Welcome to NOMA, Conway Residents
Earlier today, there was a celebration in my neighborhood for the opening of a new apartment building, the John and Jill Ker Conway Residence, developed by the team at Community Solutions.
My husband Dean and I moved into an apartment in the NOMA neighborhood of DC in June 2015, a few months after I had stepped into the role of USICH executive director. In our frequent walks around our new neighborhood and our new city, we’ve watched the progress of many new apartment construction projects, buildings which will help bring hundreds more residents — new neighbors — into our community in the months and years ahead. New neighbors seeking a safe and stable place to call home. Looking for a home that is well-maintained, warm, and inviting. Hoping for a community that will be welcoming and full of opportunity. New neighbors moving in with a mix of nervousness and excitement, like we did 18 months ago.
We’ve watched the construction of the Conway Residence, just a couple of blocks away from our building, with special interest. We knew that it would provide 124 affordable apartments, including 60 supportive housing opportunities for Veterans exiting homelessness. We knew that it would contribute to the drive to end Veteran homelessness — and all homelessness — in the District.
I had the chance to tour the building while it was still under construction, and to discuss the vision behind the project with the team at Community Solutions. The non-profit’s president, Roseanne Haggerty, told me: "We set out to build something beautiful and iconic, because those attributes do so much to inspire new tenants as they begin to rebuild their lives in housing. A building that adds value to the neighborhood and livens up the block is also an immediate asset to a community, and that can help local residents remember that the people living in that building are assets as well, that they are neighbors."
Now that the building is open, Conway residents have access to on-site supportive services provided through a partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, including job training and health care referrals, as well as a gym, shared community spaces, bike racks, a business center, and other features that help turn an apartment building into a home. And they have access to the evolving NOMA community that Dean and I have explored and enjoyed.
But as we walk around our neighborhood, we also speak with our neighbors who have no homes of their own to return to at the end of each day, and we know that, for them, NOMA is a place where they experience crisis and vulnerability rather than feeling safe, welcome, and supported. And so we know that there is much, much more work to be done, here in the District and across the country.
We need paths to housing and stability and opportunity for every person, every family, experiencing the crisis of homelessness. We need many more affordable and supportive housing developments like the Conway Residence. We need every community and every neighborhood to be welcoming to new development and new neighbors — neighbors with a wide range of income levels and experiences. And we need to recognize both those developments and those new neighbors as assets to our communities.
I’ll admit that I sometimes grimace or grumble a bit as construction noise wakes me up earlier than I would like on many mornings. But I know that the future strength and health of my neighborhood, of my city, and of all of our communities across our country, will depend upon the development of the new housing, especially more affordable housing, being driven by such noise. So, by the time I am sipping my first cup of coffee, I am usually looking out of our apartment’s windows and trying to assess when more construction will be complete, and when more people will be moving into their new homes, with a mix of nervousness and excitement, alongside us.