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Holdout: 3150 Stanton Road SE

Yvonne Holley used to have tons of neighbors around her place at 3150 Stanton Road SE. Most of those neighbors, though, lived in public-housing projects that the city has since razed. Now, she’s flanked by just five homes, a child-development center, and an elementary school. “We’re the only ones left,” says Holley, who has lived on the street for more than 20 years. “I’ve never had this experience before.”

Holley’s strip of Stanton Road, between Suitland Parkway and Alabama Avenue, is one of those places that city leaders cite as evidence of urban revival. The projects that once hemmed her in—the Frederick Douglass and Stanton Dwellings—are giving way to Henson Ridge, a new community being built with a $29 million federal grant.

The retired federal employee had doubts about living in the middle of a largely deserted neighborhood but has found that she likes the quiet. “I was afraid of an increase in crime when they emptied everything out, but that hasn’t happened,” Holley says. “It has surprised me that it doesn’t feel like a ghost town, but, then again, living over here, you already feel isolated.”

Holley lived in Frederick Douglass as a child—her family moved there in 1951, when she was 11 years old. “There was a shopping center with a sit-down restaurant—Slade’s—and there was a grocery store. Some people here were doing the right thing; some weren’t. But there were no drugs, and there weren’t a bunch of people doing the wrong thing at the same time.”

When Holley moved back, in the late ’70s, purchasing her current home for a price in the $40,000 range, she found her old neighborhood ravaged by drugs and crime. “I bought it because I was a single mother and it was what I could afford,” Holley says. “There was a lot of drug dealing, but I never saw anything go down. I never saw anyone shot or laying in the street dead, but that’s what was going on.”

What’s going on these days seems far more benign. Kids from the nearby schools mill about the neighborhood. They now take their time walking across Stanton Road, a thoroughfare that buzzed with fast traffic in the days of the projects. The children occasionally stop to press their faces against the chain-link fences to inspect the remains of public housing: piles of old bathtubs, spooky playgrounds without swings or slides, a forgotten child-size bed frame.

Surveying the mementos left behind by her former neighbors, Holley says she sees herself as a survivor of what she calls the “20-year crime wave” that gripped the area. “I won—now the neighborhood is being upgraded,” she says. CP