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It is unfortunate that Washington City Paper, in the 7/18 Loose Lips, published an article that is fraught with error, lacking in truth, and totally inaccurate in its facts.
Here are the facts:
In the 13 years of the H Street Community Development Corp.’s (HSCDC’s) existence, the organization has developed more than 336,000 square feet of commercial and office space on the H Street/Benning Road commercial corridors, has constructed or renovated 315 units of affordable for-sale and rental housing on or near the H Street commercial corridor, has provided more than $750,000 in microloans, and has leveraged more than $5 million in bank loans for the H Street commercial corridor’s small businesses. Since its inception, HSCDC has completed projects on the H Street commercial corridor with an estimated value of $31.9 million. Additionally, since 1985, HSCDC has paid in excess of $4.7 million dollars in real estate property taxes to the District on the projects the organization has developed on and near the H Street commercial corridor.
Further, HSCDC has provided technical assistance and training to more than 1,600 entrepreneurs and has generated more than 350 permanent jobs and more than 2,000 construction jobs through its lending and development programs. HSCDC continues to demonstrate its commitment to the H Street community through plans to develop over $15 million of additional commercial space and affordable housing in the near future.
As the result of an open competition offered by the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development in 1996, HSCDC was awarded a contract to provide services to an additional area of the District located in close proximity to the 2900 block of 7th Street NE, where the property under Loose Lips’ “loose” scrutiny is located. (Incidentally, some describe this neighborhood as Edgewoodothers prefer not tohowever, this property is clearly not located in Brookland.) Almost immediately after opening a community office in the area, HSCDC staff members were approached by community residents to see if we could do something to remove this blighted, dilapidated property from their neighborhood.
In response to community wishes, HSCDC bought the property in January 1997, secured and cleaned the property, and began discussing plans with the community to demolish the existing structure and build six new and affordably priced town houses on the site. After many community meetings and presentations, HSCDC secured support for this project from ANC 5C (including the single-member commissioner from 5C10, in which the property is located), the Metropolis View Civic Association, and Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas. HSCDC has also received the signatures of more than 115 residents who live in the immediate neighborhood on a petition supporting the project.
When HSCDC was informed that “less than a handful” of people had filed application for landmark status for the property, HSCDC prepared for the process that it was faced with, i.e., going before the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board. There was no “maneuvering” done. As was clear during the hearing on this matter, the community that is affected by this blighted and now dangerous property clearly supports this project.
On a final note regarding Loose Lips’ fallacies, the letter from W. David Watts, Director, D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development dated July 9, 1997, also contained errors. HSCDC was not issued a demolition permit on July 7, 1997, as was stated in the above referenced letter, and non-project-related federal funds are not impacted by HSCDC’s undertaking of the 2900 7th Street NE development.
Russell D. Simmons
William J. Barrow, III
HSCDC Executive Director