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***Valley Green SE DC - STARTING OVER FROM SCRATCH***
By Vernon Loeb - April 24, 1997
***Remembering DC Valley Green Tee - https://teespring.com/valley-green2-crew-black-tee
The 34 abandoned brick buildings that sit on a desolate slope in Southeast Washington, a silent monument to almost four decades of public housing failure, will be razed to make way for the most ambitious public housing redevelopment effort ever proposed in the city, officials said yesterday.
Valley Green, which was launched in the early 1960s to house people displaced by "slum clearance," soon became a slum itself, poisoned over the decades by a toxic brew of poverty, rampant vandalism, violent drug dealing and government neglect.
The resulting wasteland, which stretches across 20 acres of silent concrete courtyards and rutted city streets, has come to serve in recent years as a convenient backdrop for politicians looking to cast blame for decades of despair.
But all of that will vanish under a $53 million plan announced yesterday by D.C. housing receiver David I. Gilmore and officials from the Enterprise Foundation, who intend to demolish Valley Green and a decrepit adjoining development called Skytower.
The plan calls for the construction of 135 rental units and 130 single-family homes, paid for through a combination of federal grants and $10 million in private loans and tax-credit financing.
The plan follows a national trend in which housing agencies have joined with private developers to produce mixed-income communities that offer both rental units and privately owned homes.
It also stands as the centerpiece of Gilmore's effort to bring new life to numerous abandoned developments. And it marks the first major project undertaken in Washington by the Enterprise Foundation, America's largest nonprofit supporter of affordable housing and community development.
Jacqueline Massey, president of the Valley Green Resident Council, lives with six other families in the development's 35th building, the only one that is occupied. She said yesterday that she considers her development the "last outpost" in the city, given its proximity along Wheeler Road to the Prince George's County line.
But Gilmore disagreed, saying, "We have to stop thinking about it as the last outpost and start thinking about it, from this day forward, as the gateway back to Washington, D.C."
Standing beside him at a news conference, Massey clutched Gilmore's hand and wiped tears from her eyes.
"This {man} right here has caused me to wake up every day believing in something -- something I can reach high for," Massey said.
Juanita Darden, who heads the tenants association at Skytower, a development next to Valley Green on the 1000 block of Wahler Place SE, echoed Massey's emotion.
"I didn't have any faith or any trust in anyone," she said, until Gilmore came along and convinced her that a wholesale makeover of the community made sense only if both Valley Green and Skytower were included.
Ultimately, a selection committee representing D.C. Housing Authority officials and tenants from both complexes selected Enterprise and its partner, A&R Development Corp. of Baltimore, as developers from a national field of nine bidders.
Gilmore, given vast authority to run the Housing Authority as court-appointed receiver almost two years ago, acknowledged that Valley Green's redevelopment requires another $24 million in federal funds. He said a $16 million HOPE VI grant has been sought from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
A three-way development agreement signed yesterday by the Housing Authority, the tenants and the developers calls for Enterprise and A&R Development to cover all expenses associated with development of a voluminous HOPE VI application, due to HUD by July 18.
Under the HOPE VI program, cities compete for grants designed to help them reinvent failed public housing complexes and reinvigorate the communities surrounding them.
Gilmore expressed little doubt that HOPE VI funding would be coming but vowed to proceed even if it isn't.
"That's why we have a deep-pockets private partner," he said, referring to Enterprise, founded 15 years ago by the late developer James W. Rouse and based in Columbia.
The redevelopment plan also calls for the three-way partnership to acquire Skytower from HUD. HUD officials said last week that they foreclosed almost two years ago on Skytower's owners, a limited partnership made up of California doctors and dentists headed by Roy Littlejohn, who was an associate of D.C. Mayor Marion Barry's for many years.
HUD, which subsidizes rents at Skytower through the Section 8 program and guaranteed its mortgage, foreclosed after a General Accounting Office report highlighted "unsatisfactory" housing conditions and complaints from tenants about "a worsening infestation of rats."
Mark Sissman, president of Enterprise Social Investment Corp., the Enterprise Foundation's development arm, promised better. He said his organization's share of development fees, which could exceed $3 million at Valley Green and Skytower, would be reinvested in the rebuilt community, which would be owned and managed by a nonprofit entity consisting of tenant, Housing Authority and Enterprise representatives.
"We don't just build the houses and disappear," Sissman said. "You'll see us here working with homeowners and tenants for the next decade."
Touring the ruins of Valley Green one day last week, Enterprise's president and chief operating officer, Rey Ramsey, called its redevelopment "the tip of the iceberg of what we're looking at doing in Washington."
"It's a lot of what we call community building -- helping people create assets for themselves," said Ramsey, who moved to the District a year ago when he took the foundation's top job and now lives on Capitol Hill.
Valley Green was a failure from the moment it opened in 1961.
Financed with loan guarantees from the Federal Housing Administration, the complex was built to house D.C. residents relocated by slum clearance and highway construction. But by the time it was transferred to the National Capital Housing Authority in 1964, it was one-quarter empty because the closing of surrounding military installations reduced the demand for housing.
By the late 1960s, maintenance workers were already overwhelmed by rampant vandalism. When Massey, the tenant leader, arrived in the 1970s, Valley Green was home to 1,500 residents, including almost 1,000 children, and its place as one of the most troubled public housing complexes in Washington was already secure.
By the late 1980s, Valley Green was a violent open-air drug zone. The violence finally waned thanks to stepped-up efforts by residents and police. Growing abandonment also helped quell the gunfire as hundreds of maintenance requests piled up and a dizzying succession of public housing managers proved incapable of much beyond boarding up damaged units as tenants moved out.
Barry stepped out of his Lincoln Continental at Valley Green one day in November 1989 to announce an anti-drug initiative called Reclaiming Our Streets. By the time Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly's government arrived to open a new community empowerment center in the summer of 1991, half the development's apartments were vacant.
And when D.C. Council member John Ray (D) showed up for a news conference at Valley Green during his 1994 mayoral primary campaign, all but nine of 312 units were boarded up.
"Just look at this place," Ray said. "It's boarded up the same way it was when {Barry} ran for mayor in 1978."
So it stood when Gilmore arrived in the summer of 1995. His agency -- fully funded by HUD -- had been removed from the D.C. government morass by Superior Court Judge Steffen W. Graae. He had a free hand to do as he pleased.
And then-HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros clearly saw what was needed when Gilmore took him on a tour of the site that fall. "The only answer," Cisneros said, surveying the devastation all around, "is to start over." CAPTION: Jacqueline Massey, of the Valley Green Resident Council, and Juanita Darden, of the Skytower tenants association, are delighted at the initiative to demolish the sites. Previously, "I didn't have any faith or any trust in anyone," Darden says. CAPTION: Rey Ramsey, of the Enterprise Foundation, left, talks with Chauncey Hall, a D.C. Housing Authority employee who is one of the last remaining residents of Valley Green.
Source - - The Washington Post
Dimension: 640 x 480
File Size: 56.1 Kb
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