ARCH Development Corporation Prepares for 2013

Last year ARCH Development Corporation established the East of the River Distinguished Artist Award and the LUMEN8Anacostia festival, and opened HIVE 2.0 (pictured), a small-business incubator. Photo: Charnice Milton

The historic Anacostia area has been experiencing rejuvenation, and the rest of the city is beginning to take notice. Voters at Curbed DC in December named the area Neighborhood of the Year, and Urban Turf said it had the “most improved reputation.” Although a healthy real estate market and recent redevelopment projects are two major reasons for the recognition, efforts by organizations like ARCH Development Corporation (ADC) have helped turn Anacostia into an up-and-coming neighborhood. At their first community meeting of the year ADC invited residents to see and evaluate what they have planned for 2013.

How It All Began

President and CEO Duane Gautier had ties to Anacostia before ADC began; he lived in the neighborhood in 1961 while completing a summer internship. However, when he returned in 1980 to work at PEPCO, the area had changed from a middle-class neighborhood to one of the city's poorest. Gautier originally founded ADC as a job training center, but the focus in recent years has changed to economic regeneration through the arts, culture, and business development. The nonprofit organization still operates with a small staff, but their influence is felt across the Anacostia area. “Our role isn't to be the end-all, be-all of what's going on in Anacostia,” Gautier said at the January community meeting. “We're here to act as a catalyst.”

Anacostia's Art Scene

Thanks to ADC's efforts Anacostia has been recognized as an up-and-coming arts district. In addition to facilitating the relocation of the Anacostia Playhouse, ADC also brought four art galleries to the area. “For a lot of visitors, this is their gateway to Anacostia,” said Phil Hutinet, ADC's COO and Honfleur Gallery's managing director. “People are surprised and impressed that we show international artists like Fredrick Nauyczyciel, and the architecture is in line with that of other well-known galleries.”

In addition, all the galleries feature artists living east of the Anacostia River. Over the past six years local visitors have enjoyed Honfleur's East of the River exhibit. Also, one of the biggest stories to come from Anacostia this year involved the first annual East of the River Distinguished Artist Award. Funded by the Gautier family, the $5,000 cash prize goes to celebrate an area artist's achievements and impact on city culture. BK ADAMS•I AM ART received the honor, while donating his cash prize to a Kenyan maternity hospital his church supports. This year the galleries will feature exhibits including a solo show by Adams and an exploration of DC-based jazz across three media, in addition to bestowing its second East of the River Distinguished Artist Award.

A Place for “Busy Bees”

Although ADC has met success in reviving the community with culture and the arts, they are also dedicated to fostering small businesses. In 2010 they opened HIVE (Home of Innovators, Visionaries, and Entrepreneurs) on Martin Luther King, Jr., Avenue. Located in an Enterprise and HUBZone, HIVE provides affordable office space and services for small businesses, freelancers, and nonprofits. “We reached capacity at the HIVE quickly and were fielding requests almost daily for more office space,” said Nikki Peele, who serves as managing director. “We also realized that for businesses who were growing out of the first HIVE they need a space to go if they were going to stay in Anacostia.” As a result, HIVE 2.0 opened last November around the corner on Good Hope Road.

According to Peele, HIVEs collectively have more than 25 members, representing both nonprofit and for-profit organizations, and are looking for more. “Small business owners and entrepreneurs in need of affordable, flexible, and prime office space should contact us today for a tour,” she said. “Our small business spaces are about community and collaboration so we are always on the lookout for ‘busy bees.’”

Improving Storefronts

Residents have become used to seeing worn-out storefronts with bars on the windows. However, ADC's storefront improvement project is trying to change this. Financed by a grant from DC Housing and Community Development, the storefront improvement project has a twofold purpose. “First, this will give a better impression for residents,” said David Garber, the director for the initiative. “Second, this will help boost business. When the outside improves, more people will feel comfortable shopping there.”

They will partner with Bethesda-based development company Streetsense and preservation firm DC Historic Design to complete up to 25 projects this year along Good Hope Road and Martin Luther King, Jr., Avenue. “Some changes will require major construction,” Garber said. “But, some could be as simple as a coat of paint or new signage.” ADC will also pay for up to 80 percent (or $5000) of each project.

An Illuminating Event

ARCH partnered with the DC Office of Planning and ArtPlace last summer to launch LUMEN8Anacostia, a neighborhood festival featuring art, music, and light. Attendees visited creative projects housed in under-used storefronts and property. At night the Anacostia corridor was splashed with colorful lights. “The goal of LUMEN8Anacostia is to celebrate Anacostia and to showcase the rich artistic talent that exists east of the River,” said Hutinet. “If attendance and press reaction are considered measures of achievement then the 5,000 attendees and media accolades certainly indicate that LUMEN8 was a success.”

This year planning for LUMEN8 could be challenging; ADC is working with a smaller budget and fewer storefronts are available due to development. ADC is planning to move the festivities outside, into one central area. They also plan on having more art-related children's activities during the day. “The smaller budget and lack of project space are challenges that are easily met,” Hutinet stated. “We will still provide high-quality arts programming in a festival format that is accessible to the general public.” The festivities begin on June 22.

Retail Coming Soon

Gautier noted that there is still more work to do. “I think that it's important to bring in restaurant and retail to Anacostia,” he said. ADC is exploring bids to bring not only more shopping choices but also art venues. Many of Anacostia's present retail and dining options participate in the Eat Shop Live Anacostia (ESLA) initiative, a neighborhood marketing and empowerment campaign highlighting the best in the area. To spot participating establishments just look for the green flags.

Getting the Word Out

Although ADC and its programs helped Anacostia improve its image, it's up to residents to continue that momentum. “There are a lot of great things in Anacostia, and more of the District's residents should take an opportunity to discover them first-hand and not rely on negative (often overly broad) news reports to shape the perception of this neighborhood,” said Peele, who also acts as ADC's director of marketing and business development. She suggested that residents support events and businesses in Anacostia and use social media to tell others their favorite things about the area. “The revitalization of Anacostia is tied directly to the efforts of its residents, business and property owners,” Peele stated. “It is they who make Anacostia great and a neighborhood to watch.”

 

To learn more about ADC and its initiatives visit archdevelopment.org/.