference, participants will get a chance to venture into four DC neighborhoods and ask those questions themselves.
My colleague and I met with site session hosts earlier this month in preparation for the conference and to learn more about the city we call home. The four site sessions are in neighborhoods not rated sound in 1979, although some were in transition then, and one is arguably fully transitioned today. Change came to some places after many years of ongoing hard work, advocacy, conversations, creative thinking, bold leaders, and dollars from philanthropists, nonprofits, government, businesses, and urban pioneers.
Here’s a snapshot of our visits. Won’t you join us at the 2014 National Conference to learn more?
We went to:
Columbia Heights with host LISC DC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation DC), an intermediary organization providing grants, loans, and more. We walked along 14th Street NW with Executive Director Oramenta Newsome as she pointed out building after building that in 1979 was one empty lot after another. The neighborhood has been fully redeveloped with senior housing, new buildings for nonprofits, a shopping center, a theater, and a Metro station, which was one of many key factors in its growth and change. Read how one artist responded to the changes in Columbia Heights
H Street NE to see our host the Atlas Performing Arts Center, housed in a 1938 theater originally one of four theaters on the corridor, a stone’s throw from Union Station and the Capitol. Board chair Jane Lang showed us around the renovated space, complete with four theaters and a number of resident arts groups. She shared the building’s history and H Street’s transition, sparked by the theater’s outreach and programming, from a blighted neighborhood to one that has attracted and is still attracting restaurants, bars, a Walmart, and DC’s first streetcar to return to the city since the system closed in 1962. Read more on the issues raised by H Street’s gentrification
Congress Heights to see our host THEARC (Town Hall Education Arts Recreation Campus), a beautiful facility with a state-of-the-art theater, a middle school, music and dance education provided by well-known local nonprofits, a health clinic, and more. We took a tour with Executive Director Edmond Fleet, a neighborhood resident who manages the facility and the partnerships among its resident organizations. For the past 9 years, local residents and those from around the city have enjoyed the campus, arts programming, community space, medical services, and garden without leaving the neighborhood.
Fort Dupont to visit the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy, a new facility dubbed a “public-public-private” partnership by Executive Director Tal Alter. Known as Nats Academy, it started serving kids and the communities east of the Anacostia River just last month. So far, it collaborates with two nonprofit organizations and local high schools by offering access to their baseball diamonds for after school programs, practices, and games.
Register for the 2014 National Conference, October 30 – November 1, to learn more. Registrations received by June 15 qualify for early registration rates.
Senior Program Director Lauren Kotkin plans a range of educational programs for the Exponent Philanthropy community, including conferences, webinars, and conference calls. She also dedicates a portion of her time to managing our resources on investments. Previously, she worked at the Council on Foundations in the Family Foundation Services department. Lauren holds an undergraduate degree from Duke University and an M.Ed. from Lesley University, with a focus on using arts in education.