The future of the Barry Farm neighborhood remains uncertain as former tenants and their allies push for historic designation for a portion of the site and the District of Columbia Housing Authority tries to move forward with the planned redevelopment of the public housing units into a mixed-income community.
While DCHA cannot yet move forward on new construction, more than half of the residences have been demolished and all former tenants have been forced to relocate throughout the city.
In April, the Barry Farm Tenants and Allies Association filed an application with the Historic Preservation Office that would designate part of the area a historic landmark and spare 32 houses from demolition.
The original hearing date for this application, June 27, was pushed back twice at DCHA’s request. When it was held on July 25 there were not enough members of the Historic Preservation Review Board present to vote on the application after hearing public testimony and a second hearing was scheduled for Aug. 1. That hearing was again pushed back at DCHA’s request.
The Sept. 26 Historic Preservation Review Board hearing to consider this application began with the board chair asking representatives from the tenants and allies group and representatives for DCHA to state on the record their reasons for jointly requesting to defer the hearing. “The board is really interested in why, because we deferred this back in the beginning of August and we were hopeful that was going to result in some additional information from the housing authority,” said Marnique Heath, chair of the Historic Preservation Review Board. “We haven’t received anything since then. I’m hopeful now that this deferral has some substance behind it.”
According to Cynthia A. Giordano, an attorney representing the housing authority, meetings between the tenants and allies association and the housing authority had been held outside of the Historic Preservation Review Board hearings. “We have agreed that we would continue with our discussions with them around the plans for the redevelopment of this site, including historic aspects, and we’d like to continue with that dialogue,” Giordano stated.
The executive director of Empower D.C., a nonprofit advocacy group allied with the tenants association, spoke on behalf of BFTAA. “We do hope that we are getting some conversations going that could be fruitful,” said Parisa Norouzi. “We don’t know yet, but could be.”
The board urged BFTAA and the housing authority to “act with haste” to prevent potential deferrals in the future. The final vote from the board will be on Oct. 31.