Councilmember Robert White today announced final passage of his bill to help three local institutions avoid displacement with the purchase of the buildings they currently rent. White said that when the Check-It Enterprises, We Act Radio, and District Culture buildings on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE in Ward 8 were put on the market for sale, they came to his office for assistance. “I had to work with them to figure out how to save these buildings that have become a major community and social action hub.”
Check-It Enterprises is a business started by former LGBTQ gang members. In addition to selling clothing, Check-It Enterprises uses its headquarters to teach youth about the fashion industry. “Equally important to the work they do,” White said, “Check-It Enterprises has become a community hub hosting countless community meetings, non-profit events, and social action planning meetings. The emergency crime meeting that resulted in Attorney General Karl Racine’s Cure the Streets crime interruption program happened on this property.”
White’s creates a $2 million grant to assist the three businesses in purchasing their properties. This is a unique legislative move, but White said that desperate times require new tools. He said, “I keep seeing residents use all their resources to start and maintain businesses just to lose everything when their buildings are sold and slated for redevelopment.”
White said some other local organizations and businesses need the same help and that he believes the DC government must step in. “DC government created the economic environment that is now pushing out local institutions and making the city too expensive for non-profits that do work the government can’t do. We can’t create the environment for displacement and then turn our backs on those displaced.”
White said he is using this effort as a model to develop broader legislation to help more organizations and businesses buy their buildings and avoid displacement. White credits the businesses, Mayor Bowser, Councilmembers Trayon White and Kenyan McDuffie, and C. Duane Gautier, the building owner, for working with him to achieve a rare success story. “Redevelopment keeps happening in our communities, but not with our communities. Now, redeveloping these buildings put residents and local business owners in the driver’s seat,” White said.