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LeDroit Park Neighborhood Revitalization

LeDroit Park, a neighborhood in Washington, DC where Howard University is located, was once an outlying suburb of the city of Washington. Its boundary was Florida Avenue, formerly known as Boundary Street. Upon the resignation of his term as a trustee of the University, Amzi L. Barber purchased some 40 acres of University land. He then hired James McGrill, prominent architect, to design a development for the area and named it after his father-in-law, LeDroit Langdon, a successful real estate broker.

LeDroit Park was intended to be an exclusively white neighborhood with a rural atmosphere that would accommodate genteel neighbors who desired easy access to the city. Originally marketed to merchants, professionals, and government workers, the neighborhood was closed in by a wood and iron fence that separated it from the University and a settlement of black citizens name “Howard Town.”

Over time, professors, military brass, congressmen, businessmen and bureaucrats inhabited the development. However, as the 19 th Century drew to a close, the push to integrate the community heightened and the first black resident moved to LeDroit Park in 1893, followed, thereafter, by other professional blacks, including Howard University professors. Eventually, the fences and walls came down, and the LeDroit Park area expanded north to include the area north of “V” Street, NW and the University’s campus.

The LeDroit Park Initiative, a University partnership with Fannie Mae and the Fannie Mae Foundation, has become a national model for neighborhood-wide revitalization, and a catalyst for broader community improvements.

Phase I involved the conversion of 28 unoccupied structures and 17 vacant lots owned by the University in historic LeDroit Park into homeownership opportunities. All of the homes were sold, and over half are now occupied by University or municipal employees, and area community members. The American Institute of Architects presented the University with its 2002 Housing PIA Award for Community Design in recognition of the beauty of these residences.

The development of the Initiative is an ongoing process: construction of infrastructure improvements has begun, and the University is participating in discussions with the city and its neighbors around the development of other major land uses for the area. The community will be wired to create a 21 st Century Electronic Village, providing modern telecommunications access to the University, the internet, and the World Wide Web.

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