Cleanup Team to Be Revived

The cleanup project will focus on the U Street corridor, above, and Shaw. Organizers are still planning the scope and structure of the program.
The cleanup project will focus on the U Street corridor, above, and Shaw. Organizers are still planning the scope and structure of the program. (By Michael Williamson -- The Washington Post)
By Theola S. Labbe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 13, 2006

A $350,000 project approved by the D.C. Council last week will hire and train homeless and low-income District residents to clean the U Street corridor and Shaw neighborhoods in Northwest Washington.

The Green Team, a program that started in 2003 but ended in 2004 after funding ran out, will work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, including weekends, cleaning up trash, pulling weeds from tree boxes and painting over graffiti. Workers also will be trained in local history so they can act as ambassadors to visitors and residents wanting more information about the neighborhood.

The money is for one-time use during this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. The groups involved in planning the project are the Columbia Heights/Shaw Family Support Collaborative; the Coalition for the Homeless, which manages 13 homeless programs in the District; Shaw Main Streets Inc.; and the MidCity Business Association. In the coming weeks, the planners will decide the structure and scope of the program, including how many workers to hire.

"This means jobs for the homeless and a cleaner neighborhood," said Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who requested the funds from the council. The Green Team was part of a council resolution approving $2.7 million in projects for Ward 1.

Graham said the project is similar to a business improvement district but without the extra taxes on businesses for additional services. Graham said the project highlights the need for a business improvement district in the U Street corridor and Shaw areas; districts exist in places such as downtown, Capitol Hill, Mount Vernon Square and, most recently, Adams Morgan. Under a business improvement district (BID), commercial businesses create a nonprofit organization funded by imposing a self-tax to pay for extra services and programs to promote the designated business area.

Scott Pomeroy, development officer of the MidCity Business Association, said the more than 100 members had identified neighborhood cleanliness as a top priority. They do not, however, want to follow the traditional improvement district model, because of the additional tax.

Pomeroy said there are more than 400 businesses in the U Street area, including trendy boutiques and ethnic restaurants, wholly different from the larger commercial businesses in other areas in the city that have BIDs. "We're trying be creative with this program so everyone can benefit without putting a new burden on businesses," he said.

The U Street corridor, once known as Black Broadway because it drew such performers as Duke Ellington and Pearl Bailey, has taken decades to recover from the 1968 riots following the death of Martin Luther King Jr. It now attracts thousands of shoppers and visitors and new residents buying condominiums priced at more than $300,000.

The Green Team will also work in the Shaw Main Streets area, which is defined as Seventh to Ninth streets between K Street and Florida Avenue NW. In addition to the blocks of rowhouses, eateries and boutiques, there are several places there of historical importance, including the Howard Theatre and the home of black historian and scholar Carter G. Woodson.

Alexander Padro, executive director of Shaw Main Streets Inc., said residents and business owners are concerned about trash on the streets and illegal dumping, but he added: "There's a limit to what the Department of Public Works can do."

Padro also theorized the Green Team will help neighborhood safety: "If you have a block that is clean and well lit and people are walking up and down, that's going to make the neighborhood a lot safer," he said.

The program is committed to hiring local residents. "We are looking for the unemployed and underemployed and homeless," Padro said, "so we can walk the talk and help to lift up neighborhood residents."

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