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“Local Group SW Action Urges D.C. Government to Designate Land for a Community Land Trust”

“375 M Street, SW photo from a racial justice rally we (SW DC Action) held at the space in 2020. The space also hosts the farmers market and the night market.

From a press release:

“Here’s a link to the online petition, which already has over 350 signatories.

The two parcels at 4th & M, 425 and 375 M Street SW, are currently on the market. The community has used this space for gatherings like the DC State Fair. SW Action is calling on the District of Columbia government to purchase the land, which was originally purchased for $10, and transfer ownership to the Douglass Community Land Trust. The Douglass CLT will set up a SW Chapter, made up of SW residents, to steward the land to serve the best interests of the neighborhood and justice.

Community Land Trusts (CLT) are non-profit organizations that own land and lease access to it at affordable and below market-rate prices for housing and retail. The first CLT in the United States was created by civil rights activists in 1969 to prevent the displacement of Black farmers. CLTs today are being used to prevent gentrification and the displacement of residents and small businesses.

“I’ve lived in SW since 1976, and in recent years, the open lots at 375 M Street SW and 425 M Street SW have really been the heart of the community. We’ve gathered, celebrated, and protested in this space, gotten to know our neighbors and feel part of SW. If a new luxury building comes in, we lose that space and the community benefits it offers; however the city can step in and ensure that this lot is still for the people of SW, not developers,” said Thelma D. Jones, a volunteer member of SW Action, and Founder and Board Chair of the Thelma D. Jones Breast Cancer Fund, a nonprofit grassroots organization founded in SW.

425 M Street SW is scheduled for redevelopment, and the loss of the communal space will be to the detriment of community members and small businesses. This space hosts the Southwest Farmers Market, where local businesses have been able to access a steady customer base and SW community organizations have been able to garner support to sustain their ability to support SW residents in need, such as SW Mutual Aid. Redevelopment without replacement would mean the loss of an accessible, central, and recognizable community meeting space with a unique ability for gathering in a safe, clean, outdoor location, the loss of live music and income source for local, DC artists (primarily persons of color), and the loss of fresh, affordable produce during a pandemic amid significant supply chain issues.

No new locations in SW have been identified to host the farmer’s market or Friday Night Markets and, in our opinion, there is no other location that can match the vibrancy, openness and centrality of the current spot. Thus, SW Action is calling on the government to purchase both parcels at 4th & M Street and transfer it to Douglass CLT, build the obligated community center and preserve the thriving communal gathering space that has been curated there.”

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