RECLAIMING A CRIME INFESTED NEIGHBORHOOD
For decades the entire 700 block of Brandywine Street, SE, Washington, DC was so overrun with crime and drug activity that it made the list of worst crime ‘hotspots’ in the city- as determined by the DC Chief of Police. Residents were confined to their apartments, car traffic on the block was often jammed due to the high-volume open air drug market sales activity. Police officers unofficially refused to respond to calls on this notorious block.
Community-Vision Consultants, a social-enterprise housing development company founded by Stephen Shaff, began purchasing and assembling the block that consisted of over seventeen 13 – unit ‘slum’ apartments and began the community organizing necessary to literally take back the neighborhood.
C-VC and Shaff organized residents, property owners, community based organizations, local schools and day care centers, faith leaders, key government agencies and the Metro Police to leverage collective action. Within months the drug-kings control began to crumble, criminal residents moved and the blighted-building landlords began selling their buildings to C-VC and other developers. Despite resistance and skepticism from many participating stakeholders, C-VC was able to organize, develop and transform an entire city block from one that was ‘owned’ by drug and criminal kingpins to one literally owned by its residents.
The Miracle on Brandywine Street was accomplished by a community-development paradigm that combined housing development, community organizing, political will and strategic investment and philanthropy to create a win-win for all stakeholders (aside from the drug and criminal element).
An entire block of Slumlord-caliber rental housing was rebuilt
Over 200 homeowner opportunities were created
A crime infested neighborhood is now stable and free of an open-air drug market
This project attracted other successful redevelopment activity in adjacent blocks
Political empowerment increased
Increased Tax Base
Decreased Social Costs
A Successful Community Redevelopment and Organizing Program was tested and can be replicated
Similar efforts in other DC Area resulted in transformative change. This successful project of Community-Vision Partners' predecessor company reaffirms C-VP's position that entire under-served communities can be rebuilt on a large scale while providing all stakeholders reasonable financial and social returns.