Introducing Bellevue’s Trinity Plaza
Huh? Where’s Bellevue? Exactly! Most people have either never heard of Bellevue, or blithely assume that they’re either in Anacostia or Congress Heights. And while that’s a different issue altogether, it clearly underscores the lack of discernible identity ascribed to Bellevue. That, I would wager, is about to change. From the aesthetically striking Bellevue Library, designed by celebrity architect David Adjaye (President Obama’s favorite architect, who just happens to be one of the lead architects of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture), to the state-of-the-art Conway Health and Wellness Center, something’s happening in Bellevue. But before we touch on that, let’s talk about the latest salvo in Bellevue’s continued evolution:
Trinity Plaza, a gargantuan arbiter of change casually masquerading as a very well-executed residential & retail building, has a Ribbon Cutting on May 27th at 10am (hopefully our very busy new Mayor can attend). Until then though, new residents are excitedly moving in and loving the spit-shined place they’re now beginning to call home. And for the record, of the total 49 units, there are still 12 2-bedroom, 2-bath units available (PDF rental application — 180kb). So, what—and who—bought trinity plaza about? For that answer, meet S. Patrice Sheppard. In 1987, Olney, MD residents S. Patrice Sheppard and her husband, the Rev. Eugene M. Sheppard, decided that Washington, DC was the place where they wanted to do their part to help stop the pervasive cycle of poverty from continually recreating itself and toxifying the black community. To that end, they came to DC and started working at a transitional shelter for homeless families at the corner of 2nd and Atlantic Streets, SE. Unfortunately, that only secured them an intimate, front-row seat to the aforementioned tragic recycling of poverty—augmented by the additional prisms of drugs, violence, AIDS, and the crack epidemic. For example, when someone residing in the shelter received housing, the managing contractor of the shelter would hire that person to be a housing counselor for the residents. But, when people would make donations to the people in the shelter, that person would go through everything first, take out what they wanted, and then give the rest to whomever was still living there. So it became “the oppressed becoming the oppressor“. Frustrated, they sought out to conceive and execute a better solution. Enter Lydia’s House, whose mission—quite simply—is to improve the quality of life for low-income and at-risk families and children living in far southwest and the SW neighborhoods of Anacostia, Congress Heights, Bellevue and Washington Highlands. To accomplish this mission, Lydia’s House focuses on “growing children, strengthening families, and changing neighborhoods.” But first, the name. “Lydia’s House” is thoughtfully derived from the Bible’s 14th and 15th chapters of Acts. Specifically, Lydia—a wealthy convert to Judaism who sold purple dye for a living—was also the first Gentile convert by the apostle Paul. Afterward, when Paul and Silas were in her town, she would help support their ministry. Lydia was such a resource for the two apostles, for example, that they went straight to her house after being released from prison. The spirit and altruism of these acts and ideas very succinctly convey the mission of Lydia’s house:
Acts 16:14 After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them. Then they left.
This is the parallel that they wished to create: when in need, provide a place of rest and rejuvenation, then help them to successfully continue on their own—irrespective of why they may have needed the help. That—in a nutshell—is Lydia’s House. To further highlight the congruence of the ideology to the mission, even the color of the highlighted areas of the property are . . . you guessed it . . . purple. Lydia’s House, now seeking to make a bigger impact and to provide a more comprehensive assortment of services and housing, became a non-profit housing provider and started buying up the 4-unit apartment buildings on Galveston Place, and many of the single-family properties on Brandywine Street and Martin Luther king, Jr. Avenue. Once procured, the properties would then be remodeled to provide affordable rental housing to the residents of the community. Fast forward 10+ years to the spot where Trinity Plaza now stands (21 Atlantic Street, SW—hence the entrance and address not on South Capitol), and you would have encountered the Atlantic Theater—originally opened in 1945 but boarded up and unused for over 30 years. On the corner at 3939 S. Capitol Street, SW, there was a boarded up Rite Aid drugstore that had been an independent pharmacy. Lydia’s House looked into how they could purchase those properties, develop affordable housing there, and restore the pharmacy—all for use by residents in the community, who desperately needed those services. Serendipitously, the District proved a good partner in providing grants and loans so that Lydia’s House could acquire the properties until they had a big enough footprint to be able to raze them and ultimately make way for Trinity Plaza.
Maximum Income Limits60% Area Median Income
1-2 Persons • 1br / 1ba Minimum $29,850
2-4 Persons • 2br / 1ba Minimum $34,770
2-4 Persons • 2br / 2ba Minimum $38,670
3-6 Persons • 3br / 2ba Minimum $44,250
21 Atlantic Street, SW, Washington, DC 20032