Charter Bus Parking Lot Raises Ire in Ivy City

District abandons plans for Ivy City revitalization

Alexander Crummell School, closed for more than 30 years

Angry Ivy City residents expressed opposition to the construction of a charter bus parking lot at historic Crummell School at a pair of meetings on July 16 and September 13. “We need something more than buses in this community,” said Rev. William Banks, Pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Ivy City.

Dedrica Clyburn, secretary of the Ivy City Civic Association, gave an impassioned speech, pointing to the District’s willingness to build a youth detention center nearby, but not anything to serve the community. “They don’t want to give us anything.” she said. “They gave us a detention center for our children and not a playground, not a recreation center, not workforce, not GED programs for kids who have dropped out of school….We just really deserve more and we are looking for more.”

The District had promised to rehabilitate Crummell School as part of an effort to revitalize Ivy City, a Ward 5 neighborhood suffering from high unemployment. Recently, the District seemed to be making good on its promise, spending $9.5 million to build affordable housing in Ivy City as part of a revitalization program called the “Ivy City and Trinidad Neighborhood Stabilization Initiative.”

However, the District abruptly walked away from the Initiative this year. Instead of creating job programs and parks for Ivy City residents, the District announced the creation of acres of new parking lots for commercial and industrial vehicles.

On January 25, 2012, Mayor Vincent Gray issued an executive order authorizing the lease of Crummell School grounds to the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation for use as a charter bus parking lot.

In March, the District paid $16 million to buy 6 acres of land in Ivy City to use as a parking lot for heavy vehicles operated by the Department of Public Works. See article DPW Relocates Heavy Vehicles to Ward 5.

George Rothman, president and CEO of Manna Inc., one of four non-profit developers building affordable housing in Ivy City, called the District’s about-face “a breach of public trust.”

Ivy City’s change of fortune was swift. As recently as last year, representatives of the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development were holding meetings in Ivy City to describe a plan for making lasting improvements to the neighborhood.

At the time, the District’s track record in Ivy City was improving: the District was successfully implementing a $9.5 million dollar program to buy 37 parcels of land and turn them into 58 units of affordable housing. The land had been awarded to four non-profit developers in 2006 and construction of affordable housing units was well underway.

According to DHCD materials from a June 11, 2011 community presentation, the District appeared to be embarking on the next phase of the Ivy City and Trinidad Neighborhood Stabilization Initiative. DHCD’s goals were to increase commercial development and employment opportunities, and to create a “comprehensive vision for community redevelopment.”

DHCD laid out detailed recommendations for establishing better transit connections, creating more green space, improving access to job training programs, and recruiting businesses to locate in Ivy City. Importantly, “there were to be no more industrial uses on city-owned property,” recalled Mr. Rothman.

DHCD concluded in one of its reports that “Truck traffic should be prohibited from the residential streets in the neighborhood, especially Gallaudet Street.” Gallaudet Street is the location of the new charter bus parking lot.

At the June 2011 meeting, DHCD showed residents “reimaged” photographs of a future Ivy City filled with trees, with power lines buried, streetlights added, brick sidewalks installed and a fully renovated Crummell School as a centerpiece.

Crummell School featured prominently in DHCD’s plans. The agency told residents that “DHCD, with other District agencies, is actively working to revitalize the Crummell School and place it into productive use.” The agency called it a “requirement” that part of the grounds of Crummell School be converted into green space.

The Office of Planning also got involved, issuing a report at the end of 2011 calling it a “priority” to renovate Crummell School into a community center. OP said implementation was “in process.” In all, almost two dozen reports were issued in 2011 on how to improve almost every aspect of life in Ivy City.

One year later, the four non-profit developers are holding up their end of the bargain, continuing to build affordable housing in Ivy City. Two dozen new families have moved into the neighborhood.

The rest of the Ivy City Initiative has been abandoned. To residents’ dismay, the District has gone back to using Ivy City as a convenient place to locate undesirable industrial activities. “I have a real problem with how they continue to dump in this community,” said Rev. Banks, adding “We know that these places have to go somewhere, but they don’t all have to go here.”

Crummell School now sits in a sea of newly poured concrete as parking lot construction gets underway.

“That wasn’t on the radar when we started the redevelopment,” said Elin Zurbrigg about the charter bus parking lot at Crummell School. Ms. Zurbrigg is deputy director of Mi Casa, one of the four non-profit developers building affordable housing in Ivy City.

“The community has a vision for Crummell School that we support,” said Ms. Zurbrigg. “The movement to demand something other than industrial uses is important for Ivy City—to demand that Crummell School gets redeveloped into a community center, a center for employment, some type of multi-use facility that the community badly needs,” she said.

The National Community Reinvestment Coalition was hired by DHCD to help with the Ivy City Initiative. Reached by phone, NCRC spokesman Jesse Van Tol said work on the Initiative was over. “It was one of those projects that had limited funding that we hoped would be renewed but was not,” he said, adding, “our part of the work concluded about a year ago now.”

On July 26, three Ward 5 residents filed suit against the District, claiming that Advisory Neighborhood Commission 5B was not given legally required notice of the decision to locate bus parking at Crummell School. The lawsuit also alleged that the District failed to study the effect of charter bus exhaust on residents’ health. A hearing on the case is scheduled for October 29.

ANC 5B held a meeting to consider the charter bus parking lot on September 13. No vote was taken because there was no quorum.

According to Victor Hoskins, Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, construction of the charter bus parking lot will be completed by mid-November.

Union Station Redevelopment Corporation announced plans for an off-site parking lot for charter buses on August 1, 2011. Space previously allocated to charter buses at Union Station was transferred to intercity bus services like Bolt Bus and Megabus last year.

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