Ivy City Continues to Call for Community Center
Empower DC, Friends of Crummell School and Ward 5 residents rallied across the street from Alexander Crummell School on September 19. The school remains boarded up and closed to the public. After years of unanswered calls for a community center and fighting off the school lot’s conversion into a bus depot, residents worry what the city’s next plan for the Crummell land will be.
The rally was held just before the second “Our RFP” meeting to source community input for how the historic school building and adjacent parking lot will be redeveloped. It was said at the previous meeting that after today, the District would begin soliciting requests for proposal from developers. Ralliers feared the District will decide not all the land will be for public use.
“Our fear is that the mayor’s office is going to propose dividing up this site and offering some of it for private use or to sell off to a developer and they’re going to say to us: ‘well, we have to do this in order to fund the rest of the renovation,’” said Parisa Norouzi of Empower D.C and Friends of Crummell School.
Trinidad neighborhood resident Korea Strowder was another member of the crowd.
“My daughter went to Crummell School. She wasn’t allowed to go to Wheatley School in D.C. because of segregation. I used to walk her ten blocks to Crummell,” she said.
Strowder was the secretary and eventually the acting president of the Crummell School PTA. She and her husband held a fair on Crummell School grounds and raised enough money to buy a large TV for the school. Strowder would like the space to be full public use and include an education center.
“This community deserves tax dollars to be invested in it in a public facility like any other community around the District,” Norouzi said. “We have money for the Wizards to have a practice facility yet we have children in this neighborhood who are still putting crates up against telephone poles to play basketball.”
The rally concluded with Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) representative Peta-Gay Lewis making a statement. Lewis was on her way into the meeting when the group asked her to speak.
“We should let our current mayor have the opportunity to make right what was wrong. I have not said she has done anything, because she has not done anything yet. However, we can’t say she won’t do anything,” Lewis said to the crowd.
The meeting began with a summary of what the community requested to see at the site at the July 29 Our RFP meeting. Public use suggestions had included a recreation center, workforce development center, public library, art center, or health and wellness center. Public space and amenities suggestions had included a playground, a splash park, multi-generational outdoor space, green space, community gardens, and benches. Development suggestions had included neighborhood-serving retail such as a pharmacy, day care, dry cleaner, grocery store, department store, or hardware stores. A museum or monument in Alexander Crummell’s honor was also suggested.
After the review, attendants were given three colored stickers for an interactive exercise. Each sticker corresponded with one of three boards placed at the front of the room. Attendants were asked to place a sticker on each board to indicate their top choice for the space. Yellow stickers corresponded with the public use board, blue stickers with the public space and amenities board, and green with the development use board. Participants could only chose one element on each board to place their sticker next to.
This request garnered some confusion. Belinda Taylor and Brock Manville both voiced that they did not want to see the site house any development use. Officials with the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) and participants decided stickers could be placed in the white sections of any board to show an abstaining vote.
By the end of the exercise, 17 stickers were placed on the white section of the development use board.
A recreation center was the participants’ top public use choice. Active uses dominated the votes in the public space amenities board.
No plans have been made for the development of the site. The next steps for the Our RFP Process are analyzing the data collected at the meetings, stabilizing Crummell School, and consulting with the development community to determine viability.
No further meetings are scheduled regarding the project. Deputy Mayor Brian Kenner encouraged the community to express any further thoughts to Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie and the ANC representatives.
“Right now we are going through the Our RFP process, getting feedback and continuing to look at a variety of uses for the land and the building. We’re still in the listening stage,” said Joaquin McPeek, Director of Communications at DMPED.
Belinda Taylor has lived a few blocks from Crummell for two years. She is chair of Friends of Crummell School and a member of Empower DC. Taylor wants full public use of the site.
“It’s very, very hot in Ivy City,” she said. “We have very few trees. It’s one of the hottest places in terms of the environment, air quality, that’s significant. I tweeted to the mayor when it was over 100 degrees and she was telling people to go to the spray parks and go to the pools. My tweet to her was ‘Where do the kids in Ivy City go?’ We have nothing.”