The Barry Farm redevelopment project in Ward 8 took a major step forward on Sept. 26 as District officials and residents broke ground on its first building under the auspices of the New Communities Initiative.
The new addition to Barry Farm will be The Asberry, a mixed-used building with 108 units of housing slated for people ages 55 and older with about 5,000 square feet of commercial space.
The Asberry, named for activist Asberry Sanker, will be built directly from the Barry Farm Recreation Center. Darlene Jameson, a former resident of Barry Farm who had to leave due to construction of new units, said she couldn’t wait for the groundbreaking of The Asberry.
“I represent the strong voice of Barry Farm residents,” Jameson said, speaking before a group of 60 people at a news conference. “We worked hard for this day to become a reality. We are excited and ready to return here to live.”
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said the groundbreaking represents progress in Ward 8 and the District overall.
“We are proud to be breaking ground on the first, on-site building in Barry Farm,” the mayor said. “Today is a win for former Barry Farm residents and the District of Columbia because we are delivering on a promise dating back to the [Anthony] Williams Administration.”
“We are committed to doing it in an equitable way, ensuring former Barry Farm residents benefit most from the redevelopment. In doing so, we honor the legacy of the founders of Barry Farm-Hillsdale and ensure our long-time residents have the opportunity to thrive in their beloved Barry Farm community,” Bowser said.
D.C. Council member Trayon White Sr. (D-Ward 8) said the groundbreaking represents “a new day in the great Ward 8.”
“This has been a long time coming,” White said. “Twelve years ago, we were having meetings at Birney Elementary School and Matthew Memorial Church because of talk about tearing down Barry Farm. Now the former residents can come back to Ward 8.”
The History Behind Barry Farm
Barry Farm, along with an adjoining neighborhood Hillsdale, got its start in 1867 when formerly enslaved Blacks sought to own land and create an independent community in the District. Through the rest of the 19th century, Blacks founded schools, churches, community associations and stores and participated in the civic and political life of the District in Barry Farm.
In the 1940s, Barry Farm Dwellings became a public housing project for Blacks who had problems finding places to live due to the District’s racial segregation policies. In the 1960s and through the end of the 20th century, Barry Farm had a number of low-income residents who fought for such causes as welfare and tenants’ rights and economic parity.
Conversations by city officials and residents on redeveloping Barry Farm began in the mid-2000s, culminating in efforts to start redeveloping the neighborhood and its historic buildings in 2015. However, with the redevelopment having already begun, many residents had to move due to construction of the new buildings.
Activists with the Barry Farm Tenants Association, in conjunction with advocacy group Empower DC, have remained determined to make city officials to live up to their promise that former residents could return upon the development’s completion. In addition, the two organizations have collectively worked with city historians to preserve some of the buildings due to their historical significance.
Wait Begins for Move-In Day
Rodger Brown, the managing director for real estate development for project co-developer the Preservation of Affordable Housing Inc., said The Asberry will take 24 months to build. Other buildings in the Barry Farm project will be rolled out in nine-month phases.
Brown said The Asberry, which will cost $10 million to construct, serves as an important part of the $43 million first phase of the Barry Farm redevelopment. The D.C. Housing Authority serves as the co-developer of Barry Farm with the Preservation of Affordable Housing, Inc.
The Barry Farm revitalization will be completed in 2030.