Archive for September, 2018


Was this Land Really Made for You and Me?

The relationship between D.C. public housing residents and the D.C. government has not been on the greatest terms in the past.  So much so, that the residents have become weary of trusting the government any time it wants to make changes to their homes and communities.  A recent instance of community mistrust has arisen surrounding the changes being made to the Barry Farm public housing project in Southeast near the Anacostia metro station.

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The land the Barry Farm community sits on was acquired in 1801 by James Barry who was one of the incorporators of the Washington Canal Company.  In 1876 the Freedman’s Bureau, a government agency established to aid freed slaves and their families, bought the James Barry farm and divided it into lots to be sold to freed slaves. By 1869, 266 families occupied the land. Today, the land is home to over 100 families in a 432-unit public housing project managed by the D.C. Housing Authority (DCHA).

The mistrust mentioned earlier stems from the majority Black population, living on land that has been historically occupied by Black families, coming up against threats of displacement.  As a part of the New Communities Initiative, the DCHA has partnered with Baltimore based developer, A & R Development Corp. and nonprofit Preservation of Affordable Housing, Inc.  The residents of Barry Farm, supported by local advocacy groups, have opened up a class action lawsuit against the DCHA in opposition to their redevelopment plan.  The plan is proposing 1,400 mixed-income housing units and 58,730 sqft of retail.  344 out of the 432 units are planned to be replaced while 100 will be moved off site.  The plan lacks units large enough for families of four or more and is predicted to displace 150 families or over 500 residents in the low-income Southeast neighborhood.  

The DCHA has made accommodations for the current residents to be temporarily housed elsewhere while the demolition and construction of the new Barry Farm community takes place, with the right to return once construction is completed.  However, the Barry Farm residents are not trusting of this model and are urging the DCHA to follow the “build first” concept so that they are not displaced indefinitely without a home to return to due to unforeseen challenges. The skeptical residents have good reason to be distrustful based upon a similar situation that has left hundreds displaced from the Temple Courts public housing project that used to be in Northeast.

The current Barry Farm residents feel that the D.C. government is trying to intimidate them into leaving before their new homes are built.  They believe this is to blame for the lack of upkeep that has befallen the community ranging from leaky ceilings, holes in the floor,  to appliances that do not work.  Residents spoke of signage with warnings about construction beginning soon as well as bulldozers being present.  The housing that has already been abandoned by families who were convinced to leave are becoming a health hazard for the people who remain.  Those units have become breeding grounds for rodents and vermin which is another issue not being managed by the D.C. government.

The residents are not being treated equitably in matters of their quality of public health as well as housing. The Barry Farm community feels that it is being slighted and pushed aside from the complex that was built in 1943 on land historically significant to freed slaves after the Civil War. The unfortunate story of Barry Farm leaves its residents in a state of uncertainty and serves as another example of how low-income Black families are discriminated against in the United States by government entities.   

Barry Farm is not giving up the fight for being treated justly in their rights to quality housing.  For more information on the status of the case, follow the links below to stay up to date on the ongoing matter.

Greg Grant is an Urban Planner from Houston, TX who is interested in planning equitable transportation and environmental solutions for communities.  In his spare time he enjoys cooking and DJing, but not at the same time.


Renters Guide to Water Conservation and Saving

It’s the end of the month and you received your rent and utilities bill. On a closer look, you see that your water and sewer bill has skyrocketed. How can this be? I need to call maintenance! Your mind is flooded with questions about your actual water usage. “Is the meter broken? Is there a leak somewhere? My toilet does sound like it’s been running—maybe it’s broken.” Or maybe your water consumption really has increased.

Often, we receive materials on ways to conserve water as homeowners but rarely as a renter. The fact is that the water use of a renter has just as much of an impact on your bill and the environment as a homeowner’s usage, especially in a city as dense as the District. So how can you improve your impact? Here are 5 efficient ways to use water and save a few coins:

1). Do not let the water run before or during brushing and shaving. Don’t let water run long before showering. Imagine coins going down the drain for every 3 seconds of water running.

2) Reduce shower time to 6 minutes. This may be your most difficult challenge, especially after a hard day of work. Just remember, reduced water means a reduced bill and a reduced bill means more money for other self-care activities.

3) Reuse cooled water from boiling vegetables or pasta for indoor plants rather than disposing it down the drain. This saves an extra cup or two of water and coins.

4) Only run the dishwasher when it is full and allow dishes to soak in sink rather than let the faucet run while cleaning. Though many of today’s appliance efficiently use energy and water, water can still be wasted by their continual use.

5) Set one day a month for laundry, if possible. Let’s face it, you probably have plenty of clothes stashed in the closet that you never wear. Give them a run and extend your wash day rather than running half cycles of the same clothes. Make sure to adjust the settings according to the appropriate load size.


water conservationImage Credit 1 Southwest Florida Water Management District.


Christie Holland is an urban planner from St. Louis, MO interested in community development, transportation planning, infrastructure, and urban design challenges. 


Have You Missed the Mark on Engaging Your Audience?

Don’t worry there’s still time to redeem yourself.

Engagement is more than my career; it’s how I view the world. I believe connections are the nucleus of how people coexist in their personal and professional lives. I have the luxury of experiencing connections every day, on every project, and I want to extend those gifts to you. In my opinion, the commonly missed marks of engagement include what it means to connect, understand the audience, and how to communicate clearly to engage their audience.

Connecting with people is not as simple as it sounds. It’s a two-way street. There are pre-requisites to understand before a connection is possible. Let’s begin by defining what it means to connect. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, to connect means “to place or establish in relationship”. Think about how you form the relationships in your life. The level of effort given and how you communicate depends on the person or circumstances. To engage with your audience, you apply the same principles.

Often times, consultants are caught up in their own perspective and forget to take a step back and understand their audience. A good first step would be to question things like: Who is my audience? What are they like? What are their concerns? How will my product or service provide a solution or benefit to them? How do I assess their needs? How do they receive their information? Do I have the capacity? What are conflicting priorities? The ground work in the beginning will save you time, money, and plenty of headaches in the long run – you’re welcome in advance. This information can be immediately used or reserved until later on the process – trust me. It’s vital in communicating properly with your audience.

After you understand your audience, you can plan for the best way to engage your audience and communicate with them clearly. Mining attention is difficult; you have to be mindful of how much information a person is exposed to on any given day and what their personal priorities are. Think about how much information you are exposed to on any given day through emails, print media, social media or word of mouth. Which method is the best way to reach you? What loops and bounds does someone have to go through to shift your priorities? Apply that perspective to your audience. It’s more than presenting information. It’s evoking an emotional response to lead to a reaction. If you need help answering these questions, now would be a good time to rely on the information you collected when getting to know your audience – I told you to trust me.

To be on target, it’s important to understand what it means to connect, what to communicate to build that connection, and how to connect with your audience. I leave you with this: engagement doesn’t stop when the project closes or the transaction is complete. Engagement is a continuous cycle.

Let’s keep this conversation going. Let me know how you engage your audience by commenting below.

Christina Glancy is a Pittsburgh Native who serves as our Community Outreach Specialist. She has built a unique perspective which blends project management, marketing, community involvement and data analysis. She has a successful track record of engaging diverse groups of stakeholders throughout the Transportation, Health Care and Cybersecurity Industries. She believes in changing the world one conversation at a time.



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