Improving health and safety through community-led open space

LISC is guiding the development of a Washington, DC open space project that will promote healthy food access, foster social connection, and create a shared sense of community safety.


A missing piece in the safety conversation

In the past year and long before, communities around the country have been reckoning with new paths to public safety beyond increasing police presence. Reducing surveillance in favor of investments in community assets — from housing to education — are increasingly seen by practitioners as a path to safer, more vibrant communities (1).

A national intermediary supporting community-based projects, LISC’s Safety and Justice initiative is turning to the creation of quality, community-developed responses — including open spaces — as an alternative to policing. By laying a foundation for community connection, trust, and belonging, open spaces are a key ingredient in building neighborhood power and well-being.


1) John Jay College of Criminal Justice Research & Evaluation Center, November 2020

There’s a missing middle in creating safe spaces. We have first responders, but there’s less attention to the spaces that surround us, make us feel more secure, promote community life, and deter crime.


Rendering of The Well (SHoP Architects)

Supporting a resident-led public space process

LISC is supporting the community design and engagement process for Oxon Run Park and The Well at Oxon Run, a farm and community wellness space in the Congress Heights neighborhood of DC’s Ward 8: a historic Black neighborhood that has experienced systemic disinvestment. The Well is an effort by DC Greens and DC Parks and Recreation to bring new resources to this community, investing in community leadership and ownership of the project. By convening a mix of stakeholders with the shared priority of creating a neighborhood asset, led by neighborhood residents, this project has lifted up the community’s vision for health, wellness, inclusion, and safety in open space. Key stakeholders include DC GREENS, DC DEPARTMENT OF PARKS AND RECREATION, FRIENDS OF OXON RUN PARK, The Green SchemeSOUL OF THE CITY, and neighboring residents.

For example, the Framework is being applied to:

  • Convene multiple stakeholders · Through the engagement and design process - and with particular attention and respect for community context - this diverse group is aligning on definitions of inclusion, strengthening ties in local networks, and building trust with one another. 
  • Launch grassroots initiatives · Through network-building, DC Greens is creating a systematic approach to transferring resources to community-led organizations. This has come to life in the funding of a local stewardship program; the connection of external funders to onsite youth programming partner, The Green Scheme; and the launch of ‘Wellness Wednesdays’ — a weekly fresh produce distribution on-site that is cementing its role as a hub for health, wellness, and community life in advance of the launch of The Well.

As a result of this project and the intentional approach to inclusive placemaking, there will be a generation that grows up in these neighborhoods who will have memories of community connectedness in this space. It has already begun and we haven't even put shovel to dirt yet. But the Framework makes it clear that the work starts well before construction.


Local partners see this project as a “trust-building measure” between FOR and DC Greens. The Framework serves as a convening tool for partners to coalesce around.


I’m hearing about the need for additional resources, to focus on long-term impact. We’re starting to hear that sustainability side resonate a bit more, with more requests for long-range funding earlier on in the process.


We find value in utilizing this Framework as a resource. We have incorporated it into most aspects of our local work.