With the help of two major area corporations, an abandoned lot with an empty warehouse near North Capitol Street is becoming a center for cultural and technical education for residents if inner-city Washington.
The proposed Crispus Attucks park of the Arts as the brainchild of NUV-1, Inc., a neighborhood group of residents of North Capitol, U and V Steets, and 1st Street NW.
Attending the July 27 groundbreaking were representatives from the Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Company, which donated the land and the abandoned building, and from the George Hyman Construction Company, which is donating thw work that will convert the site into a place to play basketball and tennis as well as to learn.
"We want to expose the kids in this neighborhood to cultural experiences they wouldn't otherwise have," says Richard L. Sowell, Jr., chairman of NUV-1.
Sowell said the organizers hope to conduct classes in ballet, music, and other cultural arts, as well as as training in technical skills if the center is completed by next as planned.
Even though no actual construction has begun, the project is closer to be coming a reality than before. Over a year ago, the property was an eyesore of tall weeds and debris separating U and V Streets. The Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co. had abandoned the area in 1974 and had been unable to sell it because of its limited access and noncommercial zoning status.
Sowell, on behalf of the v Street Block Club, suggested in a letter to the company that it donate the property so that the club could develop it into a community center.
Phone company representatives said they liked the idea, but did not want the responsibility of donating the land to the club since other community organizations may have wanted it.
They said the phone company would rather donate the property to the District government, which could, in turn, give the land to the club.
In July of last year Delano Lewis, assistant vice president of C&-P sent a letter to the District's general services department the warehouse and land to the city if the city would not collect the real estate taxes of $1,914.
In September Sam Starobin, director pf the department, sent Lewis a letter declinig the offer saying the Recreation Department did not have the resources to maintain the land.
By November members of the V Street, U Street and 1st Street clubs had filed articles of incorporation to become NUV-1, and again asked the phone company for use of the lot.
Lewis told club members that the company would give them the property of they could obtain enough money to repair the warehouse and get the center started.
CHarles A. Merica a vice-president of the George Hyman Construction Co., read a Washington Post article describing NUV-1's efforts to acquire the land and informed company president A. James Clark.
Clark decided to sponsor the project, and in December Merica contacted Sowell with an effort to do the actual construction and provide an operating budget of $75,000 a year for the first three years of operation, according to Sowell.
"We want to persuade more businesses to contribute to that operating budget because we want to get everyone involved," Merica said.
"It's been a lot of work," Sowell, said, "but if we can get a ballerina or a Picasso from this neighborhood then it will all be worth it."