BORN WITH SPECIAL promise 10 years ago, battling desperately ever since to stay alive, Harambee House -- the great black hope of a hotel that was to have been a showcase of successful minority enterprise -- is dead of multiple disorders. This is sad news, given the extraordinary efforts made to keep it going and the important relationship it enjoyed with the city-dwellers in general and black people in particular.
But let the mourning be brief -- because neither the case for black enterprise nor the existence of a minority-venture hotel at this site should suffer. Coming next is the Howard Inn, to be owned and operated by Howard University, with fresh promise to serve the interests that Harambee House had meant to satisfy. Plans call for the establishment of a hotel administration program within the university's school of business and public administration, which will oversee the management. The university will use the new inn extensively for academic functions and for convenient, campus-side accommodations.
This arrangement is bound to be an improvement. Harambee House died not becuse black enterprise wasn't ready or able to handle it, but because all the fondest dreams of government planners and private business never got past the reality of red tape and ink to match. A critical element in any success was largely ignored and still remains to be considered: the surrounding neighborhood. After a decade, there is still by day a grim view of a huge junkyard and dilapidated buildings, while at night it all becomes one dark, lifeless, empty section of avenue unconnected with the heart of downtown.
Only months ago, it looked as though the federal and city governments were about to do something about the neighborhood. There was to be money to clean up the mess across the street and to help create housing and commercial development there. But a look down the road toward the White House of today shows no visible sign of the federal aid envisioned for this project. Still, with some resourceful thinking on the part of local officials and a sympathetic new secretary of housing and urban development, Samual R. Pierce Jr., surely there are incentives that could once agaon turn Georgia Avenue into the attractive, prosperous model of private enterprise and local initiative that this community knows it could be.