By Miranda Chien-Hale, SW DC Action

Thank you to the more than 300 neighbors, ~2% of the total SWDC population, who filled out Southwest Action’s Community Development survey either at Christ United Methodist Church (CUMC) or online via links shared on social media, or by following an article in the February Southwester from January – May of 2021. This survey aimed to capture what types of businesses or community organizations Southwest residents find to be most important for ensuring a healthy, inclusive, and thriving neighborhood. Residents identified businesses and organizations they value and/or would like to see in Southwest. 

What type of businesses would residents like to see in SW?  

  • Over 60% of all total respondents would like to see some type of hardware store.
  • Over 50% of all total respondents would like to see coffee shops.
  • Over 40% of all total respondents would like to see restaurants, bars, grocery stores, medical/doctor’s offices, floral/garden stores. 
  • Over 30% of all total respondents would like to see banks or credit unions. 


  • Long-term residents of 10+ years also identified hardware stores, coffee shops, banks or credit unions, and medical/doctor’s offices.
  • Residents that identified as Black/African American identified medical/doctor’s office as a top choice. This was closely followed by a dollar store, as well as interest in seeing a Barber’s shop/hair salon, banks/credit unions, grocery stores, convenience stores, and coffee shops.

The following question highlights the biggest difference among key demographics.

What community organizations do you feel are important to have in SW?  

  • Over 50% of all total respondents chose youth-serving organizations (scouts, summer day camps, clubs, etc).
  • Over 40% of all total respondents chose Senior Center and after-school programs, arts programming, health access/education. 
  • Over 30% of all total respondents would like to see job training. 


  • Long-term residents of 10+ years and residents that identified as Black/African American  identified Youth-serving organizations (scouts, summer day camps, clubs, etc.), Senior Center, and after-school programs and job training as top needs. 

Which businesses & community services in SW do you use the most? 

  • Over 50% of all total respondents use Safeway/grocery stores.
  • Over 30% of all total respondents use the CVS pharmacy.
  • Over 20% of all total respondents use the restaurants.


  • Long-term residents of 10+ years and residents that identified as Black/African American  identified these same businesses & community services as most used. 

Who responded? 

Nearly 60% of the respondents identified as White as compared to the 46% resident reported in the US Census. Nearly ⅓ of respondents have lived in Southwest for 0-5 years and nearly 44% reported being between 21-40 years old. 

According to the US Census’ 2019 American Community Survey, SWDC is composed of nearly 14,500 residents. The racial breakdown in 2019 was White – 46.2%, Black/African-American – 38.7%, and Hispanic/Latino, Asian, or other – 15%. Roughly one-third of the SWDC population is between 20-34, another one-third is 35-59, with the last third ranging from 0-19 of age or over 60. According to the DC Office of Planning, SW has experienced the following demographic shifts since 2000 – the white population nearly doubling while the black population dropped by nearly 30%. Given this extreme demographic shift, we seek to pay special attention to the needs and desires of our longer-term and Black residents. 

As we continue our push to bring community-controlled, permanently affordable housing and retail space to the neighborhood, via the expansion of the Douglass CLT, information like this can help us learn how best to address the needs of our neighborhood, especially for those who have been intentionally and historically underserved (to learn more about the community land trust proposal, visit

So, what did we learn?

How do these responses line up with how you feel? What can we take away from these responses? How can we inform and drive what we ask and push for from Southwest’s Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC), the DC Council, and DC government more broadly. Check out our website at to learn more. 

What does Community Development mean to the Community and Southwest DC Action? 

Community development means creating an equitable, vibrant, diverse, economically healthy community with services that meet the needs of the people who live here. Our vision for Southwest is a community in which all residents have access to all basic services and there is a thriving local business community. There would be many multi-use open and vibrant spaces that are inviting to all residents.


  • Businesses should meet the community needs and focus on locally owned and small businesses.

This means having: medical/doctor’s offices, affordable grocery and convenience options (e.g. dollar store, convenience store, hardware store). 

  • a neighborhood Barber’s shop/hair salon
  • access to a bank and/or credit union
  • a nearby and affordable neighborhood coffee shop and restaurant 

More broadly speaking… 

  • The community needs open spaces for socializing, recreation, small businesses (e.g. farmer’s markets), and entertainment. 
  • There must be recreational opportunities for all ages with inclusive accessibility options for all residents. 
  • Any new developments in Southwest should include investments in open spaces, including parks, recreational fields, and communal spaces. 
  • Community WiFi should be made available and free to low-income district residents.
  • Families need accessible and affordable childcare, after-school programs, and early childhood education. 
  • To be an equitable community, Southwest youth need employment opportunities and job training, and a Senior Center.
  • The Southwest Business Improvement District (SWBID) should include representatives from all parts of the community and be racially and socially diverse. 
  • Southwest should have more community gardens, edible landscaping, and community-maintained flower/green beds. 

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