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Posted at 10:01 AM ET, 03/16/2012

What’s going on with...that vacant building with the colorful door?

(Courtesy of Washington Post reader)
Gloominess reigns at the boarded-up and badly dilapidated building at 5032 D Street SE, in the District’s Marshall Heights neighborhood. The building is practically crumbling and the vacant lot next door isn’t the sort of place you’d want to be hanging out after dark.

But on the door of the building is a sign of what’s to come: brightly painted colors, brought to you by the non-profit youth development group Sasha Bruce Youthwork. The 38-year-old organization, founded as the Washington Streetwork Project, is one of the city’s most experienced providers of services to homeless or at-risk youth. The building and the lot were donated to Sasha Bruce by its previous owners last July.

So, what’s going on with...that vacant building with the colorful door on D Street SE?

Part of Sasha Bruce’s mission is to provide safe homes for young people who are homeless or at-risk of becoming homeless. The group also operates youth development programs such as Youth Build, in which teaches young people construction skills.

At 5032 D Street, the two missions will come together. Beginning this spring, trainees from the Youth Build program will begin turning the property into a Sasha Bruce group home.

The youngsters will be getting a lot of help too, beginning May 16. That date marks the start of the 2012 national convention and design exposition of the American Institute of Architects in Washington. To kick off the conference, the Reed Construction Data and architecture firm Hanley Wood are collecting materials and will bring as many as 150 professional volunteers to the D Street site to get work started. As Sasha Bruce’s Jim Beck explains, “it’s like community service combined with training on the various construction sector industries.”

Sasha Bruce already has a general contractor for the project, Superior Home Services, and an architect, Stovall Smith Neyman. “They’re giving us a huge discount,” Beck said.

But there is still some money to be raised, which has Sasha Bruce running a capital campaign called “Building for the Future.” Beck said he isn’t sure yet how much is needed to complete the project. “We don’t have a hard number right now,” he said.

Is there a project, building or property in your neighborhood that you want to learn more about? We’ve previously written about the big hole in the middle of Takoma, the Hill East development, the Arlington Funeral home site and others. Suggestions are welcome at oconnellj@washpost.com.

Follow Jonathan O’Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz

By  |  10:01 AM ET, 03/16/2012

Tags:  Sasha Bruce Youthwork, Marshall Heights

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