When we moved to Brookland a few years ago, we were skeptical about the abandoned gas station at 12th and Irving – less than a block from our new home. Then, we were beyond delighted to find that not only did Casey Trees establish their headquarters at 3030 12th street, but they began turning the old gas station into a “tree annex” for trees waiting to be planted. Their transformation of the gas station is nearly complete, and we couldn’t be happier.
As you can see from the “before and after” photos below, Casey Trees has truly beautified and revitalized a good stretch of the 3000 block of 12th St NE. But more than that, their headquarters is a showcase for water retention and green design. With the help of the District Department of the Environment they have reduced water run off by capturing and redistributing water. The new tree annex, still under construction, will utilize solar electricity for more than half of its needs. Most importantly, Casey Trees provides a model for small-scale commercial development right here in Brookland that others can follow. Mark Buscaino, Executive Director of Casey Trees, was kind enough to answer some of our questions about the new development below.
Why did Casey Trees decide to be headquartered in Brookland?
Casey Trees looked in all eight Wards for over four years to find a suitable home – over 50 properties in total. We were having a difficult time locating a spot that offered convenient access to all parts of the city for our tree planting work, the right amount of space with room to grow, and most important for our staff and class and program participants – suitable public transit. Fortunately we found all that and more on 12th Street.
Now that you have settled in, has anything surprised you about the Brookland community?
The neighborhood has proven to be a great place to locate an organization like ours. Neighbors have been extraordinarily friendly and generous; people are very respectful of our work and our mission, and; many of our staffers have found homes right in Brookland – we couldn’t ask for more.
Tell us a little bit about the transformation of your tree lot on the east side of 12th St. Did the fact that it used to be a gas station pose any issues?
When you purchase a former gas station property you’re faced with some very tough choices. While restoring such a property is a huge benefit to the community and CT wanted to do its part, it’s an expensive proposition and you never know what you’re going to find. After several months of thoughtful deliberation we decided to take a calculated risk, and with a lot of pro-bono legal assistance from a lawyer who eventually joined our board, we were able to make it work – and work very well for us I might add. When I look at what that lot is like now, with our new Tree Planting Annex almost compete, and think about what it used to look like when we first moved in – I’m amazed.
When can we expect the construction to be complete and what will the space be used for?
Completion is slated for late October. Our new Tree Planting Annex will house our entire Tree Planting Department and all their tools and equipment and temporarily hold the hundreds of trees our team plants every spring, fall and winter. It will house 15 staffers, and more than 50 percent of its electricity needs will be satisfied from solar power generation. A special thanks goes to the District Department of the Environment for helping us pay for those panels!
If you could get one message across to our readers about the importance of the DC tree canopy what would it be?
In our data-driven world, we have come to think of trees in regard to their environmental benefits and that’s great. But trees are more than just energy-saving, pollution controlling and storm water management “devices”. They represent a part of our communities that enrich our lives in ways we are still only learning about. They encourage human interaction, calm our nerves, reduce stress and make our homes and streets beautiful places for ourselves, our friends, neighbors and children. Without them we lose not just cooler streets and cleaner air, but beautiful neighborhoods and inviting spaces for weekend walks and quiet moments on a porch swing. And it’s up to all of us to preserve this identity that D.C. has had since its founding. Nothing is permanent – not even a tree – and we need everyone’s help to keep them healthy and abundant for generations to come.