the Neighborhood Design Center
Project No. 3489

Greater Riverdale: A Place-based Initiative to Elevate Health

Through dozens of meetings and surveys, NDC convened the community around a cohesive vision and translated it into focus areas, which ranged from safety to schools to a stable future. Tackling each focus area was a huge undertaking in itself, and our job was to create a framework that the coalition of partners could move forward with.

What We Did

  • Visioning
  • Community Engagement
  • Research
  • Capacity Building


  • Kaiser Permanente
  • Maryland NonProfits
  • Enterprise
  • Central Kenilworth Avenue Revitalization


  • Town of Riverdale Park
  • Crestwood
  • Madison Hill
  • Riverdale Heights
  • Riverdale Hills
  • Eastpines
  • Templeton Knolls
  • Roswil
  • Beacon Heights
  • Woodlawn
  • West Lanham Hills
  • Hanson Oaks

The Challenge: making a great place greater — a large-scale effort to lift up community.

Comprising twelve neighborhoods in Prince George’s County, Maryland, Greater Riverdale is what its residents describe as “a wonderful community.” With its diversity, accessible transit, and proximity to Washington, DC and other Prince George’s County neighborhoods, Greater Riverdale has much to offer those who live, work, and visit the community. Yet, while the community has numerous strengths, other areas could use investment to improve the community’s health.

The Plan: understand what health means from many perspectives.

The Neighborhood Design Center’s role was to collaborate with the communities to understand what health looked like from their perspective and what type of investments would be needed to support those views of health as they defined them.


Community Engagement

    • More than 700 completed surveys

    • More than 50 one-on-one and small group meetings with schools, community groups, nonprofits and businesses

    • 5 visioning workshops with 74 participants

    • 5 coalition meetings, convening 30+ community leaders at each session

Our contribution was not to design a building or public space, but to make recommendations and develop implementation mechanisms.

Bringing many groups together

Of the 12 communities defined within Greater Riverdale’s boundaries, each has its own community associations and geographies. In addition, the communities included faith leaders, nonprofit leaders, elected officials, and agency partners that, as the work progressed, began to be called the coalition of community leaders. 

NDC’s goal was to bring the groups together and, instead of erasing their individual accomplishments, see their communities as linked to something larger and understand how they could work together to elevate the entire area.

One of the primary recommendations was to tie these organizations into a formal group requiring investment, money, and training to help move the initiatives forward.


Tackling each focus area is a huge undertaking, and NDC’s work helped create a framework that the coalition of community leaders and other advocates could move forward with either on their own, through partnership, or advocacy.

The work has resulted in significant outcomes. The community engagement, which occurred in the 9 months leading up to the outbreak of the 2020 pandemic, successfully generated a sense of community leadership connection, shared values and a shared understanding of the desired future state of Greater Riverdale. 

When the pandemic hit, the pieces were in place to galvanize and organize quickly to respond to urgent community needs. The initiative ‘Greater Riverdale Cares’ emerged from this network  as a mutual aid organization during the COVID-19 pandemic supporting both restaurant owners and families in need of food in the area Greater Riverdale Thrives is another outgrowth of this work and is a “non-partisan, inclusive and thriving network of people working together to advocate, collaborate, share resources, and serve as a collective voice to uplift the Greater Riverdale community.”

Since its inception, in collaboration with partners, the group has organized community events and gatherings, health fairs, mental health initiatives, and a summer program. 

Pastor Mike Dickson, Founding President & Executive Director of Metamorphosis Community Project, an embedded nonprofit that is taking over some of Greater Riverdale Thrives’ responsibilities, emphasized the positive impact of collaboration between Kaiser, NDC, and other partners in creating a functional and independent structure. He said, “A lot of research, assessment and engaging the community went into this before we came to be. We always want to remember where we came from and those whose shoulders we stand on.” 

“The wonderful thing is the obvious investment and collaboration between Kaiser, NDC and the partners to create something that can function independently. Greater Riverdale Thrives would be impossible without the groundwork laid, and we hope it can serve as a model for other communities.” 

Pastor Mike Dickson, Metamorphosis Community Project, contributer to Greater Riverdale Thrives

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