Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Shaw's Shiloh Baptist Church Starts Neighborhood Development Project, Leaves Many More Properties Vacant

I was reading the City Paper this morning and stumbled on this article: shiloh baptist church finally gets started on victory village maybe


Here's a question--why is Shiloh Baptist Church sitting on all these properties? This entity is not a real estate developer, it's a religious organization. While I appreciate the intent to develop some community-oriented facilities, I still think it's an ethical stretch for a church to be snatching up parcels of real estate (see map from Rob Goodspeed ). Rob also details a full listing of Shiloh Baptist's holdings here.

I'll venture that this real estate is an investment, not a community service. DCist reports that their own neighbors complain that "the empty, crumbling buildings" attract prostitutes, drug users, rodents, and that these spaces accumulate piles of trash that constitute a fire hazard. Hardly sounds beneficial to the community. It's good to see some people are stepping up to help improve their neighborhood, although it's sad and ironic that the church leadership can't be counted among them.

The church claims that it is just lacking the necessary funds to redevelop it's holdings. But if it were really so well-intentioned, why not sell its properties to a non-profit, or to a developer who will agree to rehab the property? ANC 2C01 commissioner Alex Padro notes concerns that "based on the church's history with these properties, the leadership will attempt to list them far above their actual value, and they could end up sitting on the market for another long stretch of time." Clearly, this is a charitable endeavor without hope for monetary gain. (DCist).

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." Matthew 25:40

Leaving buildings vacant blights a neighborhood, and these empty structures are especially a problem in Shaw. Here's a snapshot I found posted on DCist of one of these beauties. Wouldn't you love to live with this across the street from your home? More pics and comments here....what a pillar of the community.

I realize many Shaw residents are pushing back against the encroach of gentrification, and their concerns aren't entirely unwarranted. But, development doesn't necessarily mean luxury condos and wine bars. The Washington Post quotes church leader Rev. Wallace Smith as stating that the church prefers to turn the properties into affordable housing rather than allow developers to build condos, drive up neighborhood prices and "displace persons." This statement misrepresents the church's situation (as does the entire article's portrayal of Shiloh). There are socially-minded developers who could actually deliver the community services that Shiloh has been promising for years and years.

Thanks, Shiloh Baptist, for this foray into outrageous ineptitude and questionable ethics.

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