Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Hell is freezing over and pigs are flying: H Street edition

Right: pig balloon flying over the State Capitol as part of a protest in Trenton, NJ.  AP photo.

So historically in DC, community development corporations have kind of sucked, and in fact my involvement in urban revitalization to the degree that it has been I used to joke was a form of "blowback" from the decidedly urban renewal approaches of the H Street Community Development Corporation, which in my opinion wrecked H Street NE more than it helped it.  I tried like hell to figure out what should have happened, and why what did happen didn't help.

So now the H Street CDC has co-bid, successfully, with a local real estate development organization to redevelop 1300 H Street NE, a city-controlled property that formerly was the location of a somewhat pathetic library portable.  From "30-Unit Condo Targeting Artists, Social Entrepreneurs, Local Merchants with Community Ownership" in DC Urban Turf:

Rise, the group behind Popularise and Fundrise, partnered with H Street CDC to create a proposal that incorporates Fundrise’s model of community investment. With an industrial-looking exterior, they are planning a 30-unit condo building with a large retail component, with 20 percent of the units held as affordable and ideally going to artists and social entrepreneurs. The retail will include a local food market from Arcadia and ten retail incubators for local merchants. Through Fundrise, community members will be able to buy shares in the project and to profit if it is successful.

I had a meeting with the Rise people last summer. I don't know if they took my comments to heart. WRT this project, it would mean that funding streams from crowdfunding need to be made available to the retailers more than to the "building."

Still, the fact that a CDC, let alone the H Street CDC, is involved in such a transformative project is f*ing amazing.

I can't tell you how many arguments I had with the former director, people involved in the organization, city officials, people at enabling organizations (in the past, the Fannie Mae Foundation and LISC in particular enabled DC's CDCs to not be great--it wasn't til I went to a conference in Cleveland in 2002 when I realized that by definition CDCs don't have to be bad, and to be somewhat fair, they had a tough row), e.g., "Falling up -- Accountability and DC Community Development Corporations".

Never say never.  (Although don't hold your breath...)  I don't know how this project happened, but I am still impressed.

A couple resources on CDCs:

-- "Empowering Redevelopment: Toward a Different CDC," Randy Stoecker, in Shelterforce (and his much longer paper, THE COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION MODEL OF URBAN REDEVELOPMENT: A POLITICAL ECONOMY CRITIQUE AND AN ALTERNATIVE).

-- The Myth of Community Development from the New York Times Sunday Magazine, 1994 by Nicholas Von Hoffman.
-- with spirited responses from the community development community ("Toward Comprehensive Approaches for Strengthening Communities" from Shelterforce and "Reviving Community Development" from American Prospect)
-- the book Streets of Hope

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At 11:58 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

It is an interesting model. Lots of problems, but interesting.

At 6:35 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

well, i think the "incubator" units are what we might think of as stalls, but it's interesting.

And sure, Rise is driving this, not the HSCDC. But they never would have participated in something like this 10 or even 5 years ago.


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