WASHINGTON — As D.C. prepares to raze a housing development in Southeast, community organizers are fighting to preserve what they say is an important site in D.C history.
Empower D.C. Executive Director Parisa Norouzi said the Barry Farm housing development deserves better than to be bulldozed and built over. Empower D.C., along with a group of displaced Barry Farm tenants, are spearheading an effort to get the site formally designated a historic landmark.
"We can’t continue to do what we’ve been doing, and lose our culture and our history one property by the next," Norouzi said. "We’re losing our soul in the process."
Barry Farm’s history goes back to emancipation. It was part of the first 375-acre settlement in D.C. created for African-American ownership by the Freedman’s Bureau in 1862.
Since then, it has been the site of many other milestones of D.C.'s civil rights and cultural history.
Much of the 34-acre Barry Farm low-income housing complex of today has already been bulldozed. Narouzi wants to prevent a portion of the remaining buildings from being torn down.
On a historic walking tour Saturday, Norouzi brought people past some of those sites.
"We’ve already lost a very important landmark, which is the home where Junkyard Band was founded," Norouzi said.
Junkyard Band member, Darrell ‘Blue Eye’ Arrington, said Barry Farm will always have a special place in his heart.
"There ain’t nothing like coming home and you never forget where you’ve come from," Arrington said.
D.C. resident Tiffany Willis, said she also thinks Barry Farm should be preserved.
"Barry Farms is definitely a part of the fabric that makes D.C., D.C.,” Willis said.
Executive Director of D.C.'s Housing Authority, Tyrone Garret, said D.C. chose to bulldoze because the cost of renovating would have been higher than the cost to rebuild from the ground up.
"We’re not trying to rebuild a community," Garrett said. "We are actually really trying to revitalize it."
Garrett said the district has an additional 14 low-income housing complexes in need of repair and renovation. With regard to historic preservation, Garrett said wants to find a solution.
"We can find a happy median and work with all the residents," Garrett said.
The historic preservation board will decide on whether to grant the historic landmark designation, on Sept. 26.