Greenhouse Plans For Ward 8 Scrapped

The greenhouse, slated for Ward 8, was to bring fruit and vegetables  to local stores in a southeast Washington community lacking fresh produce.

WASHINGTON — Theresa Jones didn’t want it to be built anyway.

Neither did Olivia Henderson or Patricia Carmon, both Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners for Ward 8.  Nor did Derek Davis, a ward resident, and local business owner. 

So to hear that the hydroponic greenhouse slated to be built at the intersection of South Capitol Street and Southern Avenue in Ward 8 is now null and void was, for them, a bit of a relief.

Ground was supposed to break for the 100,000 square-foot greenhouse last December, but was held off when it was discovered that the space where the building was supposed to go was polluted and needed expensive cleanup before building could start.

Empty bottles, old tires, scraps of metal and everything else you can imagine, sit in heaping piles across the land and along the creek that runs through it.

The Department of General Services (DGS) was aware of some pollution on the land, according to a press release from 2013 when the initiative was first announced, but only recently discovered the extent of the pollution and soil contamination in a thorough inspection.

Former mayor Vincent Gray entered a partnership that year with BrightFarms Inc., a company that builds greenhouses in urban areas and distributes fresh produce to local stores, as part of his Sustainable DC initiative.

The greenhouse was intended to be a solution for Ward 8’s long lasting food desert issue, which gained the support of late Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry.

According to a press release from DGS this project would have grown enough produce to feed 5,000 residents, as well as provide one hundred construction jobs, then another 20 full-time green-collar positions once the farm opened.

Mayor Gray, center, was optimistic when announced the greenhouse.

Despite the benefits, ANC 8D fought against it aggressively.

“We were opposed to it because the community development would have been slim to none,” said Jones, chair of ANC 8D. “And now they’ve found out what we said is true. The pollution and the water, it would take so much money to clean that property up.”

Henderson said ANC members opposed the greenhouse because they would rather see money funneled directly into community programs.They also doubted the jobs the program was supposed to bring would go to Ward 8 residents.

But, not everyone felt the same.

ANC 8D04 Commissioner Monique Diop and some other Ward 8 residents didn’t see the harm in it.

“Instead us of complaining about people that want to come in and better the place, why not let somebody else do it?” Diop asked. “I’d rather see beautification than a junk yard.

“Now that the program has been wiped away, my next concern is what they are going to do with the land now.”

During ANC 8D’s meeting last week, it was announced that the Department of Corrections is rumored to be interested in the land to relocate a jail.

The Department of General Services did not respond to our questions on the matter.