Jose Sueiro: The Columbia Heights Legacy of Bob Moore

moore_125x192History in our neighborhood of Columbia Heights. We are remembering the life and work of Bob Moore, who oversaw the redevelopment and gentrification of Columbia Heights. Moore’s is a mixed – but unmistakable – legacy. Without his work Sojourners would not have been able to gain nonprofit space in the new Tivoli building and could not have afforded to remain in Columbia Heights. Here’s an excerpt from Jose Suiero’s article:

“New residents to the Columbia Heights (CH) neighborhood of Washington DC have no idea the conditions of the area after the 1969 riots through the crack epidemic of the late 80’s and downturns of the 90’s, but it was a far cry from the prosperous, bustling, relatively secure, upscale neighborhood it has become. To his eternal credit, the late Robert L. Moore, longtime leader of the Development Corporation of Columbia Heights (DCCH) who just passed away, was the chief architect and promoter of this transformation. We owe him credit for rebuilding Columbia Heights into the thriving, multi-cultural urban village it has become. He need not worry about his legacy. It is everywhere.

When Bob took over the fledgling community development organization there were burned out vacant lots virtually on every side street of the 14th St. corridor from U all the way up to Spring Road. The Target shopping mall remained an empty lot for close to 20 years with the infamous Waffle Shop anchoring the corner at 14th & Park Rd. The Tivoli stood empty for decades, a hollowed out empty shell. The 1400 block of Park Road was a drug bazaar and Lincoln Jr. High one of the most violence prone schools in the city.

During the Barry years when the urgency of renewing the city core was a top priority the government reached out to Moore to help spur economic development in the ‘Heights’. With an extensive affordable housing background and experience in DC government as head of the DC Housing Authority, Bob took the lead in acquiring boarded up row houses, repairing them and selling them as affordable homes keeping long term residents in their neighborhood. Under his leadership DCCH designed and built a small strip mall along 14th St. at Belmont Rd. The Nehemiah Shopping Center was eventually demolished to build housing, but this first attempt at bringing retail back to CH was the precursor to the DC/USA mall. …” —Jose Sueiro

Read Jose Sueiro’s whole article here.

NOW AVAILABLE! “Who Killed Donte Manning? The Story of an American Neighborhood”

I’m happy to say that my book Who Killed Donte Manning? The Story of an American Neighborhood is finally back from the printer! For those of you who know the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, D.C., I think you’ll enjoy reading about our neighborhood’s history–not to mention Washington, D.C., during the Bush era.

For those who are interested in urban ministry, urban mission, and the Judeo-Christian understanding of cities from the Bible’s Abraham and Sarah to the contemporary era, you’ll definitely find something of interest in Who Killed Donte Manning?

Here’s a snippet from the book’s foreword:

Rose Marie Berger has written a biblical essay on the neighborhood where she lives. I know the neighborhood well, because I live there too. Her provocative discourse is a theological reflection on “place,” which is a long-standing tradition in the Christian faith—a faith that is all about incarnation, the Word becoming flesh in place and time.

The particular “place” where this story begins is in Northwest Washington, D.C., on 13th Street between Euclid and Fairmont, on the sidewalk in front of the notorious Warner Apartments where a third grade boy named Donte Manning was caught in a crossfire of bullets and killed.

In 1993, the new First Lady had come to Washington. Hillary Rodham Clinton had invited a small group of people to her office at the White House to talk about the growing tragedy of youth violence in our cities, a situation of great concern to her. It was the first time I met Hillary Clinton. The meeting had an assortment of civil rights and religious leaders, urban and community activists, and heads of national organizations that cared about children at risk. I was impressed with Clinton’s understanding of the issues, her thoughtfulness and probing questions, and her clear desire to do something that would begin to address the problem.

When the meeting was finished, I came home to my house on 13th Street NW in Columbia Heights … to lots of yellow tape. Of course, I knew what yellow tape meant: Another crime had been committed here and the scene had been cordoned off by police. I learned that during the very hour we were meeting at the White House to discuss the problems of youth homicide, a young kid had been killed across the street from my house—on the sidewalk in front of the Warner Apartments.

I recall wondering at the time how many of the other participants in that meeting came home to yellow tape. It’s not that you know all the answers more easily just because you live there. It’s just that place yields perspective.

It is that biblical insight Rose illustrates in the story Who Killed Donte Manning?, a story that begins with yet another youth homicide on the 2600 block of 13th Street NW in Washington, D.C. Her biblical reflections on her place, and mine, stretch from Genesis to Revelation, and from Washington, D.C., to the coca fields of Colombia in South America. They describe what happens at the center of “empire” and the consequences at empire’s margins, which, in our city and neighborhood, is a journey of only about 2 miles.–Jim Wallis, Foreword, Who Killed Donte Manning? by Rose Marie Berger