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Tale of two cities: Push to revitalize Pennsylvania Avenue East of the River

A petition is circulating urging the DC Council to fund a Main Street Project in Ward 7.

WASHINGTON — Even on a rainy day, the beauty of Pennsylvania Avenue is unmistakable. From downtown to Capitol Hill, the Avenue, which is all decked out for the holidays, is a boost to businesses and homes.

But drive just a few minutes down Pennsylvania Avenue, across the Souza Bridge, and the difference is noticeable, with numerous empty storefronts and plazas that have seen better days.  

"The main road leading into the community doesn’t reflect the beauty that we have here," Ayanna Smith of Penn-Branch said. 

Smith organized a petition on Change.org urging city council members to find money in the budget for a Main Street project on the Ward 7 end of Pennsylvania Avenue, east of the Anacostia River.

"I don’t think our community is looking for this side of Pennsylvania Avenue to reflect Capitol Hill," Smith said. "We’re looking for revitalization and to preserve the historical integrity as well. There is some small progress in the area, especially to the Penn Branch shopping center, but we don’t see the same level of revitalization that other communities have west of the river."

About 250 people have signed the petition so far, joining in the chorus for change. One supporter, who is identified only as Phyllis, wrote "It is quite evident that the city neglects to give SE the same benefits as other communities."

Another signer, J. Burton, added, "I love our community and want it to have all the resources and opportunities other D.C. communities have. Our tax dollars should be used equitably, and our community deserves it." 

Ward 7 Councilmember Vince Gray’s office said they are looking into the petition.

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