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(Published September 22, 2003)


U STREET’S GREEN TEAM: The 14th & U Main Street Initiative has teamed up with the Coalition for the Homeless and the University of the District of Columbia’s Extension Program to create a 45-day demonstration project to clean up and maintain the commercial district at 14th and U streets NW.

The project, which kicked off Sept. 12, is designed to supplement existing efforts by the D.C. Department of Public Works, merchants, property owners and residents. The "Green Team" of five full-time and five part-time workers began its seven-day-a-week effort by focusing on removal of trash and weeds along sidewalks, gutters, alleys and tree boxes.

The demonstration project’s goal, according to Scott Pomeroy of the 14th & U Main Street Initiative, is to raise enough funds to hire 24 full-time workers to expand services into the neighborhood’s other commercial areas. The expanded program would include a two-day hospitality, heritage and ambassador training program conducted by Cultural Tourism DC, a landscaping program conducted by UDC, and a school-based landscaping and heritage training program.

The demonstration project is being managed by the Coalition for the Homeless and financed by UDC’s Extension Program and developer PN Hoffman. PN Hoffman pledged a five-year annual contribution of $10,000 as part of its application, pending city approval, for a planned unit development on 14th Street NW between V and W streets.

The Green Team project will be among items discussed at the 14th & U Main Street Initiative’s first annual membership meeting at 6 p.m. Sept. 29 at the True Reformer Building, 1200 U St. NW. The meeting is open to the public.

COLUMBIA HEIGHTS PARKING GARAGE: The D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) is seeking $60 million in federal loan guarantees to help the developer of the planned DC USA retail and entertainment project on 14th Street NW finance the development’s planned parking garage.

A public hearing on the application for federal assistance through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Section 108 Loan Guarantee Program will be held at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 23 in the Ninth Floor Conference Room at the DHCD office at 801 North Capitol St. NE.

The parking facility, with space for 1,350 cars on three below-grade levels, would be part of a 540,000 square foot complex of restaurants and retail stores, including a planned Target department store.

The Section 108 Loan Guarantee Program requires the District to pledge future Community Development Block Grant funds from the federal government as security for borrowed funds.


KEY ELEMENTARY TURNS 75: City officials and community leaders plan to gather at 10:30 a.m. Sept. 29 for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the opening of the new Key Elementary School at 5001 Dana Place NW and to dedicate the school’s new Dolores Hardwick Martin Auditorium.

Officials also will celebrate the school’s 75th anniversary in the neighborhood. The original 1928 building, which was the public school system’s smallest school at 17,500 square feet, was renovated and expanded to 50,000 square feet of space that now features a media center, a converted classroom library and state-of-the-art facilities.

The new school’s special features include five data ports in each classroom, two classrooms specially equipped for special education activities, a cafeteria with a stage that will also serve as the school’s auditorium and can be enlarged by removing a partition that opens up to the gymnasium, and a new athletic field and outdoor play areas. The expansion also increased the school’s capacity from 190 to 300 students.


RAISING LIBRARY FUNDS: Fifty years after the Cleveland Park Citizens Association spearheaded a community fundraising effort to add an auditorium wing to the Cleveland Park Library, the citizens association is launching a cooperative effort with the Cleveland Park Historical Society and Friends of the Cleveland Park Library to raise funds for major improvements to the library’s reading rooms.

The effort will kick off Nov. 1 with a special 50th anniversary celebration from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the library at Connecticut Avenue and Macomb Street NW. Featured will be special speakers, a book fair and book signing with neighborhood authors, refreshments, door prizes and childrens’ storytime and activities. T-shirts and tote bags with art designed by a local student will be on sale, as well as umbrellas featuring local artist Eleanor Oliver’s work and special anniversary coffee mugs.

Volunteers will be taking advance orders for a new Cleveland Park Community Cookbook being compiled with recipes from local residents, neighborhood restaurants, schools, churches and "notables." The cookbooks, which will cost $20, are expected to be available around Thanksgiving.


REVITALIZING GEORGIA AVENUE: Leaders of efforts to revitalize the upper Georgia Avenue commercial corridor have scheduled a public meeting for 11 a.m. Sept. 27 to explain the area’s "Main Street" initiative and to recruit more community volunteers to help with the project. The meeting will be held at the Juanita E. Thornton-Shepherd Park Library at 7420 Georgia Ave. NW.

The Gateway Georgia Avenue Revitalization Corp. earlier this year was among neighborhood groups that received "Main Street" designation and grant assistance from the D.C. government for plans to improve its neighborhood commercial corridor.


NEW ELECTION: After being brought to task by the D.C. Democratic State Committee for violating proper procedures, the Ward 5 Democratic Party organization held a new election Sept. 22 to select its leaders – and elected the same leaders who had won the disputed contest.

Ward 5 Democrats elected Anita Bonds as new chairman to replace Frank Wilds, who was elected vice chairman. Also elected were Eddie Harrison as corresponding secretary, Kathy Henderson as recording secretary, Grace Lewis as assistant recording secretary and Joseph Bowser as treasurer.

Kathryn Pearson-West, an at-large member of the D.C. Democratic State Committee who lives in Ward 5, had complained to the party’s state committee that the ward’s party organization failed to properly publicize plans to hold its election of officers when the initial election was conducted in June. Some active party members – including Harry Thomas Jr., the son of the former councilman who had planned to seek the organization’s helm – missed the meeting at which the initial, voided election was held due to what the state committee agreed was confusion caused by a lack of proper notification.


GROUP HOME CONTROVERSY: Residents who live near a new group home planned for teenaged girls who have committed criminal offenses are raising questions about how the decision to locate the facility in their neighborhood was made without consulting the community. About 15 neighbors of the planned Youth Services Administration (YSA) facility at 1626 Kramer St. NE turned out at a recent Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6A committee meeting to express their concerns to ANC commissioners and to representatives of the D.C. Department of Human Services (DHS), under which the YSA operates.

In addition to the site selection process, residents at the meeting expressed concern about the home’s proximity to Miner Elementary School and Rosedale Recreation Center, its placement in an area with ongoing crime problems, a large number of group homes and treatment facilities already in the vicinity, the addition of more YSA-supervised young people to the student body at Eliot Junior High School, and the effect on surrounding property values.

ANC Commissioner Cody Rice questioned city officials at the meeting about whether the neighborhood’s zoning requires a special exception be obtained to locate a "youth rehabilitation home" in the area. Officials said they believed placing the facility in the area may be allowed as a "matter of right," which does not require a public hearing.

The planned three-bedroom group home would house up to six girls, ages 13 to 17, who are committed to YSA’s supervision by local judges after the teenagers are found to have engaged in criminal activity. Officials said they expect to select a private operator for the facility by early 2004 and offered to include one or two area residents in the selection process.


NEIGHBORHOOD ISSUES FORUMS: The Marshall Heights Community Development Organization and the nonprofit organization DC Agenda are teaming up to co-sponsor a series of three "community conversations" this fall to help them assess progress in addressing neighborhood issues.

Information gathered at the sessions is expected to be included in DC Agenda’s annual report that examines changes in neighborhood conditions across the District. Areas to be assessed include housing and community development, workforce and economic development, youth and education, children and family health, and city services and crime.

Forums are planned to begin at 6 p.m. on Oct. 7 for the Benning Heights/Fort Dupont Park area at First Rock Baptist Church, 4630 Alabama Ave. SE and on Oct. 14 for Deanwood at Beulah Baptist Church of Deanwood, 5820 Dix St. NE. A third forum for the Masrahll Heights area is expected to be held at a date and location yet to be determined.

Persons who wish to participate in the forums may call Amy Cody at (202) 396-1201, extension 163, or Kassandra Kearse at (202) 223-2598, extension 27.

INTERFAITH HOUSE: Leaders of 12 different religions gathered Sept. 16 to help raise the frame of one of the first houses being built by D.C. Habitat for Humanity as part of a 53-home development in Far Northeast for low- to moderate-income families. The so-called Interfaith House will be built by local congregations as a symbolic "collaboration of faiths and a rejection of violence in the name of religion," according to the Rev. Clark Lobenstine, executive director of the Interfaith Conference.

D.C. Habitat for Humanity began work last December on the first home in the development, which will be located on a large tract it obtained from the D.C. Housing Authority for a $1 payment. The organization expects to build about 10 homes per year in an area that some neighbors have complained is unsuitable for quality housing due to historic flooding conditions.


MEET THE JUDGES: Judges and other officials from the District’s court system will hold a Town Hall Meeting on Sept. 27 to discuss the Community Court Initiative with residents of the Seventh Police District and hear residents’ concerns and suggestions. The meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at National Children’s Center, 3400 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE.

Presiding Judge Noel Kramer and Deputy Presiding Judge Harold Cushenberry of D.C. Superior Court’s Criminal Division will be joined on a panel by Magistrate Judge Richard Ringell of D.C./Traffic Community Court. Kramer is also presiding judge for the East of the River Community Court.

The community court is aimed at changing the way that non-violent offenses are handled in the criminal justice system, combining a focus on treatment of defendants’ underlying social problems with requirements that offenders receive sentences that respond to community needs and concerns in a restorative manner.

A second Town Hall Meeting focused on the Sixth Police District is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 18.

Copyright 2003, The Common Denominator