Preserve Community Space @ 4th & M SW
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Southwest is, and has been, a very special place to a community of people for a variety of reasons, and for a number of years. For starters, this includes its diversity: economically, racially, and architecturally; its proximity to the city and downtown, yet its quiet, small-town feel; its open, green spaces, and tree canopies. These particular characteristics, we believe, are vulnerable to money-driven development that has already taken place in other parts of the District and is the catalyst for this petition. This petition calls for the developers to design a space that utilizes how the community already uses the space.
Development can bring benefits to a community by providing affordable housing, new places to socialize, and means to support local businesses. However, much of the development witnessed throughout the city has been fueled by profit, rather than community preservation or improvement.
The plans consists of two buildings on the northwest and northeast sides of the intersection at 4th & M Street SW. The two buildings will add an additional 605 residential units to the area, with 41,870 square-feet of ground floor retail, and 38,110 square-feet of commercial space on the second floor. A minimum of 8% of the gross floor area will be dedicated to households earning up to 60% of Area Median Income, and five of the affordable units will be 3-bedroom apartments.
There are 3 major concerns about the plan: loss of an important community space; increased density for an already suffering infrastructure; adding to an already unaffordable and homogenous housing market.
1) Market SW and the SW Community Farmers Market have grown to become important community spaces for the quadrant. It is great to be outside communally with neighbors on Friday nights, meeting new neighbors, chatting with the vendors, and sitting outside enjoying food and drinks. Then, come Saturday morning, the lot is packed at the Farmer’s Market (and parking has been added!). The area is being used and has a lot of traction.
One asset of the space that cannot be overlooked is its accessibility to people of all incomes and its open invitation to people. It is great that neighbors can socialize or hang out in the space without spending money for planned or unplanned events. This environment is far more inviting and fitting with SW's character than people always having to pay to enjoy an outdoor patio area.
2) SW has not shown a great capacity for handling any additional car traffic. Our main thoroughfare, M St, already gets completely grid-locked when there are baseball games. This is before the Wharf fully opens with its 6,500-person capacity music venue, or the 1,000 other apartment/condo units being built around the corner. It begs the question, did the developers really think about SW’s current infrastructure when planning these buildings, or were they in pursuit of increasing their bottom line?
3) A high cost of living is the antithesis to maintaining or promoting a diverse neighborhood. Additionally, only offering studio, 1-bedroom, or 2-bedroom options doesn’t encourage families, or people, to stay in the city long term. Offering 8% of the total units at 60% of the median area income is a pitiful attempt at providing affordable housing. It is well known that affordable housing in the District is nearly nonexistent. In order to live comfortably in DC, an individual must earn $103k/year, although the individual median income is $73k. The math doesn't add up, and neither does the potential for creating long-standing, invested, communities.
How will we continue to build a SW community when our neighbors are pushed out because they can no longer afford to raise a family here? For example, some of our SW friends, who are educated, middle-class, send their children to Amidon-Bowen, are engaged with the community, will, or already have, move out of the community because of how unaffordable it is.
How will we continue to build a SW community when our neighbors no longer have a space to be together communally? Ultimately, it comes down to what kind of community do we want. Do we want a transient community that does not think of SW as home? Or, do we want a SW that can be together communally, know thy neighbor, and keep that “small-town feel”? If the latter, then we argue that more high-rise luxury apartments is not the prudent path forward.
We petition for the developers to use the land in a manner similar to how the community already uses it -- as an outdoor gathering space for neighbors.
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