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An uptown vision for a ’50s neighborhood
Oct 19, 2009; Washington Post | Complexities abound when a private foundation founded by a real estate developer wants to redevelop a residential neighborhood. In Washington D.C.’s Fort Totten neighborhood, the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation owns a 17-acre site occupied by low- and moderate-income families. The foundation announced big plans for the site, called Art Place and Shops at Fort Totten, to include housing, a sidewalk café, children’s museum, senior center, and cultural and arts space. To make room for the development, eventually to accommodate 929 units, 14 occupied residential apartment buildings would be demolished. Obviously, the foundation will benefit from the income to be generated by this $425 million project, but what about the existing residents? The plan calls for them to be moved into “transitional housing,” apparently transitional until they’re placed in permanent housing in two years. For those of us who lived through the “urban removal” days of inner city redevelopment, we know the near impossibility of returning displaced people to their original neighborhoods and the financial and physical consequences of displacement, particularly for the elderly. It seems like the developer’s vision is trumping the existence of a decent neighborhood, with the added benefit of new revenues reaching the foundation’s offers. To us, something is wrong with this picture.—Rick Cohen

D.C. officials to scrutinize spending by AIDS groups
Oct 20, 2009; Washington Post | D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles have announced an investigation into nonprofit groups that might have misspent government money meant to care for the sick. The Post found that in one case the city awarded more than $1 million to an AIDS housing program that allowed its ailing boarders to sometimes live without electricity, gas or food. More than $500,000 was awarded to another housing program whose executive director had convictions for theft, drugs and forgery. It gets worse. This reckless lack of oversight happened in a city with the highest rate of AIDS cases in the nation. More than 15,000 people have HIV or AIDS in the District, 3 percent of the population older than 12. Read the Post’s investigative series that spurred the Mayor to act.—Aaron Lester

Verdict stymies Phila. housing nonprofit
Oct 17, 2009; Philadelphia Inquirer | A police officer chases a suspect into a derelict row house owned by South Philadelphia Area Revitalization Corp. (SPARC), a community development organization, sustains injuries when a rotten staircase collapses, and sues. Four years later—this past July—the officer wins her case and is awarded $4 million in restitution, which will likely bankrupt SPARC and halt any further neighborhood restoration work. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the case—and both sides appear to be meritorious—the end result is a tragedy for the area’s residents.—Timothy Lyster


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