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City Study Urges Revitalization in Northeast Areas

By Paul Schwartzman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 3, 2005; Page DZ03

The intersection of New York Avenue and Bladensburg Road NE, now a ragtag strip lined with auto repair shops and fast-food joints, is ripe for revitalization as a center of quality retail stores and residential buildings, according to a draft planning study for a broad swath of Northeast.

City planners and an economic consultant are recommending that the area be redeveloped for a 50,000-square-foot outlet such as a Target or a Marshalls, and that the car repair shops be combined into an auto mall.

The study urges that the D.C. Farmers Market, a 36-year old warehouse on Fifth Street NE, be renovated to include restaurants and a culinary institute. Above, Marilyn Saks-McMillion and her husband, Charles McMillion, buy chives from vendor Cinda Sebastian. (Hans Ericsson For The Washington Post)

"We need something there that the community deserves, rather than a dump of auto-related places," said Deborah Crain, a city planning coordinator for Ward 5. The ward includes the Northeast neighborhoods of Trinidad, Ivy City, Carver Terrace and Langston Dwellings and the Arboretum.

The $100,000 study by the District's Office of Planning includes recommendations to build recreation centers and to preserve affordable housing in areas such as Trinidad, where property assessments rose 31 percent in the last year, the fastest rate in the city.

Randall Gross, an economic and community development consultant who helped write the study, said owners of small rental properties need to form cooperatives to reduce costs and to stave off pressure to sell to speculators and developers, a fear that has grown with the new assessments.

He said that was necessary because the real estate frenzy that is moving east across the city has already begun to encroach on these neighborhoods, long home to poor and moderate-income residents.

"We're trying to come up with a way to respond," he said. "There's no way to stop people from selling their houses." Devising such a plan, he said, is "better than sitting on your hands and saying there's nothing we can do."

The study, titled "Northeast Gateway: Many Neighborhoods, One Community," focused on the southeastern edge of Ward 5, a residential and industrial area that is home to nearly 15,000 residents. The area's median income, according to the 2000 Census, is $27,871, far below the District's median of $44,180.

The study recommends that the D.C. Farmers Market, a 36-year old warehouse on Fifth Street NE, be redeveloped to make it more attractive.

The neighboring wholesale food and retail markets should be renovated to include restaurants and a culinary institute to draw more daytime foot traffic to boost the businesses that are part of the area.

"We're not recommending that this become a hoity-toity market," Gross said. "Our recommendation is that it become a destination, that we shore up the market for the vendors. What has happened is that the population base in the neighborhood has shrunk, their market has shrunk, and there's not a way to bring people inside."

District officials presented the study at a meeting of about 80 community residents last Saturday at the National Arboretum. Several neighborhood leaders said that their constituents also need recreation centers.

Mark Philips, who lives at Carver Terrace, a neighborhood of 4,000 residents, said children in the area need a place to play after school. "For us, the most important thing is trying to get a rec center," he said. "There's nothing right now."

His sentiment was echoed by Dorthia Austin, president of the Ivy City Patriots, a community group that serves that neighborhood's 6,000 residents. She cited a recreation center as a top priority.

Currently, she said, children in the area play at a small park that has a single jungle gym.

"It's not enough," she said. "We need a place for kids to play basketball. We need a place for kids to put on a show. Too many kids are getting lost."

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