The theme of Day 6 in the ULI Washington Leadership Institute kicked off with a passionate talk about leadership by Patrina Clark, the president and founder of Pivotal Practices Consulting. She deftly navigated around some initial technical difficulties with her powerpoint by speaking from the heart and drawing on her 25 plus years of experience as a Federal careerist. Having worked across multiple agencies such as the IRS, Naval Command Washington, the Federal Elections Commissions, and the GAO, she shared great lessons with the group along every one of her stops about leading a team, building trust among a group, managing organizational bureaucracy, and getting productive results. She humbly discussed her own journey from a hardworking, type-A, star performer to becoming a GS-15 senior executive, and learning that many of those same traits that made her noticed early on were no longer enough to be a good leader of teams and organizations. Rather, traits like tact, diplomacy, humility, and pacing oneself were essential to bring people together to work in the same direction. It was interesting to see Patrina’s professional and personal growth across the various places she worked at, and many of us recognized parallels in our own careers!
After a short break following Patrina’s presentation, the day continued by delving deeper into the Demographics and Housing themewith a panel discussion about gentrification, and, in particular our perceptions vs realities of community change. Moderated by Manny Ochoa, the panel included diverse and esteemed professionals including Peter Tatian (Urban Institute), Don Edwards (Justice and Sustainability Associates), Aakash Thakkar (EYA), Melissa Bondi (Enterprise) and Anita Cozart (Policy Link). Peter began with a presentation about demographic change and rising housing costs that was being studied by the Urban Institute, before getting the panel started off in earnest. Despite the different roles each of them inhabited – developer, social justice advocate, think tank researchers, etc. – it was amazing to see how similar their perspectives were in terms of agreeing on the problems. Nearly all agreed that the word “gentrification” was a simplistic term that masks the various dynamics and issues surrounding community change. The question of who benefits and who is harmed by neighborhood change, and the need for both public and private entities to establish services and programs to assist those who are most affected and have the fewest options, was enlightening. These issues found unanimous support across the panel, even as they acknowledged solutions would be challenging and required strong political will.
Following a delicious lunch served by the day’s hosts, Bus Boys and Poets, the group was led on a tour of the Renaissance Square Artist Housing Project built by Housing Partnership, Inc. Delivered in 2008, the project consists of 44-units dedicated to low-income artists with a range of artistic amenities, such as an art gallery, high ventilation work room, dance space, and music practice room. Jocelyn Harris from the development team led the tour and outlined the complex assortment of city, state, federal, private, and Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program funds needed to complete the project. As a recipient of LIHTC funds, the units are reserved for households earning 30%, 40%, and 50% of the Area Median Income (AMI). Build on a long vacant site, the striking architecture and new energy helped catalyze additional interest in neighborhood and propelled the efforts of local community activists to rebrand the area to success.
The tour offered the perfect segue into the afternoon panel discussion covering the marketing of the Hyattsville Arts District. The panel, moderated by Brad Frome, Assistant Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for Economic Development Public Infrastructure, included key players in the recent renaissance of the Hyattsville neighborhood including Stuart Eisenberg, Executive Director of the Community Development Corporation; Mike Franklin, the owner of Hyattsville’s best known retail attraction, Franklin’s; and Peter Shapiro, Head of the Prince George’s County Revenue Authority.
Several key themes were covered in the discussion of the success of Hyattsville. Most importantly, a successful transformation takes dedicated leaders – both in the community and in elected office, a shared vision, an authentic experience, and perhaps most importantly – time and persistence.
Several key milestones were identified that illustrated successes. The opening of Franklin’s represents one of the earliest successes where offerings were carefully curated to meet the needs of a passionate community. Another was in the preservation of an architecturally unique icon in the Lustine car dealership showroom grounding the community in history and instilling a sense of place. The creation of the Hyattsville arts district provided new energy as the area focused on producers rather than the more conventional approach of consumers of art. Finally, the large private investment by EYA not only added new momentum, growth, and people to the community, buts its embrace of the community’s branding by naming the project the Arts District Hyattsville gave the effort permanence.