Beauty In The East

Written by Jessica G. Smith

It is an exciting opportunity to be the new Communications and Community Engagement Manager on the 11th Street Bridge Park team.

I Love D.C.! Sounds cliche, but I have a true appreciation for my city. There’s absolutely no place like it. From the monuments to the people, the beauty of the culture is unmatched. It is also the place that I have called home for over 30 years. It is motivating to have a role that allows me to share, the beauty that my family and so many others see in the east.

I have always had a desire for my career to have a positive impact and improve the quality of life for others. I have worked on initiatives that have had a national impact and my most rewarding experiences are those that have positively changed people lives. Along the way I learned the various factors that improve the livability of a community; and I realized that I wanted my work to address the social and economic injustices that I saw in my own city.

My love for Washington D.C. has created an interest – now passion – for inclusive placemaking and equitable development. As a third generation Washingtonian, it’s been exciting to see changes in the city. At the same time, there is a slight sadness.
While exciting, it is disappointing to see the communities that for decades defined the District become misplaced or marketing tool, rather than revered and celebrated. What made the city unique has become obscure in the midst of new coffee shops. It seems that the people who most need access to the new resources are no longer there to reap the benefits of development.

This led me to wonder if it was possible to have new amenities and address a neighborhood’s socioeconomic injustices while keeping the culture and the people of those communities. Is it possible for communities to be a place for the old and new?

My role with the Bridge Park is to make the answer to this question “yes” a reality.

The Bridge Park is not a development, but it is a project that is part of the Ward 8 non-profit Building Bridges Across the River (BBAR). BBAR has been addressing the needs of the communities east of the river for over 13 years by providing resources that improve the quality of life for people in the eastern region of the city.

There is a beauty in the east of the city that is often missed. I am excited to be a part of the team that is revitalizing the city through an equity lens and engaging residents to ensure that the beauty of the culture that makes DC unique is the foundation of the Bridge Park.