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Once Scary Girard Street Block Now Shines; Rehabbed Playground Seen as Key

By P.L. Wolff

[Note: Photographs accompanying this news story in the print edition can be viewed in the full PDF copy in the Current & Back Issues Archive.]

Shortly after 3 p.m. on Wednesday, December 10th, Mayor Fenty, Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham and the city’s parks and recreation department director, Clark E. Ray were joined by ANC Commissioner-elect Juan Lopez, City Blossoms co-founders Rebecca Lemos and Lola Bloom, and approximately 50 very happy neighborhood residents, along with about 15 children who had just finished school for the day to celebrate the redevelopment of the 14th and Girard Street Playground.

“We are immensely pleased to reopen the . . . playground,” the Mayor enthusiastically exclaimed. “This open space has been improved to serve and represent the vast interests of the diverse multi-cultural communities which call Columbia Heights home.” Ward 1 Councilmember Graham has indicated to The InTowner his personal satisfaction with the completion of this project, the effort for which he led beginning in 1999 with the view not only to renovate the playground itself but to bring about the razing of two, abandoned drug-infested buildings on the corner of 15th and Girard Streets with the goal of eliminating the 1400 block’s very dangerous drug dealing, violence and homicides. Seven years ago the situation was so bad that during a single six-month period six persons were murdered within 100 feet of the new play area.

In addition to this colorful and technologically advanced play surface, new amenities will include a children’s community garden and installation of an interior gate at the Fuller and Fairmont Streets entrances. Other rehab work includes the reinstallation of swings used by children six to 12 years-old; replacing missing slats from benches and missing teeter-totter handles; repairs to the pergolas at the tot playground and water feature, and painting of the walls inside the ellipse and children’s playground. Although the playground is now open for the neighborhood children to enjoy, final completion will not be until later in 2009.