Housing and Home Ownership
Mayor Anthony A. Williams signed legislation yesterday for the revitalization of the Sursum Corda neighborhood, where affordable housing and redevelopment have been promoted and organized by residents.
The bill advances a plan that calls for 1,600 housing units in Sursum Corda, a cooperative housing complex bounded by K and M streets NW between North Capitol Street and First Street, 520 of which are to be designated as affordable units for low-income families. The rest of the housing will be condominiums, apartments and townhouses intended for moderate-income and more-affluent residents as part of an effort to create a mixed-income community.
"It'll have a wonderful effect on the neighborhood," said Alverta Munlyn, a former resident who was a major force behind the redevelopment plan. "After two and a half years of work between the community and the government, we have a plan that will work for everybody."
The legislation authorizes spending city funds to start the project, to acquire properties and attract developers. It calls for the eventual creation of a new neighborhood elementary school, a recreation center, a library and a health clinic. Community activists who worked on the project hope the development will revive an area that Williams (D) deemed one of the District's 14 crime hot spots in 2004.
In a controversial decision this month, the D.C. Council voted to give the city the power of eminent domain over Sursum Corda to move forward with development despite protests from some residents. Under the new plan, Sursum Corda residents will have the right to stay in their homes, and new housing will be built before the existing units are demolished.
Community leaders said high crime rates in Sursum Corda have begun to decline since the 2004 murder of 14-year-old Jahkema "Princess" Hansen in an apartment building there. The neighborhood had long functioned as an open-air drug market where rival gangs fought for control, police officials said. After an increased enforcement effort, they reported that crime declined 40 percent within a year after Jahkema was killed.
"This is about building a safe community," Munlyn said yesterday. "It includes our needs for a school, a library and lots of indoor and outdoor space for kids to do safe activities."
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