New Kid on the Block: Urban Neighborhood Alliance

by Borderstan.com January 25, 2011 at 5:00 am 2,639 6 Comments

Urban Neighborhood Alliance Dupont Circle 17th Street

17th Street NW: UNA’s mission is to build an organization with both residents and businesses in the Dupont-Logan area. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Tom Hay. Questions for Tom? Send him an email.

This month the website, Twitter account and Facebook page for the Urban Neighborhood Alliance (UNA) went live, and the newly formed community association for Dupont and Logan Circles quickly connected with residents and businesses. Membership in UNA is open to anyone who lives and or works in the Dupont and Logan neighborhoods. While there is no membership fee, donations to support their efforts are encouraged.

Borderstan spoke with Lee Granados, president of UNA, about the goals and vision for the organization. Granados is passionate about the neighborhood she has known since her childhood and where she now lives with her family. In 1922, her grandfather, who emigrated from Spain, opened Casa Pena. It was one of the first international food stores in the District on 17th Street NW near R Street NW, where Salon Rouge is now located. Granados’s grandmother lived on Church Street NW until well into her 90’s before moving in with her eldest daughter; she lived to 103.

Granados recalls the pride residents and business owners felt in the community back then and hopes to rekindle that sense of unity. She said the UNA has plans for a board of directors that would consist of nine members – four residents of the Dupont and Logan Circle areas, four business owners and one board member who is both a resident and business owner.

‘I think there is a vibrant group of residents that exist that want to see 17th Street and other areas thrive and exist as collaborative communities. We are committed to working with all organizations to bridge relationships between businesses and residents and enjoy this unique neighborhoods.’ – Lee Granados

One of the first efforts UNA has spearheaded is an online petition to the DC Board of Elections and Ethics seeking expansion of voting place options for the April 26th special election to fill the at-large vacancy on the DC Council. Current plans have only two polling places in Ward 2, both in the western areas of the ward. As of this writing they have collected 113 signatures.

Granados, along with UNA Vice President Stephen Rutgers, co-chaired the successful 17th Street Festival in September 2010; she is currently president of the Parent Teacher Association at the Ross School, where her two children are enrolled.

The Urban Neighborhood Alliance provided Borderstan with a few FAQs about the organization:

Borderstan: What is the Urban Neighborhood Alliance?
UNA: We’re residents and business owners in the Dupont and Logan Circle neighborhoods who are committed to solving community challenges collectively by bringing together residents and businesses. We’re pragmatic and understand that, in an urban environment, there needs to be give-and-take between businesses and residents. We don’t always need to be at odds.

17th Street NW Urban Neighborhood Alliance Casa Pena

Borderstan: Why did you form?
UNA: We saw a void where, on issue after issue, residents and businesses were talking past each other and made little attempt to reach common ground. We wanted to change that through better communication and creative problem solving. In fact, our vision statement is, “Filling a void, bridging gaps and building our urban community.”

Borderstan: What’s your organizing structure?
We’ve set up a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that will eventually have a board of nine members: four residents, four business owners and one that’s both a resident and business owner. By having a balanced board of directors, we hope to be responsive to the needs of both businesses and residents. Four board members are officers — president, vice president, secretary and treasurer.

Borderstan: How many members do you have?
UNA: We don’t operate as a membership organization, which would serve to exclude more of the community than it would include. We operate solely on the basis of donations from folks in the neighborhood, and on the marginal additional funds we’ll make at each of our community events. We’re running a very tight budget right now, but in a couple of years, we hope to have sufficient funds to provide grants and financial support to groups in need in our community, though that’s down the road a ways.

Borderstan: What are your boundaries?
UNA: We don’t have set boundaries, actually. We’re basically focusing on Dupont Circle and a little bit of Logan Circle at the moment. Our goal is to expand over time, but we don’t want to try to do too much too fast. We’ll make our voice heard on city issues from time to time as they impact those neighborhoods and where appropriate to the representation of those neighborhoods.

Borderstan: Earlier you mentioned community activities. What are some things you’re looking at this year?
UNA: Two of our board members were co-chairs of the 17th Street Festival last year, so we’d hope to continue that event again this year. It was fantastic to really see our neighborhood come together toward a common goal, and the festival was universally regarded as a fantastic event. We’re also working on a community rummage sale this spring to coincide with a spring cleaning/trash collection for the entire neighborhood. We’re also putting together a tour of 17th Street businesses in two weeks to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Snowmageddon and the historic Dupont Circle Snowball Fight.

Full disclosure: Borderstan Media, LLC contributed $20 to the Urban Neighborhood Alliance. In addition, Borderstan was a sponsor of the 17th Street Festival last September.


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