This letter is in response to the “TomorrowLand” article of the July 10 edition of the City Paper. When you speak of a forgotten part of town, you rightly mentioned Southwest as the most elusive of the four quadrants. If you had looked a bit more carefully at your map, you would have noticed that Southwest extends across the South Capitol Street Bridge and over into Anacostia! Your oversight is probably attributable to the number of locations that the City Paper can be found in Far Southwest: at last count, zero.
Though not unsympathetic to my “New Southwest” brothers and sisters, I am reluctant to shed a tear on their behalf. You see, my part of town, “Far Southwest,” has more serious problems. Instead of being concerned about a potential loss of businesses, we have no large job-generating businesses to speak of. My Southwest contains some of the staples of any small community. We have several variety stores and liquor stores, a dry cleaner, a gas station, a beauty shop, a barbershop, a Chinese carryout, and a Domino’s pizza. That list constitutes the bulk of our economic development. Currently there is a plan to provide “economic development” in Far Southwest, by building a prison. Yup, a prison! And you think you have problems!
New Southwest, I understand your concern, and who wouldn’t? The scenario envisioned by the City Paper suggests that a significant drop in consumers will lead to a time line that includes significant loss of businesses, a reverse resident diaspora, lower commercial and residential property values, and an increase in crime. Yet all is not bad. At least you have a plan.
Far Southwest aspires to achieve an interactive vision such as that of their near Southwest brethren: A vision that includes commercial development that provides goods and services that residents require. A vision that includes thriving businesses that hire ward (or at least city) residents. A vision that works out of concern for those who own property, and those who don’t. I would trade the CCA (Corrections Corporation of America) for the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) any day of the week! Zero tenants have got to be better than 1,500 inmates. The Far Southwest vision of urban renewal uses a correctional facility as a foundation for economic growth. Which, I assure you, is as flawed as moving St. Elizabeths Hospital to Pennsylvania Avenue, or, dare I say it, building a prison in Ward 3! This 1998 version of urban renewal destroys rather than develops, diminishes neighborhood determination in favor of benefiting special interests, and unempowers the communities that renewal projects were designed to benefit.
I invite the City Paper to take a close look at my neighborhood, if you can find it! (Hint: When you smell the Blue Plains Sewage Treatment facility, you’re home!) Perhaps you can share a cab with Urban Land Institute!
Far Southwest Civic Association
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