The cornerstone of 2006 – 2010 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE, laid in 1940, has seen the building transform from a bowling alley to a furniture store to the future headquarters of the Far Southeast Family Strengthening Collaborative (FSFSC), a nonprofit organization based in Ward 8 since 1996.
“Promises were made, and promises have been kept,” says Perry Moon, executive director of FSFCS and a constant presence at community meetings. “This building will be for the community and owned by one of the few African-American-led entities on the avenue.”
With a staff of 60 working to connect families with a wide range of supportive services, FSFSC expects to move from their current space in the old Curtis Brothers Furniture Store at 2041 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue to the renovated building across the street next spring, Moon said.
“The reason why our family services are so critical is there is a growing concern that people who have fought so long for this community will not be able to stay in their community,” Moon said. “We assist families to identify goals and in doing so create options. Our work is not about advocating to do one thing or the other, it is to assist their decision-making when it comes to housing, parental support, employment and financial services which will put families in a position to not be displaced in the changing community.”
Headquarters Near Completion
During renovations, a third floor was added to the building, which has retained its historic street-facing facade. As construction nears completion, more than 21,000 square feet will be dedicated to office space for FSFSC operations, over 7,000 square feet for a Busboys and Poets restaurant and an estimated 3,500 square feet available for other commercial use.
The renovations and new construction has cost an estimated $13 million, funded through a combination of private and public dollars, with a significant contribution from the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development.
With construction blocking the sidewalk for months, the opening is expected to increase foot traffic and vibrancy in support of broader business development. The long-anticipated Busboys and Poets restaurant is planned to open about the same time as the new FSFSC headquarters.
At a well-attended community meeting in October, organized by outgoing ANC 8A Commissioner Greta Fuller to discuss ongoing neighborhoods development projects, restaurateur Andy Shallal expressed confidence his long-promised Anacostia outpost of Busboys and Poets could open as soon as next spring as the ground-floor tenant.
As many as 75 employees from other Busboys locations in the D.C. region would be able to relocate and work closer to where they currently live, Shallal said.
Dropping names of Alice Walker, Nikki Giovannii and other towering figures within the African-American literary canon who “want to cross that bridge,” Shallal said there is a growing list of national and locally known authors, poets and performing artists who have expressed an interest in presenting before a Ward 8 audience. Additionally, he shared a desire to welcome community organizations and local artists to host workshops and programs in a planned event space.
Shallal also disclosed tentative plans to serve breakfast and remain open until 10 p.m. on weekdays and until midnight on weekends.
For more information, go to www.busboysandpoets.com.
Support of LISC
In 2013, under the leadership of the late Oramenta Newsome, Local Initiatives Support Corporation provided the collaborative a capacity building grant.
“Our investment in the Collaborative is representative of her legacy,” said Ramon Jacobson, acting director of LISC-DC. “She saw a unique opportunity to support the capacity building of the collaborative.”
With development slow to materialize on lower Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, Jacobson observed, “For many years the community worked to get the flames going and now there is worry about a bonfire. People who built this community, the families that have been here through the tough times, want to stay and continue to contribute. The collaborative’s services to families are critical to elevating equity.”
Expanded office and conference space won’t be the only benefit of the building’s renovation, Jacobson said.
“The concept of amenities can sometime be vague but the opening of Busboys and Poets in the ground floor will provide a location within the community, sons can bring their mother on Mother’s Day, where graduations and job promotions can be celebrated,” he said.
For more information, go to www.fsfsc.org or call 202-889-1425.