photo caption: The park before the playground was installed.
photo caption: The new playground.
By now, many neighborhood residents have had an opportunity to visit and enjoy the new playground at the 3rd and I Street Park adjacent to the Southwest Library. This beautiful new toddler playground—complete with swings for older siblings and those with special needs—has reactivated and transformed this sorely neglected park. What some residents may not know is that this is one of several projects of the Near SE/SW Community Benefits Coordinating Council (CBCC). It may appear to be “just a playground” to some, but this project has spurred significant improvement of parks and recreation in our community and the preservation of the District’s public lands.
The improvements at the 3rd & I Street Park not only have influenced families to stay in our community and new families to move here, but it has served a pivotal role in keeping the Southwest Library in place as a stand-alone building. During the recent DC Parks and Recreation budget hearing on May 1, 2015, Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen acknowledged this community’s effort at the park and reinforced his commitment to keeping the Southwest Library in place.
“The playground is a really great space. I brought my own daughter there to play. It’s well-used and a central gathering spot for the neighborhood [that brings] all of the parts of Southwest together,” Allen stated. He highlighted the importance of the relationship between the Southwest Library and the park, stating, “I am all-in on the fight to make sure we have protected the Southwest Library funding” and noted “[we must] make sure we marry them (the library and playground) … that’s why we fought for the library so hard—to keep that green space and that open space.” Allen also stated that he fully expects there will be full funding for capital renovations to the Southwest Library with the FY ’17 budget.
In the five years since its inception, CBCC has become a trusted entity for city and local leaders and developers when community benefits are at stake. Working with new community partners and long-term residents, CBCC continues to grow its financial base to support ongoing and new, multi-year projects that will ensure the benefit of Southwest and near Southeast communities as development continues. One of only a handful of neighborhood 501(c)(3) nonprofits that serve the entire ANC6D with a paid, part-time staff person, CBCC accomplishes it’s mission through four main committees: Community Enrichment, Education, Housing, and Workforce Development. Current major projects include:
- Securing a formal community benefits agreement with enforcement provisions with DC United in December 2014 that includes jobs for ANC6D residents and young adults, summer camp scholarships, opportunities for improved health services to Southwest residents, use of the stadium by ANC6D nonprofits, vendor space during events, and other fundraising opportunities;
- Collaborating with Sasha Bruce Youthwork, SWNA, DPR, DGS, the Bernstein Companies, and Telesis Corporation to keep Randall Recreation center in operation on a shoestring budget while putting together a million-dollar plan to transform Randall into a 21st century community center to serve the entire ANC6D community;
- Outreach efforts with the principals and staff of Amidon-Bowen Elementary and Jefferson Academy Middle School to support the schools and engage broader enrollment of Southwest families; and
- Surveying and convening all of the residential complexes in ANC6D to assess current issues and future interests in order to better advocate before City Council and DC Housing Authority for policies and plans to preserve Southwest’s unique diversity.
CBCC recently received a $15,000 grant from the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation to help it continue its mission and to help maintain its paid, part-time coordinator. In addition, the Cafritz Foundation has offered CBCC a $5,000 match, challenging CBCC to independently raise $5,000 by April 2016.
It started with a playground, but CBCC’s work has expanded to significantly impact the ANC6D community for the future, while upholding the community’s core values of diversity and access by all residents. To learn more about the CBCC’s vision of advocating and coordinating benefits for a caring community, to join, or to donate in support, please visit www.seswcbcc.org.
By: Felicia Couts, CBCC Coordinator