Crab Cakes and Community Development

Last month, the LISC DC and LISC VA teams got together in Annapolis, MD for a 2 day staff retreat. We began the first day getting to know one another over yummy meals (lots of crab cakes) and with a fun-filled icebreaker on a boat ride across the Chesapeake Bay. The first day ended with the enjoyment of a fantastic blues concert.

We got down to business on the second day, which began with our Executive Director, Oramenta Newsome, providing the lay of the LISC land – where our organization began, where we are now, and where we are headed. We compared our markets and the similarities and differences in how each office approaches building sustainable communities.

The LISC VA team gave a presentation on their investments in commercial corridors, using their SEED grant program for small businesses as an example.  To date, they have assisted 22 businesses. They also shared how their community engagement efforts led to Richmond being selected as the Stone Brewing Company’s east coast location. LISC VA’s FOCs will step in to directly connect the neighborhood residents to the job opportunities that will be made available with the brewery’s opening.

LISC DC shared how the ongoing equitable development work remains a central tenet to the development of the 11th Street Bridge Park. We also gave a presentation on how the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) is a unique tool being used in affordable housing preservation in Washington, DC. LISC DC supports TOPA projects by providing technical assistance, financial support (e.g. earnest money deposits), and moral support – believing in tenants’ vision for long-term affordability and sustainability.

Both offices utilize a collaborative approach – working in concert with partner organizations – in our community development work. Our staff retreat was a good reminder that despite differences in our markets, we hold steady to one unified vision – transforming distressed neighborhoods into healthy communities of choice and opportunity.