By Megan Sayles,
AFRO Business Writer,

JPMorgan Chase recently committed $2 million to the Washington Area Community Investment Fund (Wacif) in efforts to support the redevelopment of the Anacostia Arts Center, which serves as a hub for small businesses, artists and cultural organizations in Ward 8. 

The announcement came on the heels of the financial institutions’ $3.5 million investment into the Congress Heights Community Training and Development Corporation (CHCTDC), which will use the funds to create a small business incubator for Black women entrepreneurs. 

“To start and grow there are three things that small businesses need to succeed consistently. They need capital to fund their ambitions, they need customers to buy their products and services, and— perhaps most importantly—they need connections to help them with their development,” said Ben Walter, CEO of business banking for JPMorgan Chase. “We know that all three of those things are lacking in many communities, including this one, and we all know that those resources are inequitable, but that’s the challenge that Wacif and the Anacostia Arts Center solve.” 

Wacif acquired the Anacostia Arts Center in 2021 with a goal of increasing economic opportunity and supporting minority entrepreneurs in Wards 7 and 8, which are predominantly low-income communities. 

By 2030, the organization intends to invest $100 million in underserved communities to support 5,000 minority entrepreneurs, who will then be able to create or retain 100,000 local jobs.

“We decided to buy this building because we wanted to create a new ecosystem of support for entrepreneurs, instead of just investing in the ecosystem,” said Harold Pettigrew Jr., CEO of Wacif. 

“Two years ago, this was a concept. Today, we announced Chase’s investment in helping us to make this a reality. We are making this space a new hub for inclusive entrepreneurship and a new home for entrepreneurs of color where they know they can get support.” 

When the renovation is complete, the Anacostia Arts Center will use its 35,000 square-foot space to expand the Black Box Theatre, provide business consulting services and offer retail space to entrepreneurs. The center will also aid Ward 7 and 8 entrepreneurs in accessing financial capital in order to sustain and grow their businesses. 

Additionally, the newly redeveloped Anacostia Arts Center will serve as the only coworking space in D.C. that is located East of the Anacostia River.

“Running a small business is really lonely. Small business owners crave connection to other people who are going through the same challenges and experiences,” said Walter. 

“That’s the beauty of having not just an organized place online but a physical hub where people can come together and get that experience.” 

Megan Sayles is a Report for America Corps member.