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.

Monday, May 26, 2014

AP story on DC Promise Neighborhood initiative in Kenilworth-Parkside neighborhood

The Promise Neighborhood initiative is a federal government program, based on the Harlem Children's Zone extending the HCZ focus on social improvement of families and integration of services, targeting economically depressed areas for revitalization.  Communities apply for designation, which comes with some federal monies.  The presumption is that more monies will be raised locally to complement the federal funds.

There are dozens of these projects across the country.

Even though they have the integrated approach, my sense is that there isn't enough money, and real integration of programs and services at the local level necessary to achieve "the promise" of the approach.

CHARLES DHARAPAK / ASSOCIATED PRESS. Residents walk to the heavily gated and high-priced Kenilworth Market, the closest place to buy groceries after the D.C. neighborhood’s supermarket closed after the 1968 riots.

The Associated Press article "Tackling poverty: Neighborhood tries new tack," ran in the Fredericksburg Free Lance Star and discusses the program in the Kenilworth-Parkside area of DC.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy ran this piece, "Against Tough Odds, a Promise Neighborhood DC Gears Up," when the program first launched in 2011.

The piece mentions that a key element of the program (an idea I've suggested for about 25 years), assigning client workers to a set of families to work with them specifically to reverse their impoverished situations, hasn't started yet, even though the DC iteration is more than 3 years old.

It also discusses how the neighborhood was the site of a Reagan Administration era program focused on privatization of public housing which ended up not working out  See the Washington City Paper article circa 1995, "Last Year's Model: Republicans Promised That Kenilworth-Parkside Would Revolutionize Public Housing. They Were Wrong."

The AP article mentions that the recreation center was demolished a few years ago as part of a project to build a new one, but didn't mention that the city failed to clarify and run their plans past the National Park Service, which owns the land where the recreation center "was" and apparently various wetland and other issues meant that a permit for straight up reconstruction was not in the cards.

... Hopefully, we won't be reading articles about this program similar to those about the Jack Kemp initiatives.  But we probably will, because it isn't only the money that is an issue in interdicting poverty.

Getting communities and government agencies to collaborate and/or change how they operate and what they do on the scale necessary to bring about substantive change is very very difficult.

The Promise Neighborhoods initiative is a step forward, but my sense is that equal to the grant money, technical assistance needs to be provided on an ongoing basis to the various agencies with regard to change management and truly changing organizational funcdtioning in order to bring about the desired outcomes.

Note that the Neighborhood Centers Inc. model operating in Houston-Harris County is another example of wider scale integrated social and human services programs focused on neighborhood-family social and economic improvement.  It's discussed in a couple books by the Brookings Institution, including Metropolitan Revolutions, and is covered in my review of the book.

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