Tag Archives: Neighborhood Watch

A History of Florian Gardens Cooperative

“You can do anything if you put your mind to it . . . and you will succeed when you put your heart into it.”~Daniella Kessler

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Welcome to the first post on the Florian Gardens Cooperative blog. Veteran FGC members already know how the co-op evolved, but for newer members we’ve published a brief history of FGC or — depending on your perspective — you could call it a novice’s guide to home ownership.

Co-op members who follow this site will receive updated information about co-op activities; bragging rights, because you will learn some things that other members won’t;  and you may even find some comic relief from the stress of everyday living.

Built in 1955, in Brightwood, a community of significant historic sites, the Florian Gardens Apartments were recognized then – and they still are — as a convenient and desirable place to live. But over three decades the property began to deteriorate, and in January 1988 the estate of Phillip Ershler put it up for sale. The estate’s law firm, Covington & Burling, surprised tenants with a letter notifying them of the pending sale.

I had moved my family to Florian Gardens in 1976 and was upset over the prospect of displacement from my home, and the possibility of having to leave the neighborhood that I was so fond of, so the day after receiving the letter I contacted the law firm to ask what could be done to prevent the sale.

An empathetic lawyer explained that under the District’s First-Right-of-Refusal laws, tenants had the first right to purchase the property. He also told me that “there is already a potential buyer interested in the site” and advised me that tenants should take action immediately if we were to save our homes.

Loretta and Hazel
Photo by DC North

I wasted no time phoning my friend and next door neighbor, Hazel Williams, who had lived there longer than I, and we agreed to try to persuade the other tenants that we should all unite and buy the property. With that commitment began an education in perseverance and determination for two women whose most ardent task to date was struggling to support our families.

At DCRA (the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs), Hazel and I were told that the first thing we needed to do was get the majority of tenants to sign a petition indicating their support for purchasing the property. Our door-to-door visit to every unit proved successful. Four months later, we formed a tenants association. Meanwhile, we both were using numerous hours of leave from our jobs in order to get paperwork processed and file countless documents required by the District government.

During that tedious period, frustration chased us with the ferocity of a pit bull. Continue reading A History of Florian Gardens Cooperative