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What does it look like when a group of neighbors, a non-profit or two, a couple of federal agencies and a handful of DC government offices partner effectively? Swing by 13th & C Streets SE, and see for yourself.

Nearly four years after neighbors rallied to turn a vacant lot owned by the DCHA into a community park and garden, twenty to thirty volunteers gathered to plant nine trees in the newly constructed space under the supervision of Casey Trees, a DC nonprofit dedicated to “restoring, enhancing and protecting” the canopy of the nation’s capital.

The ribbon-cutting that was to follow was postponed due to weather until sometime in May or early June. But despite the drizzle, the event was an enormous success.

Once complete, the space will play host to a number of garden plots, a water feature, plenty of turf for enjoying the greenery and even a wall reserved for outdoor movie screenings. 13th Street Park & Garden, Inc., the 501(c)(3) that oversaw the lot’s transformation, will also organize educational events to take place on the property throughout the year.

The story behind the project’s success is one of collaboration and cooperation among a number of offices and organizations that is nothing short of inspiring (if a bit drawn out).

When residents approached the DCHA and Tommy Wells in 2007 with the idea to turn the property around, both rallied behind the idea of revitalizing the space. At the time, the lot played host to a single dumpster and a colony of mosquitos. The DCHA, which manages the Kentucky Courts retirement community immediately adjoining the space, saw particular value in the project. Upon receiving a formal proposal for the park’s design prepared by a handful of volunteers on the basis of broader community input, the DCHA responded by allocating $250,000 to the project.

Initial construction began in 2008, but a funding gap soon developed, as prepping the lot for construction proved costlier than expected. Though progress stalled for a time, the DCHA partnered with 13th Street Park & Garden nonprofit in applying for a Stimulus grant through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). In the fall of 2009, the project received an additional $650,000 investment from HUD. Not long thereafter, work on the property resumed, and today, the park stands nearly complete.

In the most recent phase of the project, Casey Trees donated nine trees to the development. This past Friday, representatives partnered with volunteers from around the neighborhood for the planting. In the process, residents got a sneak peek of the park and the reaction was undeniably enthusiastic.

Once construction wraps up, oversight and management of the space will formally pass from DCHA to 13th Street Park & Garden as per a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the two parties.

With greater community engagement, a safer, more functional neighborhood and one less lot for the DCHA to manage, everybody wins.

So, once again, what does it look like when a group of neighbors, a non-profit or two, a couple of federal agencies and a handful of DC government offices partner effectively?

It looks like a walk in the park.

Ksenia Kaladiouk lives in Southeast DC, where she spends her time writing, sketching, running, taking photos, scheming and studying the flying trapeze.  She is particularly interested in the history of urban development, education, the effects of space on the rise and fall of cultural and commercial institutions, and vice versa.