Re: On talking with Community Development Organizations
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Wed, 25 Mar 2015 08:36:26 -0700 (PDT)
Like Eastern Village, Takoma Village was built on a blighted block. Although 
the neighborhood was stable, there was lot of mugging and rumored drug dealing. 
Street fights and some shootings. We were the first new building anyone can 
remember in decades. 

The lot was a former central dry cleaning plant for the areas small dry 
cleaners and had been then been used as a used car lot. The complex was built 
but it took us a few years to get one corner plot adjacent to us cleaned up. It 
had been a hangout for dealers and squatters. Beer cans and weeds. It is on a 
main arterial so probably thousands of people saw it everyday.

First we planted grass. Then a year or two later we got a nice metal fence (not 
chicken wire). The fence allowed us to do plantings (plants and trees have been 
stolen from other locations on our property and in the neighborhood. A DC 
foundation, Casey Trees, is designed to contribute trees to increase the tree 
canopy in DC. Usually they contribute only to non-profits but one year offered 
trees to any property. We signed up for 20, I think, and got about 18. Not all 
were available the weekend they were planted by us and their volunteers.

That corner lot is now beautiful thanks to our chief gardener and workday 
crews, and a nice welcome to the neighborhood.

Individual members have been very active in the neighborhood activities. I 
moderate a neighborhood email list of 2500+ residents and government 
representatives. We do everything --  discuss race relations, political 
candidates. Recommend chimney sweeps, housecleaners, painters, nannies, 
doctors. Why have the police helicopters have been circling in the middle of 
the night for half an hour?  What were the gun shots? Is your power out or is 
it just us? Etc.

The list is a communications center. Government representatives of the various 
government officials read the list and respond to complaints about trash not 
picked up, recycling not recycled, etc. It's very useful and gets a response. 
One person complaining is very different than one person complaining to 2,500.

Our members are active in the neighborhood association and meetings on crime, 
dangerous corner redesign, etc., are held here. The early morning walkers who 
use the high school track before school opens, hold a pot luck once a year.

My assessment is that we have greatly added to the neighborhood, partly as 
direct involvement but also as an example, an inspiration on different ways of 
doing things, and encouragement for developers to do more here. And encouraged 
the business owners association to be more active.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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