Nonprofit Launches Solo Act: Establishes Itself as Key Player for Equitable Development

In the Spring of 2006, longtime LISC partner Manna CDC spun off from Manna Inc.
and became an independent entity. Now called ONE DC, which stands for Organizing Neighborhood Equity, they are taking their vision for an equitable, inclusive city to neighborhoods throughout the region.

We support this move and are continuing to provide operating support and project related support for upcoming developments. Remarking on the amiable separation, Executive Director of ONE DC Dominic Moulden notes, “We were originally planning to become independent in 2008. But we were growing so quickly, had such a strong staff and had so much forward momentum that Manna’s Board thought it best that we make the transition sooner.”

As Manna CDC, the organization focused their efforts on the Shaw neighborhood. As ONE DC, they will use their organizing work in Shaw to serve as a model that they hope to institutionalize throughout the city and extend to other regions. According to Board Chair Virginia Lee, “Shaw is the model we hope to replicate. We’ve had calls from other parts of the city asking us to bring the equitable development concept to their neighborhoods.”

By equitable development, they are referring to physical development projects that benefit existing residents – not just new residents with higher incomes. “We are not interested in imported people concepts. We need to work with people who are already here- we need to create racial and economic equity for the people in this city.”

When asked what drives ONE DC’s focus on equitable development, Moulden’s response is quick, “Just look at the demographics here – of the 58,000 children in public schools, 70-80% are on free or reduced lunch- this is an issue of poverty and equity.
The gap between the rich and poor is growing. We see that our children aren’t getting the best jobs, because they don’t have access to the best education. We still have to fight for real affordable housing for people in our communities. But now we aren’t just talking about it, we have a legal means to implement it and practical means to get it done.”

The “means” Moulden mentions is what is known as Community Benefit Agreements or CBAs. These are legally binding documents forged between the community and developers to bring about some desired goal within the community –whether a set-aside for affordable units, a new community center, or resident based job plan. Says Moulden, “We want to build the leadership skills in residents – they have the answers, they are the ones experiencing the change. The residents should have a say.”

Already off to a running start, ONE DC has acquired the development rights to a NCRC owned parcel on 7th Street. They plan to build a mixed use office/ retail/ housing structure.

They also have two CBAs with developers for the large new developments at 7th and S Streets NW and 7th and Rhode Island Avenue NW. There, ONE DC and the community negotiated affordable housing set asides, jobs for neighborhood residents and retail space for locally owned businesses. The rental housing going up at 7th and Rhode Island Avenue, NW is the first affordable rental housing constructed in Shaw in the last 40 years.

We congratulate ONE DC on these and other recent victories. There can be little doubt that ONE DC’s push for equity has made this city stronger by giving residents a real voice in determining what happens in their neighborhood.