By now, Mary Dews-Hall was supposed to be back home. When the city tore down Temple Courts five years ago, staff assured her that she and her neighbors would return. That there was a plan. That this time wouldn’t be like the others, when poor, black neighborhoods were paved over in the name of progress.
The New Communities Initiative was going to infuse prosperity into this troubled area, 10 blocks from the Capitol.
The housing project was on K-Street, kitty-corner from the NPR headquarters. Today, the housing project is a parking lot that charges $8 per hour. Could it be that NPR executives, K Street lobbyists, and others who can pay $8 per hour to park got tired of being polar-bear hunted, and are pretty effective at eventually getting their way?
It would serve as a template for remaking other violent neighborhoods in the District, a commitment to those who felt a changing city was leaving them behind.
By the end of this year,180 units were to have been built for former Temple Courts tenants. So far, the plan hasn’t delivered one.
The plan for Dews-Hall’s neighborhood was supposed to show that the city had figured out some of the great puzzles of urban renewal, how to revitalize a community without replacing it, how to create a place for prosperous newcomers without pushing out poor old-timers.
Instead, New Communities has shown how hard it is to make affordable housing work in the modern American city and how easy it was to let a program that was the centerpiece of the District’s affordable-housing efforts unravel.