MS. REBECCA SHEIR
Okay, we'll head south of Capitol Hill now, down to the neighborhood between Nationals Park and the Navy Yard. The area used to be home to the Arthur Capper Carrolsburg public housing project, a series of low-rise apartment buildings that were demolished in the mid-2000's. Today, the area is in the midst of a major redevelopment that will bring all sorts of new housing, shopping, and office space to the neighborhood. Jonna McKone took a look at how the demolition of public housing projects such as this one is changing the landscape of D.C. and the lives of the people who once lived in these communities.
MS. SHAKITA CAMPBELL
So as you can see, here in this closet, we have the washer and dryer. In here...
MS. JONNA MCKONE
It doesn't take that long after you meet 32-year-old Shakita Campbell to realize she's a big fan of her home.
I have been enjoying it since the day I moved in. I love my apartment. I love the fact that it's spacious.
Campbell says most people would never know her apartment is subsidized public housing, run by the D.C. Housing Authority.
If you don't tell a person, they will not know. It's wonderful to not be looked at, you know, in a different light.
Campbell lives in a development of multiple story rowhouses called Capitol Quarters, a few blocks from the Anacostia River and the waterfront Metro stop. The construction here replaces the Arthur Capper Carrollsburg Project, which once contained more than 700 subsidized apartments. The entire area, now branded Capitol Riverfront, has new offices, parks, hotels and lofts. Debra Frazier lives in one of those loft developments in a former industrial building.
MS. DEBRA FRAZIER
And I am one of the residents who was displaced from the property known as Arthur Capper Carrollsburg.
Frazier lived in Arthur Capper Carrollsburg, known as Cappers among some residents, for eight years. She says it was her home.
I came to appreciate that there were people who had been in that community 15, 20, 25 years. A lot of people had lived in their townhouse and lived in their apartment and been to that corner store. It was home for people and indeed had that feeling. People planted flowers and some people mowed their lawns and a lot of folks were house-proud. It was indeed, a community.
She says she always felt safe, but also acknowledges that Cappers had its problems, mostly with drug trafficking.
Virginia tags would come into our community beginning at 6:00 a.m. in the morning until about 8:00 and that was the heroine crew. And in the afternoon, there was the crack cocaine crew in the evening, that kind of thing.
Arthur Capper Carrollsburg, instead, become the most ambitious public housing redevelopment in the District, according to the D.C. Housing Authority. It's a part of Hope VI, which stands for Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere, a national initiative that began in the mid-'90s to address severely distressed public housing. The goal was to transform public housing, says Adrianne Todman, executive director of the D.C. Housing Authority. That meant $1.5 billion in investment in the city's housing stock.
MS. ADRIANNE TODMAN
Housing authorities began to work with the private sector in a way that had never occurred before. The idea of mixed finance was taking HUD's funds and blending them with private funds, equity, debt, tax credits and finding a way to actually create a package of financing to create housing that was for very low-income families all the way to market rate.
In D.C., there are seven Hope VI sites, mostly east of the Anacostia River. The new communities include different rental and buying options from market-rate homes for sale to deeply subsidized rental units.
What that has done now some 19, 20 years later is we have these vibrant communities throughout the country that are these mixed income communities where before there were just severely distressed public housing. They are healthier, they are very creative and in many ways, I peg the urban renaissance of the past, just over a decade, to the fact that a lot of these communities now exist.
But Debra Frazier says, these ambitious goals have meant uncertainty for residents.
When we were notified of the Hope VI, we were told it would take 3 or 4 years. That was 1999 and here we are in 2012 and they're just on Phase 2. Up to now, over our 400 original residents, about 120 have returned to the property right now.
Frazier was given a voucher to help pay for temporary housing. Shakita Campbell, who lives in that bright new apartment we heard about earlier, was scared of where she might be placed during the changes. She ended up living with relatives for 3 years until her new apartment was ready.
I don't think some people believed that they would really have the opportunity to come back or they may not have thought that they would be able to afford to come back.
Campbell followed up on the paperwork to ensure her return. But many others did not, so Debra Frazier has spent years advocating for the Housing Authority to keep track of residents displaced by the redevelopment and help them return if they want to do so.
Once you start a Hope VI development process and you make an opportunity for those residents to return, they will not because people develop a sense of community and placement where they are. There is a terrible sense of loss for what that community was, we raised our children there. You know, you ate, you drank, you broke up with boyfriends, you had friends, you had parties. And now that it is totally gone, there's no remnants of who we were and what we were as a community. It feels like mentally emotional genocide.
As for Campbell, she says she's embracing the changes going on around her, even if the new community is different from the old one.
I'm happy about the fact that I'm connected to houses that are like $600,000 and it makes you feel good about yourself that you're able to raise your child up in a very good neighborhood.
Debra Frazier likes the new place, too. Today, she lives just a few blocks away.
It's a very lovely community. It matches any of the upscale places in Georgetown and American University. And looks better than the previous Hope VIs.
Now, the project just needs to be completed. Capitol Quarters' market-rate townhomes are sold out, but the subsidized apartments are still under construction with no precise end date. Frazier is hoping that once they're done, former Arthur Capper Carrollsburg residents will come back to their old neighborhood and call this place their home once again. I'm Jonna McKone.
You can see photos of the former Arthur Capper Carrollsburg Housing Project and the new buildings going up in its place on our website, metroconnection.org.
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