Residents Look for Opportunity in Ward 8 Development

Weeks ago, residents of Ward 8 faced off with managers of the Maple View Flats development on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in Southeast for lack of neighborhood engagement in the project’s development.

For two consecutive days, the protesters sent workers home, shutting down the development worksite they said they were kept off of due to the construction company’s lack of hiring within the ward.

At a recent community meeting, Ward 8 Council member Trayon White bought the parties together to figure out how to move forward.

Residents remained laser-focused on finding employment opportunities within the $50 million development.

“The problem, here, is this you came into this ward and did not give the people of this ward jobs,” said Otis Meriedy Jr., 60, a Ward 8 resident and pastor to representatives of Bozzuto Construction Company. “That’s where the problem started.”

The development is being overseen by Chapman Development and construction has been subcontracted to Bozzutto.

Tension with members of the Ward 8 community began with claims that companies managing and constructing the new development had not extended opportunities to work on the project to residents of Ward 8.

White said he requested a list of Ward 8 employees and subcontractors working on the project from the development and construction companies on the project, to which he said he was provided a list of 60 people. But, he said when he followed up with the residents on the list, only three people on the list confirmed being involved in the project.

“In the spirit of transparency, we have been pushing development projects to do what’s right on behalf of the residents in Wards 7 and 8,” White said.

Unemployment in the city are highest in Wards 7 and 8, where the rates are 9.6 percent and 12.4 percent, respectively. They have the highest population of Black residents in the city.

“When I analyze a lot of these projects, a lot of the companies are coming from out of town,” White said. “If we are giving $50 million to a project, we need to ensure that our residents are able to participate.”

Representatives of Buzzuto said they are working to fill the gaps. They said of the 90 workers that have worked on the site, 54 were D.C. residents and 14 resided in Ward 8.

“Moving forward there are several hundred more people to step foot on the site,” said Kelly Cantley, Bozzuto’s senior vice president of business development. “We are looking for more people to work with our subcontractors.”

Cantley said a recent hiring fair for the project following the protests filled 14 more of the company’s subcontract positions and seven of them were from Ward 8.

They announced it was still accepting up to seven subcontract applications for businesses to complete the remaining work on the project including caulking, garage striping, asphalt, fencing and gates for garage access, alley and brick caulking and security cameras.

Buzzuto’s management company will also manage the building and has opened management and administrative positions.

While some residents expressed frustrations as some said they are not getting a fair share in the jobs begin created by the development, others expressed fears that they would be displaced by the new development.

The finished development will be fully dedicated to affordable-housing units with all 114 units being rented to households earning no more than 60 percent of the area median income (AMI).

A Starbucks will occupy 2,500 square feet of the development’s 14,000-square-foot retail space. Of the 114 new apartments, 87 will be one-bedroom units.

Pricing will range from $815 to $1136 for those earning 40 percent of the AMI and $1222 to $1679 for those earning 60 percent.

But some residents remained wary.

“Starbucks is going to pay its workers minimum wage and people will not be able to afford to live in this building,” said Marley Soto, 24, a Ward 6 resident. “This one building will gentrify the neighborhood. This will not be the last one, there will be many more to come.”

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Tatyana Hopkins – Washington Informer Contributing Writer

Tatyana Hopkins has always wanted to make the world a better place. Growing up she knew she wanted to be a journalist. To her there were too many issues in the world to pick a career that would force her to just tackle one. The recent Howard University graduate is thankful to have a job and enjoys the thrill she gets from chasing the story, meeting new people and adding new bits of obscure information to her knowledge base. Dubbed with the nickname “Fun Fact” by her friends, Tatyana seems to be full of seemingly “random and useless” facts. Meanwhile, the rising rents in D.C. have driven her to wonder about the length of the adverse possession statute of limitations (15 years?). Despite disliking public speaking, she remembers being scolded for talking in class or for holding up strangers in drawn-out conversations. Her need to understand the world and its various inhabitants frequently lands her in conversations on topics often deemed taboo: politics, religion and money. Tatyana avoided sports in high school she because the thought of a crowd watching her play freaked her out, but found herself studying Arabic, traveling to Egypt and eating a pigeon. She uses social media to scope out meaningful and interesting stories and has been calling attention to fake news on the Internet for years.

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