Little Lights Urban Ministries

Clean Green in HillRag Magazine August-2014

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120 H saying he'd been a little afraid heights before. Potomac Gardens Landscape Potomac Gardens is a series of fourteen three- story brick apartment buildings forming var- ious courtyards around the 1200 block of G Street, SE. There are about 350 units in the complex, built in the mid-1960s by General Contractor Edward M. Crough, and designed by Metcalf and Associates Architects. In 1971 Potomac Gardens won an Award for Excellence in Architecture. I can't say if most of the original courtyards were completely paved, but every- one I spoke to at Potomac Gardens only remembers them this way. "It was all concrete," residents told me without affection. In recent years, D.C. Public Housing allocated funds for some capital improvements to Potomac Gardens and some of these con- crete courtyards were the beneficia- ries. Enough paving was removed in the first courtyard to install some grass and trees. Another courtyard got a concrete seat wall around an existing planted area with an older shade tree. The next project was more am- bitious. And it occurred partly due to the existing Clean Green Team structure. A large courtyard was re- designed to include a large, rectan- gular artificial turf play area, sur- rounded by raised concrete planters. Around the perimeter are widened walkways.New crape myrtles and maple trees line the space and will provide shade in a few years. Completed in March 2013, residents call the new courtyard a success. Play areas are separated from pedestrian circulation areas, but both are easily visible and acces- sible. Kids can toss a football without interfering with pedestrian traffic, and residents can watch what's going on from their apartments overlook- ing the space. "It's real pretty around here now, and it was really terrible before," says resident Bonita Guer- rero. "I like to wake up and look out of my window" she continues, "Ev- erybody's got a chair by their kitch- en window." Ms. Guerrero has just articulated the famous "Eyes on the Street" concept advanced by Jane Ja- cobs in her famous 1961 book, "The Death and Life of Great American Cities." Ms. Jacobs believed that streets are safer when more people are on them and can see them from their windows. The new Potomac Gardens courtyard seems to work in exactly this way. General contracting was by D & A Dunlevy, with paid assistance with planting by the Clean Green Team who now water the trees they planted and watch them grow. It's a great arrangement. Team member Clarence Campbell says, "Before I became a landscaper I didn't pay at- tention to grass and trees. Now I no- tice things like that all over." Li le Lights campers with summer coordinator Dwaine Brown, posing in the new Potomac Gardens courtyard.

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