Some residents of a Northeast Washington community near Spingarn High School are still fighting to stop construction of a facility by District officials to store and maintain trolley cars adjacent to the historic school.
The residents said their letters and phone calls to Mayor Vincent Gray, asking him to intercede in what they consider a project that disrespects the area’s historic significance, have gone ignored. They said attempts to reach accord on an alternate site have been resisted by the D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT).
Gray and DDOT officials are finalizing plans for a new transit line and a proposed Car Barn Training Center, which the city plans to construct adjacent to Spingarn.
The facility is expected to house trolley cars needing maintenance and light repairs. Developers said they plan to use the location as an educational and training facility for local high school and college students interested in learning about trolley maintenance.
Many of the local residents don’t want it, leaders said.
“A large [percentage] of the community is disturbed by it, particularly long-time residents firmly oppose it,” said Frazer Walton, president of the Kingman Park Civic Association. “So many of the residents have gone to the schools on the hill and they want to see it preserved.”
Vernice Blackness, the ANC Commissioner for 5D, said she is angry because she was not informed about the car barn being put on Spingarn property until a year and a half after the mayor initially proposed it.
“I don’t have a problem with the streetcars,” Blacknell said. “I do have a problem with them putting their maintenance center and training center on Spingarn property when there is an alternative place behind the Pepco plant.”
Located near the intersection of Benning Road and 26th Street NE, Spingarn was recently designated a National Historic Site by the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board after a request from the Kingman Park Civic Association. Residents said they sought the designation to protect the land that local residents held in such high esteem.
Aside from the historical principle, Walton also believes that the streetcar barn will present an issue with health and safety.
“It’s a danger to the community because of the pedestrians moving about in that area and particularly the children moving around,” he said.
Walton also noted that the streetcar barn may emit “very serious electromagnetic radiation” which could lead to health and environmental issues in the community.
A D.C. Preservation hearing is scheduled for April 25 where residents will find out if the city has decided to move the trolley car maintenance facility.
Walton said he is hopeful.
“We plan to continue to protest what they’re doing through letter-writing, calling and we are considering litigation against the city,” he said.
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