Washington, D.C., is a city of contradictions. It’s the seat of power for the U.S. federal government and home to many Fortune 1000 companies, prestigious universities and one of the largest high-tech corridors outside Silicon Valley. It is among the country’s fastest-growing cities, and the greater Washington region boasts five of the 10 wealthiest counties in the United States.
Yet the city also struggles with stark economic and racial inequality. In the same city where many find ample opportunity, many live in stark poverty. In addition, white households have a net worth 81 times greater than their black counterparts. Clearly, not all residents are reaping the benefits of the city’s growing economy.
In 2017, our firm made a $10 million, three-year commitment to Washington, D.C. — our third such long-term investment in a major U.S. city. We have been doing business in the greater Washington region since 1999, and this commitment springs from the belief that the District has the necessary elements in place for our firm to make a big impact: a clear need for more opportunities for an economically and racially diverse group of people, alongside a proven willingness by local partners and leaders to work together to create positive and lasting change.
As we’ve done in Detroit and Chicago, our firm is leveraging our expertise and experience, and building on these existing conditions, to connect disenfranchised groups with economic opportunity.
Three-year commitment to Washington, D.C. in 2017
of our investment is committed to support a plan for residents in Wards 7 and 8
While D.C. is a growing hub of economic activity, the challenges of economic inclusion have also grown. The District’s Wards 7 and 8 are among the hardest hit, facing high poverty and unemployment rates, displaced small businesses, economic instability and housing challenges. Over the past 12 years, the median family income in Ward 8 dropped nearly 17 percent, while the median family income in Ward 2 — home to the White House, the National Mall and other tourist attractions — jumped nearly 65 percent.
Tackling this inequality requires a thoughtful and strategic approach. We have committed half of our investment to support a plan for residents in Wards 7 and 8 to connect with economic opportunities and protect them from getting pushed out as a result of an upcoming development project. We’ll target the other half toward accelerating and scaling efforts to provide residents most at risk of being left behind with opportunities to benefit from the region’s economic growth. We’ll do this by focusing on what we know makes the most impact: supporting in-demand skills, minority-owned small business growth, neighborhood revitalization and financial health. As we’ve done elsewhere, we will also deploy the expertise of our firm’s employees through our skills-based employee volunteer program, Service Corps, to help build the capacity of our local partners on the ground.
The 11th Street Bridge Park is an ambitious, $50 million project that will include an elevated bridge across the Anacostia River that connects two starkly different neighborhoods. On one side is the affluent neighborhood of Capitol Hill, where nearly two-thirds of the residents are white, household annual incomes average about $140,000 and the median home price is $812,000. On the other side is Anacostia, one of Washington, D.C.’s most economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. Here, 96 percent of the residents are black, 20 percent of the residents are unemployed and 50 percent of the children live in poverty.
The bridge project could give the area a major economic boost — and that is what has some people worried. Many are concerned that such economic growth could push out long-term Anacostia residents, making the chasm between the two neighborhoods even deeper.
A group of three committed local nonprofits — winners of JPMorgan Chase’s 2017 PRO Neighborhoods competition — have banded together to make sure this doesn’t happen. The coalition, which includes Building Bridges Across the River, Washington Area Community Investment Fund and City First Enterprises, will be working on the ground to implement The 11th Street Bridge Park Equitable Development Plan, which is the product of consultation with community members over two years. The plan lays out a roadmap for current residents to avoid the pitfalls of gentrification and benefit from the economic opportunities that the new bridge will create.
With the help of JPMorgan Chase’s $5 million investment, the partners will put the development plan into action, which includes developing and preserving affordable housing near the 11th Street Bridge and helping minority-owned and locally owned small businesses get access to capital. They will also provide training to local residents to enable them to access employment opportunities in the construction of the project.