In the third event in the speaker series, Megan Kimble, Kymone Freeman, Scott Kratz, and Vaughn Perry discuss the importance of community involvement in the development of the Eleventh Street Bridge Project. The Eleventh Street Bridge Project, based within the historical Anacostia neighborhood in Washington, D.C., sought to salvage some of the inoperative freeway crossing the Anacostia River and turn it into a bridge park with affordable housing options. Leaders of the project understood the history of marginalization in the area and involved community members in every step of the process to curb displacement that commonly occurs with similar projects.
“The Anacostia River, like many freeways or many natural divides, has long divided the Nation's Capital,” said Kratz. “It’s divided two different communities, it’s divided by economic opportunity, by housing prices, by race, by you name it.”
Project leaders like Kratz understood this was going to alert people to the possibility of gentrification and displacement. This understanding provided the foundation for the project’s community land trust and equitable development plan, including housing, workforce infrastructure, small business strategies, and maintaining cultural equity.
The equitable development plan created 238 units of permanently affordable housing, applying levels of social aid that allowed at-risk renters to obtain homes through housing funds. These funds emulate the community land trusts of the civil rights-era, allowing individuals to not just find housing, but to become homeowners and create generational wealth.
Perry, a former Ward Eight resident and current equitable development manager, saw this as a particularly important distinction. The project has maintained diverse feedback loops, ensuring that community members who know the area best have a say in the actions of developers. Perry also aided 122 Ward eight renters in pursuing home ownership.
"It’s not just about a park,” said Kratz. “It’s about how do you support the community’s physical, economic, cultural, and environmental health in a single intervention, while trying to undo the decades and over 100 years of a lack of investment there and think of doing it in a very different way.”
The generational impact of this project is immeasurable, showing the importance of involving members of a community in development to an area. This project avoided gentrification by amplifying existing communities and, through institutions like the Community Land Trust, implemented an innovative development approach that put the people at the forefront of major changes to their neighborhood.
Written by: Payton Willhite