Local residents from across the city gathered last weekfor the first of four forums to help people learn more about the D.C. Comprehensive Plan, a guide to the District's overall development and redevelopment for the next 20 years.
Sponsored by the D.C. Office of Planning and held at Kelly Miller Middle School in Northeast, the event last Wednesday provided an overview of numerous components of the plan, as well as the current thinking about proposed new developments and restructuring.
Charles C. Graves III, chief spokesman for the plan and the deputy director of long range planning, said the forums were intended to give D.C. residents a voice in future developments in the city. Subsequent community sessions were held last Thursday at Thurgood Marshall Center in Northwest, this Tuesday at Eastern High School in Northeast and yesterday at Wilson High School in Northwest.
"We want to see people come out and express their views, give us their opinions and confirm the thoughts that have come out of previous meetings," Gravs said. "We're trying to make this accessible to everyone in the District."
Those who attended the open house-style forum were encouraged to visit as many information booths as possible. Each provided information about a different aspect of the D.C. Comprehensive Plan, including arts and culture, education, urban design, economic development and transportation. Residents filled out questionnaires and were given opportunities to write down any questions or concerns they had about the proposals.
"I'm relatively new to the city," said Jimmy Floyd, a Ward 8 resident who works in real estate and moved to the District about two years ago. "I thought by coming here I'd be able to get an overview of what's going on."
Floyd would like to see more economic development in his neighborhood.
"Safety is always an issue," he said, "but I'm just as concerned with having more places to shop and interact where I live without having to go outside of the city or downtown."
Juanita Montague, who has lived in the District since 1939, said she tries to attend as many events involving her community as possible and saw the forum as a chance to voice her worries about possible projects that might affect her Northeast neighborhood and its many senior citizens.
"Most of us are concerned about the building [Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency] is trying to build near us to hold recovering drug addicts," she said.
Montague also complained about drivers from Maryland and Virginia who take the parking spaces in her neighborhood.
"When residents leave and return, their spaces are usually gone," she said.
This and other issues are "important to me," Montague said. "But I wish the younger people would come out more. If we could get more of the younger generation to come out, maybe we could stabilize the community."
Aurelia Clifford said the planning forums were important enough that she persuaded her good friend, Daniel Mosley, to attend also.
"I'm just concerned with the planning of the city and where it's headed over the next 20 years," Clifford said.
Mosley, who has lived in the District for 86 years, is worried that the District might be losing some of its cultural identity.
"We don't want to see gentrification take over the whole city," he said. "We need diversity in this city. We need to maintain that. Black people have added too much history to this city to just be thrown aside."