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The number of unused properties held by Shaw’s Shiloh Baptist Church has long been a bone of contention in the neighborhood—the church, which bought up land over the course of the last century, sat on vacant buildings while promising to rehabilitate them and claiming the money wasn’t there to do it.
Finally, last year, they decided to sell off a couple of those properties; the sales netted a total of about $800,000. The city also kicked in $250,000 in predevelopment grant funding to plan the Shiloh’s Victory Village complex, which will include a commercial and retail center at 1507 9th Street, an education and conference center at 1526-28 9th Street, senior housing at 1530-36 9th Street, and a community/nonprofit center at 1533 9th Street.
The whole shebang will cost an estimated $18.3 million. Yesterday, after the end of services, church brass and assorted dignitaries kicked off construction of the least of those—the Wallace Charles Smith Community Services building, which is projected to cost $2.1 million. The trucks aren’t rolling in yet, though; The church is bidding out the construction and hopes to actually get started by the end of the year.
At the “groundbreaking” ceremony, Councilmembers Jack Evans and Phil Mendelson went the safe route, quoting vaguely triumphal Bible passages—Isaiah and Matthew respectively—and talking about how great the new center would be for Shaw. But the most striking part of the ceremony, as Sommer Mathis highlights, was ANC Commissioner and Shaw Main Streets president Alexander Padro‘s seeming forgiveness of a neighborhood institution that has prevented the rehabilitation of so much land.
“I’ve had so many neighborhood residents who have said, ‘Why are you standing up for Shiloh? Why are you spending so much time trying to help them? Look at all the empty properties, look at all the broken promises.'” Padro told the assembled churchgoers. “And I always said, time needs to be allowed to pass so that the good people who are trying to do the work of God in Shiloh Baptist Church can accomplish the mission that they have been given.”