Adam’s Morgan

Community Development and Public Policy Research Paper By: Caroline Pacl

Adam’s Morgan Research Paper Abstract: An Overview on Issues, Assets, History, & Overall Make-up of the Community

Adams Morgan is an eclectic community in the heart of Washington, DC. Its rich history has enabled it to become: a destination for new families, a center of tourism with its parks, arts and lively nightlife, and an epicenter of diverse mom and pop shops that meet the needs of its diverse demography. While the community prides itself on its many assets, such as its many ethnic businesses that cater to the diverse populations living in or around its boarders, many issues are still in need of resolution. Over the past year an increase in violence on the streets has led police to send more patrol cars out at night—a clear problem considering that Adams Morgan is home to the largest population of 25-34 year-olds (new families) in the district. Further issues include its limited availability of affordable housing, where the vast majority of its residents rent apartments and are unable or unwilling to buy homes. In addition Adams Morgan has a fair number of both public and charter schools for its resident‟s children, it begs the questions: Are families holding off on permanently settling down, because they want to ensure their children can go to the best school available, even if it entails moving? Furthermore, because Adams Morgan is among the most diverse communities in Washington, DC, the question of whether such a characteristic actually helps or hinders the community over all. Harvard University‟s political scientist, Robert Putman, has shown through intensive research that high ethnic diversity results in less civic engagement by community members. Diverse communities trust each other about half as much as those in homogeneous communities, and while Adams Morgan offers many outlets for civic engagement and community bonding, there is a large divide between ethnic groups which tend to act independently of one another within the community. As Putnam explains, only over the medium to long run will communities benefit from ethnic diversity, as future generations blend the schism between their ethnicities together into more unified identity.


Historically, the Adams Morgan community has always been diversely populated, and is essentially where its name originates from. Before the riots of the 1960s, the main area was simply called 18th and Columbia, the prestigious neighborhood north of Columbia road was referred to as Lanier Heights; and after street cars came to D.C. apartments for the affluent appeared in areas better known as Kalorama Triangle and Washington Heights. The city officially adopted the name Adams Morgan in 1955, after the Supreme Court ordered schools to desegregate and the community combined the all-black Thomas P. Morgan School and the all-white John Quincy Adams School. The Adams-Morgan Community Committee was founded in 1958, which served the two schools and the neighborhoods within the communities.

The first step in the process of discovering the functionality and strength of the Adams Morgan community is analyzing what assets it has. The analysis includes my general observations from visiting the community, comments made by residents or persons working in the community, and research on the work being done by the ANC (Advisory Neighborhood Committee) and other local forms of governance in Ward 1, where Adams Morgan is located that demonstrate what issues the community is working to resolve or have resolved at this time. I will use five different subcategories of assets that all communities need or want to help organize the strengths and weaknesses of Adams Morgan. They are broken down through the following:

1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Physical Assets Individual Assets Group Assets Local Organizations Local Public Institutions

List assets-based analysis will help lead me to my evaluation and overall conclusion of what Adams Moran needs to accomplish in order to become a more healthy community.

1. Physical Assets

Physically, Adams Morgan differs from other D.C. communities in that it is large enough to include may different green-spaces or parks, is urban while also suburban and houses many young families, and its general street network is not based on the same grid system that other district communities follow and is based on a European design that is less intuitive makes for a more interesting neighborhood design. The street layout of the community has been a topic of concern, especially with regard to high levels of traffic congestion and its impact on safety. The issue has been addressed in the Adam‟s Morgan Streetscape project, which plans to widen sidewalks 14-16 inches, install crosswalks and ramps, add new park benches, trees and streetlights; bicycle racks and „sharrows‟ on streets of bicyclists, bump outs at intersections; and replace the diagonal parking on 18th street with parallel parking to diminish the congested parking-lot like situation currently being used.i The initiative is being sponsored by the District Department of Transportation and will take place over the next 15 months. The project calls for help from the community, such as graffiti removal and mural painting in its place, tree surveying to distinguish which ones need to be replaced, and many have already been sponsored and started by shop owners and other local organizations.

The community of Adams Morgan is also accessible by public transportation. The nearest stations on the city‟s Metrorail system are the red line-Woodley Park/Adams Morgan station and the green line Columbia Heights station. In response to complaints of inaccessibility by community members and business owners, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (W.M.A.T.A.) developed and began operating new DC Circulator buses in March of 2009. The DC Circulator run every ten minutes, linking the Woodley Park/Adams Morgan Metro station to the McPherson Square Metro station by way of Connecticut and

Columbia Avenues. This addition to public transportation has been of great value to the community by shortening the commute of many members by linking them to metro stations and promotes a healthy influx of tourists and residents of other areas of Washington. Regarding the new DC Circulator, Keisa, a manager of the famous bar, Madam‟s Organ, on 18th Street said, “I don‟t have a car, so it‟s nice to not have to walk alone from the Metro, when my shifts usually start at nine or ten [at night].” The impact of the DC Circulator seems to have had a positive effect on both perceived and actual safety in the neighborhood as well as convenience. Adams Morgan gets its reputation as a trendy spot for late night entertainment mainly from 18th Street and Columbia Avenue that has an extraordinary concentration of on-premises liquor selling businesses. With the competition so high, many bars have expressive artwork or murals painted on their buildings to help make them stand out from the rest. On the main strip there are some vacant buildings and some that have been shut down or suspended from issues with D.C. liquor laws or zoning codes. People walking down 18th Street, however, don‟t seem to notice or mind the vacant properties, because there are so many other venues to choose from.

According to a 2008 study on the Foreclosure Crisis in Washington, D.C. at George Mason University, Adams Morgan could be at risk of becoming a “hot spot” for foreclosures in the near future. The study reasons that although the neighborhood currently has a low amount of foreclosures per year, its declining housing market could lead to a spike in foreclosed home if the home values continue to stay low. The study compared Adams Morgan‟s declining housing prices to the whole of D.C. and found that from 2007 to 2008 the average price of homes dropped 24.1 percent in Adams Morgan and only 4.7 percent in the District of Columbia.ii Last year Adams Morgan had 14 foreclosures that included, “one-bedroom condominiums ranging in price from $400,000 to $700,000” while the study‟s predicted foreclosures will be

on the higher end of the spectrum, including the multi-million dollar embassy-style condominiums seen in Kalorama or Lanier Heights. Despite the housing market decline and its future risks, Adams Morgan remains as one of the most desired neighborhoods in the city, because of its close proximity to Capital Hill and the unique character and atmosphere the community has maintained throughout its history. In regard to green space, Adams Morgan has less per block as compared to other D.C. neighborhoods, but compromises for its concentration of green in the parks within the community. The Walter Pierce Park, located at the edge of the Rock Creek Park, offers many outdoor resources for community members with its walking paths, fields, and community gardens. Another gem within the community is the Meridian Hill/Malcolm X Park between 16th and Crescent Place. This park is undoubtedly the most beautiful in the community, offering a place for children and adults to play sports (recreational, not league), have a picnic or just take a stroll through. The park had previously been neglected and left to become a harbor of violence and vandalism after the 1960s riots, until the 1990s when the National Park Service (NPS) and Friends of Meridian Hill cleaned it up and reestablished orderiii. The presence of these parks enrich the community and individuals within Adams Morgan in many different ways, and the example of the Meridian Hill clean up shows that it is valued by community members as a resource. Another example is the Kalorama Park that has a playground and recreation center for children, a field where The Fund for Kalorama hosts fall picnics and holiday events for the children in the neighborhood, and a garden for community members can win a plot in a lottery to grow vegetables and flowers. This park is a highly used resource among families in the community, because it promotes interaction with others in the community and fresh air for their children to play in. A major benefit of having accessible parks within a community is that they offer an opportunity of interaction with new people and facilitate cultural exchange. The presence of well maintained parks in a community also increases the likelihood of members to get physical fitness during their week, and benefit them psychologically by offering

fresh air from a stress-relieving environment outside of their contemporary, urban lives. Other physical assets of the community are the Adams Morgan Farmers Market which runs from April to December offering local goods from local farmers and arts and crafts vendors, Saturdays on the corner of 18th street and Columbia Road. 2. Individual Assets The presence of children may not easily be found on the main streets of Adams Morgan, but is more extensive in neighborhoods beyond 18th Street such as Kalorama or Lanier Heights. Only 12 percent of Adams Morgan population consists of households with children, suggesting that the majority of residents are single and or newly married, professionals consistent with the median age of residents being 32.62 years old. Adams Morgan has many options to choose from for education and schooling for children. The community has many bi-lingual nursery and pre-schools, various charter and public elementary, middle and high schools, and vocational high schools as well. An Adams Morgan parent who was playing with his son, Joshua in Kalorama Park, explained that he and his wife had been living in the neighborhood for more than five years, owned their own home and were confident in their decision to raise a family there. Joshua‟s father elaborated that, “he‟s still young, so we haven‟t exactly figured out the school situation yet, but we‟ve heard great things about the new charter school from friends with older children. We‟ll definitely consider that route if it works out for our friends. We‟re keeping our fingers crossed.” Aside from parks and a variety or schools to choose from, the Adams Morgan community has many options for after-school programs for students, such as the Sitar Arts Center that bridges students of different ethnic and economic backgrounds together through a visual and performing arts curriculum. This specific school bases each child‟s tuition on the parents‟ income with regard to the number of adults and children in the household, and in doing so keeps the costs affordable to everyone. It also requires one of each student‟s parents to volunteer at the school once during the year, which further helps bridge social capital among the diverse community.

With a wide range of people living within the community, Adams Morgan has several local organizations that offer help to senior citizens, people with disabilities and people on welfare in need of work. Sarah‟s Circle is a residential and recreational facility that provides affordable housing and support services to low-income seniors. The Adams Mill Abstinence Center, located on Columbia road provides services like substance abuse treatment, HIV/AIDS treatment programs, assistance for hearing impaired, OUI/DUI offenders, pregnant and post-partum women, criminal justice groups and seniors. Adams Morgan also has an Abortion Advice Center that counsels women on the risks and benefits of having an abortion. Most of the organizations that help disabled or homeless people in the area, such as Jubilee, DC Central Kitchen, or The Adams Mill Abstinence Center provide job placement, referrals or training to their members, or direct them to affiliated organizations outside of the community. The last aspect of the individual assets of Adams Morgan is its vast amount of artists living and working in the community. Similar to its farmers market, every Saturday Adams Morgan holds its Western Market at Marie Reed School Plaza from noon to dark. This art market features the crafts made by local artists, such as paintings, woodworking or jewelry. From March to December the Adams Morgan Art Market becomes another destination for cultural exchange and interaction among residents and artists and also has fresh flowers and food on sale as well. Another outlet for artists in Adams Morgan is the DC Arts Center (DCAC), which has a theatre for fine art performances and art gallery for local artists to show their work to the larger community.

3. Group Assets Next, Adams Morgan should be considered in terms of its overall group assets, to see what it‟s made up of as a whole. The population of Adams Morgan has more than 45,000 people, with a median household income of roughly $50,000 per year. Nearly 60 percent of its residents hold service based jobs, around 20

percent in are retail businesses, and just 6 percent are in the finance, insurance and real estate sectors. The median age of residents is 32 years old which is consistent with their following educational statistics. A 34 percent majority of the population hold Graduate Degrees, 26 percent have Bachelor‟s Degrees, and the rest are split between the categories of: some college, high school graduate, some high school, and less than 9th grade, at an average of 9 percent respectivelyiv.

The town has very few for-profit business offices that are outside of the service sector, which dominates the retail space in the community. Most people in the community work outside of their community and, on average, have a 24 minute commute to work each day. 38 percent of residents commute to work using public transportation, 33 percent carpool or drive, and the remaining 26 percent walk or bike to work. The bonding social capital is formed in neighborhoods, like Lanier Heights, where the general population is comprised middle to lower-upper class, white families, or in predominantly Latino apartments that are isolated and predominantly maintain bonding relationships with their neighbors who have similar ethnic backgrounds. The bridging social capital is formed in schools with students of many mixed backgrounds and ethnicities. Another form of bridging social capital is found on 18th Street or in the main business district of the community, where people meet in bars, become regulars at Arabic or Ethiopian restaurants and literally begin to build bridges to find connections between themselves and someone completely different. As Putnam says, these two aspects of social capital don‟t have to be at odds with one another, they can go together, or even not at all in a community. Adam‟s Morgan in many ways has begun to bridge and bond social capital amidst its richly diverse community, because of the many available outlets that can enable such a process.

With more than 90 establishments possessing liquor licenses in Adams Morgan, it has become one of D.C.'s major night life destinations. City Paper writer, Justin Moyer dubbed Adams Morgan, "Liquorridor"

4. Local Organizations Adam‟s Morgan has quite a few local and neighborhood organizations that do tremendous good in the community and work toward making it a better place for residents to live, work, play and rest. The first of these organizations is the Adams Morgan Mainstreet Group, responsible for organizing the famous annual Adams Morgan Day festival. The group is focused on revitalizing the commercial district, by improving and organizing transportation, economic diversification, promotion and design of the community. Kalorama Citizens' Association (KCA) is another group focused on revitalization while also fighting for the historic preservation of different areas within Adams Morgan. They work toward the beautification of the Kalorama parks, streets, and buildings, and among other things they also monitor crime tips or complaints from the community and transfer them the MPD. Even more progressive is the Adams Morgan Partnership (AMP), a nonprofit organization that seeks to stimulate the business district by making it a cleaner and safer place for people to live and work. The first of their three main services that they give to the community, AMP provides sidewalk cleaning services everyday using employees from the Ready To Work program of the Gospel Rescue Mission. AMP also sends uniformed "Security Aides" on patrol from 12 p.m. to 3 a.m. seven days a week. They keep in constant contact with MPD and report suspicious activities and provide a sense of safety to residents through their presence in the neighborhoods. Finally AMP helps market businesses within the Adams Morgan community to other areas of D.C. to promote tourism and better business in the business district. AMP specifically markets the community‟s most interconnected and diverse festival of the year Adams Morgan Day, to help increase business profits while tourist swarm the community celebrate D.C.‟s largest Latino population.

Among the numerous local organizations that Adams Morgan benefits from, are the organizations that help the homeless, provide childcare and easy access to healthcare. One recent example is shown

through the news that DC Central Kitchen (DCCK) has joined with Jubilee Housing, the new owners of a long-time vacant and rundown building on 18th Street and will begin the Fresh Start Catering and Market project. DCCK helps people who need jobs and a new shot at life, and train them in the culinary and hospitality fields and will offer employment opportunities to community members who need it the most when the store opens. The project is to help fund the DCCK by selling fresh produce, pastas, fruits, vegetables and nuts from local producers and growers and will also help make Adams Morgan a more sustainable community.

Regarding Child Care, Adams Morgan has many options for afterschool publically funded programs or infant to preschool nursery programs. DCPS has a TANIF program that students from low-income households can qualify for and attend in school once classes have let out. Many students who are bi-lingual will need after-school care as well as tutoring help in their two languages and will go to organizations like “For Love of Children” tutoring center to get help.

5. Local Public Institutions Adam‟s Morgan

(libraries, schools and other institutions of learning)

Adams Morgan is in the third police district and has seen much success from the recent coalition to fight crime by increasing foot police and cruisers in the area that the majority of criminal activity in 2008 decreased from the previous year. A MPDC report showed the following statistics:

CRIME Homicide Forcible Rape Robbery Aggravated Assault Burglary Larceny/Theft Stolen Auto Total

2007 20 28 978 626 899 4,319 1,109 7,979

2008 22 35 900 495 582 3,817 934 6,785

A wave of crime in the summer of 2009 in the "dead-zone" or dead-end intersection on Champlain Street and the Marie H. Reed Community Learning Center the community has demanded help from governing authorities to restore order and safety in the area. Police responded initially by installing a closedcircuit camera on the corner of Champlain and Kalorama Road to curtail the crimes committed there and track the culprits committing crimes.

The community, however, wants more from the government than just a camera. Adams Morgan ANC member Bryan Weaver said that the next step is to fix up the recreation center from its dismal conditions."It almost is a self-fulfilling prophecy: Treat it as ghetto, that's what it becomes." From the broken Windows

article, the authors suggest that the less maintained or attended an area is the more the barriers dissolve that restrain criminals or delinquent youths from committing crimes. As crime increases in the area, people use the space less and feel less safe, which in turn causes them to lose trust in their neighbors and isolate themselves even more. These examples have been seen in the "dead-zone" of Adams Morgan, because the recreation center has been neglected and run down. The absence of thru-traffic has created the perception that because the area is barely monitored-- it is barely valued and thus has led it to become a center for vandalism, theft, violence and homicide. Furthermore, in response to the deadly violence often present in the “dead-zone”, Mayor Fenty has suggested immediate implementation of the Omnibus Anti-Crime Amendment Act. The DC police chief and advocate of the amendment, Cathy Lanier, explained that it will mean tougher laws against illegal gun possession, tougher penalties and money going to children's outreach programs. Lanier has increased police presence and police action in the area in an effort to restore the area back to being a safe place for the community to interact in. The outlet of Champlain Street into Kalorama Road is set to re-open by December 2009, according to a recent Adams Morgan Mainstreet newsletter.



“18 Street Reconstruction Project Public Meeting”. 30. July 2009. District Department of Transportation. <>



Levey, Jane F., Kamoie, Laura C. “Roads to Diversity Adams Morgan Heritage Trail”. Cultural Tourism DC. 2005. Pg. 2. <>.


Home Finder. “Adams Morgan Neighborhood.” Onboard Informatics. 2009. <>.