After two days of loud protests sparked by fliers distributed throughout the community, Southeast residents and others are demanding that officials cease construction of Bozzuto’s Maple View Flats development until job guarantees and other concessions are met.
Among those concessions, residents want promises to halt depopulation, gentrification and unfair development.
Ultimately, protesters have asked for a citywide moratorium on all development.
Mayor Muriel Bowser is at least publicly attempting to tackle one of the issues, but Ward 8 Councilman Trayon White and others said that’s not enough.
Bowser planned a Maple View Flats Jobs Fair, a four-hour event on Wednesday, March 14 at the Barry Farm Recreation Center in Southeast.
In a statement, the mayor said the job fair was scheduled to “provide an opportunity for District residents to be aware of open job positions connected to the Maple View Flats project, and for those who are qualified to interview on the spot for said positions, with the potential of receiving a conditional offer letter the same day.”
Bowser did not return messages this week seeking further comment.
Although the development includes as much as $9 billion for Ward 8, which has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, African-Americans — the majority population in the ward — complain that they aren’t getting a piece of the pie.
They said Bozzuto and other companies there aren’t providing opportunities for minorities.
“I asked for a meeting over a month ago and it didn’t happen. Now I see Mayor Bowser put out a flier [last week] about a job fair when the jobs have never been fair,” White said.
“We don’t need a job fair, we need jobs and contracts for our businesses in our ward,” he said, adding that the protests were “just the beginning.”
Responding to White’s comments, resident Bethany Glaser questioned the absence of Black-owned construction companies in the area.
“How about also allowing Black-owned construction companies to do some of the work at these big-dollar construction sites?” Glaser said. “Those Starbucks and minimum-wage jobs are OK, but we need the bids for larger contracts. It’s almost like we are watching our neighborhoods, culture and history being robbed and taken from us with scheming tactics. Not fair.”
Another Southeast resident, Nicole Venable, also scoffed at Bowser’s job fair.
“The job fair is done only to make Bozzuto look good, that’s all,” Venable said. “They want it to look like they’re doing something for the community but in reality, they’re just throwing crumbs and hoping that black people will be ‘grateful’ enough to pick up the crumbs and kowtow to them. It’s an old throw-a-dog-a-bone tactic.”
Rashaan Greer, who lives two blocks from the development, said he’s hoping protests and the backing of city officials like White will at least open conversations for better treatment and more involvement of African-Americans who’ve made Ward 8 home for decades.
“We have to lift up our voices,” Greer said. “We have to rise up together and draw the line because gentrification has already moved our people out of the city and Southeast, Ward 8 … this is our home. This is where many of our roots are, so if Bozzuto wants to come in here, they should seek our blessing to do so and they have to be ready to offer something substantial.”
The Greenbelt, Maryland-based Bozzuto builds multifamily housing, retail establishments and other facilities. Though a company spokesman declined to comment, Bozzuto’s profile on Bloomberg Business Wire claims it’s responsible for the construction and renovation of more than 20 million square feet of mixed-use and multifamily residential projects with a value exceeding $2.2 billion.
The Maple View Flats construction counts as a $50 million project that wraps around Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and Maple View Place. It’s a proposed 116,000-square-foot, 114-unit affordable housing apartment building that’s expected to contain four levels of wood frame over a one-story podium.
It also contains two levels of below-grade parking and 15,000 square feet of ground-level retail space including a Starbucks. The project plans include a rooftop amenity terrace, community room, bike storage facility and a fitness center. Completion is expected this fall.
However, White told ABC News that he’ll continue his crusade.
“I don’t want to look back and our condition of our ward is in a worst condition than we were before this,” White said, adding that he wants to see more skilled workers from Ward 8 involved in the project, which was awarded in 2012.
“They are not hiring locally and that’s a problem for me. We did do our due diligence and met with Tim Chapman [whom the project was awarded to] and he said he was going to reconvene a meeting with Bozzuto, but that meeting never happened,” he said.
Finally, White sees a problem with businesses coming from outside of the District and being chosen for such developments as Maple View Flats.
“We have capable businesses in Ward 8, construction companies in Ward 8,” White said. “But somehow we see people from Maryland and Virginia every day.”