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City Lab Portfolio

Ward 4 in Washington DC is home to historically black neighborhoods butted up against historically wealthy white neighborhoods. We have seen the challenges that gentrification has brought to neighborhoods like Petworth. As neighborhoods in northern Ward 4, like Brightwood and Shephard Park, start to gentrify there are both tangible and hidden impacts on the community. Through this portfolio, we meet the key stakeholders and issues at play in order to answer the question:

How can Ward 4 welcome economic development that establishes shared prosperity for its residents?

Historical Context


We cannot make sense of present-day livability challenges without understanding the intentional design decisions made throughout our city's history.  The challenges and opportunities that have faced DC, and specifically Ward 4, throughout history help give us context for the types of barriers that must be addressed and change that needs to be made for progress towards a livable city for all residents in Ward 4.

Stakeholder Perspectives


To better understand what shared prosperity in Ward 4 could mean, I focused my research on understanding the unique perspectives of the residents, decision-makers, and key influences across the ward. I set out into my fieldwork with three primary goals: listen deeply, stay open to surprises, and be conscious of my bias. The features that follow capture what I learned from secondary and primary research while getting proximate to my neighborhood.

Breaking News:
Corruption in Government Agencies and its impact on Ward 4

Many of my interviewees working and living in Ward 4 spoke on the challenges of working with DC government, especially when it came to creating improvements for the livability of residents and success of small businesses that improve neighborhoods. The main agency making this progress difficult, and from some interviewees making corrupt decisions, was the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA).  In their (anonymous) words:

A lot of my job is trying to fight DDOT and DCRA.
They're not getting rid of that people who aren’t getting things done. They just opened up 2 new agencies from DCRA, but nothing's going to change.
I'm done with working with the government initiatives, it's just not worth it.

The DC Council agreed that the DCRA has fallen short on its duties - like leaving buildings and elevators uninspected, putting people in danger. As of October 1, 2022 has been split into two entities: the Department of Buildings (DOB) and the Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection (DLCP). But these new agencies are run by the same people that allowed citizens to be unsafe and left local leaders frustrated. It is too soon to tell how this change will impact the livability of Ward 4, but you can be sure I'll be following along!

Read more from local sources below:

Uncovered Insights for Ward 4


Throughout this research process, I discovered more questions than I did answers. However, the one thing I learned for certain is that the answer to livability resides in the people most affected by changes to their city and their neighborhood. Through conversations and secondary research, I learned how integral the residents and their experiences are to the business owners that equally serve their community and rely on their community, the officials that make decisions with and for their residents, and changemakers that keep pushing an agenda forward for an equitable, livable, future.


Below are a few insights and resulting questions that I hope can take the research forward and develop opportunities for real impact in Ward 4, my new home.  

A thriving community is a connected community.

I believe Ward 4 has the compassion, the connection, and the care to truly continue to thrive as it grows and changes alongside DC. It has the ingredients for livability, what will it take to sustain that future?

"Maybe a handful of leaders can plan a nation’s capital
but it will take our residents to plan an inclusive city"

- DC's Vision for Inclusive City
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