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I was pleased to read Stephanie Mencimer’s excellent article on the economic resurgence of Ward 8 (“When Hell Freezes Over,” 11/5). Having worked very hard for the past few years to support economic development, affordable housing and homeownership, and community empowerment in Washington, D.C. neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River, I am pleased to see the Washington City Paper acknowledge the many good things that are now happening there. It is particularly exciting to highlight the improved quality of life that is bringing much needed new private investment to east-of-the-river communities, by both for-profit and nonprofit developers, by financial institutions, and by new homeowners placing their hard-earned savings on the line for the future of their family and neighborhood.
However, all of this new private investment did not just come spontaneously, as the article implies. It had a lot of help in the form of subsidies and incentives coming from the public sector. Every new development that the article profiles—from Walter Washington Estates to Oxon Creek Townhomes and Parklands, and from Wheeler Creek to Frederick Douglass and Stanton Dwellings, from Camp Simms to the Town Hall Education Arts & Recreation Center (THE ARC)—is supported by millions of dollars in grants funds provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the District of Columbia Department of Housing and Community Development. I have worked for both of them recently, and the total public investment in the 2,000 new homes being constructed east of the river and the many other education, health, employment, and recreation centers easily exceeds $100 million and is probably closer to $200 million. While it is often fashionable to criticize government for being slow, inefficient, and even unresponsive, we should bear in mind that it also helps provide the resources that enable many good things to happen in our neighborhoods by substantially leveraging, subsidizing, and enhancing private capital.
In the Strategic Economic Development Plan for Washington, D.C., which I coordinated together with Richard Monteilh, we vigorously emphasized strengthening the city’s east-of-the-river communities. Now that visible progress is being made and we have much to celebrate and appreciate, the City Paper should fairly acknowledge the substantial efforts of each and every partner in this public-private partnership, including the much maligned and frequently ignored D.C. and federal governments.