After 25 years, Dudley St. initiative still going strong

Christopher S. Pineo | 4/22/2009, 6:11 a.m.

“We’ve had national visitors from every region, including Anchorage [Alaska], Sacramento, Los Angeles, Detroit, Greensville [Va.], New Orleans, Wisconsin and D.C.,” said Louie. “International visitors have come from Canada, Australia, South Africa, Japan, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Singapore and Cuba.”

The initiative fields a steady stream of requests for information about its land trust, a parcel of land inside the Dudley Triangle in which DSNI has the power of eminent domain, enabling the organization to seize property and redevelop it. Essentially, this gives Dudley Neighbors Inc., DSNI’s business arm, the ability to control prices of the homes inside that area, keeping a measure of affordable housing in the community.

“DSNI are the dreamers,” said Jason J. Webb, director of operations for Dudley Neighbors Inc. “We put [their] plans into action.”

On walking tours through the neighborhood, DSNI staffers show visiting groups examples of the range of physical improvements that have been made to the area.

They display new homes built in the land trust, playgrounds assembled by community volunteers and youth-designed murals free of extraneous graffiti. They show off the Dudley Town Common, which highlights local art, history and people, as well as the area’s community centers and community greenhouse, land farmed by The Food Project and residents’ home gardens.

They visit historical landmarks like the colonial-era Shirley-Eustis House, modern facilities of partner organizations like Project Hope and La Alianza Hispana, and future cornerstones like the site of the new, state-of-the-art Kroc Corps Community Center.

“If people have seen the documentary ‘Holding Ground,’” which highlights the initiative’s efforts to revitalize the Dudley Street community, “we are able to contrast the current conditions with the earlier ones,” Louie said.

And the difference, she said, is remarkable.

“This is a wonderful neighborhood, with a lot to show for 25 years of hard, collective, resident-led effort to build an urban village out of the devastation,” Louie said. “We’re proud of what the community has done, and want to share lessons that may be useful to others.”