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East of the River neighborhoods rebrand themselves as "CHASE"

Penn Quarter, NoMA, Atlas District, and Capital Riverfront are just a few of the newly-branded DC neighborhoods that have come into currency over the past decade. What about neighborhoods east of the river? Over the past 3 years, District officials have started referring to Congress Heights, Anacostia, and St. Elizabeths as "CHASE."

Today it's called Congress Heights, but one day we could be calling it CHASE. All photos by the author.

The name is the result of a Community Planning Challenge Grant grant the federal government gave to DC's Department of Housing and Community Development in 2010, which funds revitalization efforts in struggling neighborhoods.

According to Evelyn Kasongo, Ward 8 coordinator for the DC Office of Planning, the city selected Congress Heights, Anacostia and St. Elizabeths because of the ability to leverage other federal and local investments, and the potential to piggyback on the redevelopment of St. Elizabeths. Federal and local officials envision making the three areas combined a "Regional Innovation Cluster," which the National Capital Planning Commission defines as a concentration of "interconnected businesses, suppliers, intermediaries and associated institutions in a particular field or set of related industries."

DHCD created an "action agenda" for the 3 areas with 7 focus areas: housing, retail, redevelopment and historic preservation, arts and culture, small business development, transportation, and jobs and workforce development. The city convened two Ward 8 Community Summits in 2011 and 2012 to survey residents' concerns and ideas related to the each focus area.

In addition to drawing new investment to the area, the agency also seeks to connect residents to existing organizations and resources. Last September, the agency held a CHASE Open House and Resource Fair at Savoy Elementary School where residents could learn about local organizations such as the Anacostia Economic Development Corporation and Congress Heights Main Street, which promotes local businesses, and city agencies such as the Department of Small and Local Business Development.

After more than a dozen planning documents over the past decade, this isn't the first attempt to revitalize the CHASE area, though it's the first to use a new name. But 2014 may finally be the year of action for CHASE. "People don't want to see plans at this point, they want to see implementation," says Kasongo.

Increased focus on retail in Congress Heights

Congress Heights may see some movement soon. Last month, Bethesda-based retail consulting firm Streetsense held two events there as part of the DC Vibrant Retail Streets initiative, the city's effort to promote neighborhood shopping destinations. The first was Reimagine MLK, a mini-block party on the 3100 block of Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue where planners solicited community feedback.

Later, Streetsense organized a visioning session at the Petey Greene Community Center where residents looked over a map of more than 60 small businesses in the area and talked about their vision for the commercial district.

Concrete-filled tires line the street on MLK Avenue.

Participants offered a variety of comments, and it was hard to find common themes, wrote Heather Arnold, Streetsense research director, in an email. "They are concerned about crime (both inside and outside their businesses), about loitering, about parking regulations, about the changing character of the neighborhood (group homes) etc."

Suggestions included streetscape improvements such as tree boxes to replace the used tires filled with concrete that often line the street. Residents also sought stricter enforcement of public drinking laws at Shepherd Park, a popular hangout spot for idle men and women at the southeast corner of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X avenues.

But not everyone feels the same way. "At the same time," Arnold added, "you can easily find other retailers on the street who do not see any of these issues as a problem."

There are still vacant buildings along MLK Avenue.

But for all of the positive efforts taking place in the CHASE area, revitalization may still be a long way off. One indicator will be when the chain-link fence comes down at 3010 Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue, an abandoned two-story apartment building. Outside, a sun-faded sign promises it will become "The Future Site of the AMS McDowell Business Center...Coming Spring 2010."

John Muller is an associate librarian, journalist and historian. He has written two books, Frederick Douglass in Washington, DC, Mark Twain in Washington, DC, and also writes at Death and Life of Old Anacostia


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DC gave someone over $500,000 to rebrand Logan Circle and they came up with Mid City (after the former deli?).

I'm suspicious of who gets these grants to come up with new neighborhood names but fortunately no one pays them any attention.

by Tom Coumaris on Mar 14, 2014 12:31 pm • linkreport

NO to Chase. Keep Congress Heights as Congress Heights. I like the Mayors term East End much better than chase.

by NO NO NO on Mar 14, 2014 1:04 pm • linkreport

this isnt like renaming navy yard to capial riverfront - its an attempt to create a new grouping - and it seems like a logical one - Historic Anacostia, CH, and St Es ARE linked to each other, in ways they are not linked to the rest of EOTR or the rest of the city.

That does not mean CHASE is the ideal name, or that it was worth spending the money.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 14, 2014 1:23 pm • linkreport

Trouble is, "East End" and "West End" are spoken for downtown.

by Payton Chung on Mar 14, 2014 1:23 pm • linkreport

Is this actually about re-branding the area? It sure seems more about a short-hand term for the planning area rather than an attempt to re-name or re-brand anything.

by Alex B. on Mar 14, 2014 1:28 pm • linkreport

The title kinda makes it seem that all of Ward 7 and 8 were renamed Chase.

Shouldn't it be "East of the River neighborhoods Congress Heights, Anacostia & St Elizabeth rename themselves as Chase"

Second the neighborhoods did not rename themselves the city did; a neighborhood is not a living entity to name itself. So the only way a neighborhood could rename itself is it the residents of the neighborhoods renamed the neighborhoods Chase which doesn't seem to be the case here.

Another thing when did St Elizabeth become a neighborhood; there is no neighborhood there it is all apart of the damn St. Elizabeths psychiatric hospital; there is no housing there that is or was not apart of the hospital. The only neighborhoods around it are Congress Heights, Barry Farms & Buena Vista

by kk on Mar 14, 2014 1:31 pm • linkreport

Where do you get this stuff?

East of the River is not rebranding themselves as "CHASE." That is something DC government is doing in relation to a description of several of their projects in this area. Let's not be melodramatic.

"to replace the used tires filled with concrete that often line the street"
Those tires are in one place -- in front of the former nursey (now closed) on a small portion of the street. You will not find used tires filled with concrete along MLK corridor as that line suggests.

Both Vibrant Street events (what you are referencing as Streetsense events) were very well attended. They solicited amazing community feedback and residents were pretty united about wanting to see a revitalized business district in Congress Heights. Lots of great ideas and comments came out of that meeting and the community walked away with a lot of concrete information.

Congress Heights (and Ward 8 at large) is not perfect by any stretch of the word but there are some good things there and it would be nice to see them highlighted here from time to time and not this hyperfocus on the most unsightly parts.

by The Advoc8te on Mar 14, 2014 1:39 pm • linkreport

@Alex B you hit the nail on the head! This is not a rebranding and I would bet that OP would not see it as such. It is shorthand.

Sometimes these articles really need to be written by someone who actually lives in Ward 8. Just saying. :)

by The Advoc8te on Mar 14, 2014 1:42 pm • linkreport

Chase is a bank. CHASE is near a river. Why not Riverchase?

by Omar on Mar 14, 2014 1:50 pm • linkreport

If there were a rebranding, it might be nice to actually go with something more historical, like Uniontown.

by Craig on Mar 14, 2014 2:08 pm • linkreport

Today it's called Congress Heights, but one day we could be calling it CHASE.

Hopefully not. It makes more sense for a neighborhood and its metro station to have the same name. Also, telling someone that some new restaurant is in "CHASE" may make them think it's in "Chevy Chase". I know some people get mixed up between Fairfax Village DC and Fairfax VA.

by Falls Church on Mar 14, 2014 2:32 pm • linkreport

+1 theadvocate and awitc.

by h st ll on Mar 14, 2014 2:42 pm • linkreport

I never heard of this, the police sit there and watch all the loitering and drinking; but do nothing. Who wants to come into or invest in a place where you probably will be CHASE - Our name alone and make improvements. Get rid of cronyism!!!

by Darlene Jones on Mar 14, 2014 3:09 pm • linkreport

Here we go again:

I predict this CHASE business also becomes one big fail.

by DaveG on Mar 14, 2014 3:19 pm • linkreport

For those with issues with the headline -- maybe it would be more appropriate for it to read, "Government rebrands neighborhoods 'CHASE.'" - ?

@Advcoate -- The article cites your blog's complaints about Shepherd Park.

I live in Ward 8. I am not hard to find. I have been around for awhile now. When you see me in person -- say something to me. Please do not wait to say something to me "online." Thank you.

I associate with long-time residents, those with historical knowledge who many newcomers do not want to acknowledge. That is deeply disturbing.

There is fact which is reality. There is fiction which is emotional. The celebration of the abstract 11th Street Bridge Park is great but the historic homes in Anacostia continued to fall apart.

by John Muller on Mar 14, 2014 3:28 pm • linkreport

I get that the CH-A-SE regional development lingo is almost cute but did this rebranding cost as much as the Logan Circle one and is this the best use of planning block grant money? This is a term that will (hopefully) just be used by planners.

by Tom Coumaris on Mar 14, 2014 3:47 pm • linkreport

maybe it would be more appropriate for it to read, "Government rebrands neighborhoods 'CHASE.'" - ?

I don't think so - perhaps "Government documents use acronym as shorthand for lengthy terminology" would be more appropriate.

I don't see any re-branding as a part of this plan. Branding is about marketing, and this plan (and these grants) are focused on coordination of existing federal/local investments in varied projects (St. E's, Streetcar, DHCD's investments, etc).

If there's a brand here, it's for the document and the process, not the neighborhood.

by Alex B. on Mar 14, 2014 5:15 pm • linkreport

CHASE is a stupid, unnecessary made-up name. Anacostia is a storied name with a storied history. Even a realtor would love the name "Congress Heights." St. Elizabeth's is perhaps the only name that could use rebranding, because many associate the name with people like John Hinkley and other violent wackadoodles.

by Jasper2 on Mar 15, 2014 11:39 am • linkreport

Tom C: DC gave someone over $500,000 to rebrand Logan Circle and they came up with Mid City (after the former deli?).

Not the former deli. That's a former neighborhood name dating to the 1930s.

by aa on Mar 15, 2014 12:56 pm • linkreport

Tom C: They gave someone nearly $500,000 and they came up with DC Arts District and a useless banner project that was a waste of money.

The name Midcity is a former neighborhood name and was applied in 2006 at no cost as a way to describe the 14th & U and Logan Circle commercial areas collectively.

Accurate facts are good.

by Just Me on Mar 15, 2014 9:05 pm • linkreport

Just Me and aa- The name was not Mid City, it was Midway. The Midway Civic Association was the black counter-part to the white Dupont Circle Citizens Association when those groups were segregated and Civics were black and Citizens were white. I was always a member of it since the 40-year president lived in my block.

But it was never a neighborhood name and you won't find Midway or Mid-City on any old map. Logan Circle and Dupont Circle were the only neighborhood names used here from the late 1800's. Before the Civil War it was all called Hell's Bottom (which I wouldn't mind seeing revived as a name for something.)

by Tom Coumaris on Mar 15, 2014 11:57 pm • linkreport

RE: Midcity

by MLD on Mar 16, 2014 8:18 am • linkreport

Sorry but that designation as "mid city" on that 1937 map is a descriptive term not a neighborhood name. The portion of the map shown shows National Airport.

It was never used as any more a place name than downtown, northern, southern, outer etc.

by Tom Coumaris on Mar 16, 2014 10:45 am • linkreport

but still, Office of Planning gives $500,000 to someone for each of these generic names ? Is it a Thompson relative ?

by Tom Coumaris on Mar 16, 2014 11:31 am • linkreport

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