Lauren Parnell Marino / Flickr
A stretch of 14th Street NW.
The 14th Street NW corridor continues its transformation, as work on luxury condo buildings marches on and announcements of restaurant openings stream in. The older businesses that opened along the strip in the aftermath of the 1968 riots are, one-by-one, closing shop (and getting millions of dollars in exchange for their buildings, if they own them). Some newer businesses are moving, too.
Development comes in waves, from pawn shops to fancier locally-owned businesses, and eventually, to chain retailers. That’s according to a few real estate experts interviewed by The New York Times, who say that 14th Street NW could eventually see its small, albiet upscale businesses, replaced by national chains and junior-sized box stores.
People move into gentrifying neighborhoods partially because they see how it could change, but also because of the unique character of such places. If national chains come, will a neighborhood lose its desirability among such newcomers? From the Times piece:
One [resident], Tim Christensen, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1989 and is president of the Logan Circle Community Association, wondered about the cost.
“I’ve said before that when the last pawnshop and the last storefront deli leaves 14th Street, I will leave,” he said. “It’s that mixture of the gritty and the upscale that gives the neighborhood a unique character. If one day it’s all gone, I think we will feel a sense of loss.”
Gentrification does indeed come in waves. Some of the first businesses that contribute to the revitalization of a neighborhood can get priced out when turnover is complete. This is especially true for business owners who lease space and have no building to sell; they can become victims of the success they helped to create.
Elahe Izadi / DCentric
A sign on 14th Street and Rhode Island Avenue NW asks "What would you build here?"
Businesses play an important role in the transformation of neighborhoods. A certain restaurant or store can attract newcomers, make a block seem “desirable” or become a gathering spot.
But as it stands now, the public generally doesn’t have a say on what specific businesses open up in their neighborhoods, says developer Ben Miller. Should that vacant storefront be a coffee shop or a pet store?
That’s why Ben Miller and his brother, Dan, started Popularise.com in late 2011. They were trying to figure out what to do with the building they purchased at 1351 H Street NE, and wanted public input. So they posted the project online and asked people to vote on ideas they had already explored or submit suggestions. About 1,000 people responded, and Ben Miller says they’ll announce the final project within a few weeks.
The site is in its early stages and currently features five buildings. People sign up by providing their names and zip codes and can then comment on project ideas or suggest new ones for the featured buildings. Building owners, developers and others then use the feedback as a factor in the eventual outcome, along with economics, construction issues and other things.
“A lot of people aren’t in the process of how neighborhoods get built. They don’t know how decisions get made,” Miller says. “A lot of it can be changed by including lots of people who normally don’t get involved.”
But is targeting an online audience the best way to increase involvement? A persistent digital divide in the District means there’s a good chunk of the population who is not connected, and they’re mostly low-income folks.
hellomarkers! / Flickr
This sculpture is on top of an Anacostia warehouse
The District is funding a series of art events housed in vacant spaces in downtown Anacostia. The idea behind Lumen8Anacostia
: to make use of under-used spaces, and also spark some much-needed economic growth in Anacostia. The Ward 8 neighborhood has already seen some professionals moving in
, but nowhere near to the same degree as neighborhoods west of the river.
On Tuesday, local blog Greater Greater Washington tweeted that the Lumen8Anacostia could signal “a new dawn for Anacostia” and Washington City Paper pondered whether Anacostia could be the next Williamsburg. That sparked a conversation between locals, including Ward 8 Councilman Marion Barry, about gentrification, displacement, race and the arts.
Elahe Izadi / DCentric
Downtown Lock Co. (center) has been on 14th Street since 1910. The building has been sold to make way for luxury condominiums along a street that's experiencing rapid redevelopment.
The evolution of 14th Street NW continues with regular announcements of new upscale restaurants and residences opening up along the corridor. But 14th Street wasn’t always the epicenter of fine dining in the District; in recent decades, it was more well-known as a place where drug dealers and prostitutes congregated.
A few older businesses still remain along the strip, but they’re starting to close shop, too. Take Downtown Lock Co. at 1345 14th St. NW, the building sold to make way for five, ultra-luxury condos.
“Back when we were there, the street had a lot of drugs, prostitution, a lot of drifters,” said Downtown Lock Co. co-owner Reuben Houchens. “You had to sort of establish yourself, first of all, that you weren’t afraid to be there. Of course we weren’t. [The way] we grew up, as we used to say, we knew the streets. And you had to basically hold your ground, as far as ‘we’re here and we will only tolerate so much.’ I’m talking about the pimps prostituting the girls, and drugs addicts and drug pushers — you had to be tough.”
zzub nik / Flickr
Author Charles Murray has been criticized and praised for his latest book, “Coming Apart,” in which he argues that white America is in crisis and that the country is divided primarily by class, not by race.
Murray’s argument is that “the super wealthy, super educated and super snobby live in so-called super-ZIP [codes]: cloistered together, with little to no exposure to American culture at large,” reports NewsHour. Murray’s book includes the “bubble quiz,” meant to determine just how out-of-touch respondents may be (and it’s presumably intended for whites).
A caveat to one of the questions may be of particular interest to our readers. The first question states, “Have you ever lived for at least a year in an American neighborhood in which the majority of your fifty nearest neighbors did not have college degrees?” But, the quiz qualifies, it doesn’t count if the neighborhood is gentrified and you’re one of the gentrifiers. In other words, Murray argues, gentrifiers are still in an upper-class bubble, even if they don’t technically live in one. Do you agree? It’s a salient question in D.C., given the number mixed-income neighborhoods.
And you can take the quiz here.
A reader adds to our discussion on whether poor children benefit by having rich neighbors. Soulshadow55 writes:
Yeah, that’s all well and good but what usually happens is that the neighborhood improves to the point that poor families can no longer afford to live in it. The increased tax base continues to attract so-called wealthy people to the neighborhood which decreases the number of poorer families with children. The new so-called wealthy people benefit more from all of the new facilities, the playgrounds, improved schools, better services, etc… [SIC]
Harold Neal / Flickr
Gentrification is one of the main reasons behind why more poor District children now live in wealthier neighborhoods. Such neighborhood revitalization, which brings along amenities that children can benefit from, also increases property values. As a result, low- and moderate-income families renting at market rates may get priced out.
Those living in public housing, however, could be somewhat buffered by the negative impact of rapid gentrification, since rents remain steady. Take Columbia Heights, where public housing apartments are on the same block as million dollar homes. But good luck to anyone seeking public housing — the waiting for affordable housing vouchers in the District has swelled to more than 37,000-people long.
Hawkins / Flickr
Columbia Heights is an economicaly diverse neighborhood, home to luxury high-rises and public housing.
Researchers have long noted the ills of growing up in a neighborhood of concentrated poverty — graduation rates are
higher lower, access to healthy food is more limited and violence is more common.
“Neighborhoods of concentrated poverty are really hard on children,” said Gwen Rubenstein, deputy director of DC Action for Children, who ran the recent Kids Count report that found that concentrated poverty has dropped in D.C. She noted that children from upper and middle class families who live in high-poverty neighborhoods have an increased chance of being poor as adults.
But do poor children benefit if they live in neighborhoods of concentrated wealth? It’s a question that hasn’t been explored much in D.C. but one worth asking, given that the city’s childhood poverty remains high — one in three District children lives below the poverty line. At the same time, fewer kids live in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty now than a decade ago, but it’s not because their families are faring better. Rather, as more affluent people moved into neighborhoods that once had high poverty rates, more poor children are finding their neighborhoods transformed into wealthier places.
There’s a reluctance “to talk about concentrated privilege,” Rubenstein said. “Areas of concentrated privilege and poverty — we need to be talking about it and what it means for a community.”
Gentrification takes place when middle and upper-income people move into low-income communities, which ushers in economic change, reinvestment and development. Jumping back a few weeks ago, a discussion took place on DCentric when we pondered a more specific kind of gentrification: gentefication, which is when low-income, immigrant Latino neighborhoods are gentrified by second-generation, well-to-do Latinos.
So we wondered: is gentrification much different when gentrifiers aren’t white, so much so that it requires its own term?
Alex Baca tweeted that having a separate word for this kind of gentrification is unnecessary:
It's class-based. Don't need fancy names. RT @ On gentrification & rhetoric when non-whites are gentrifiers http://t.co/IrO6Et65
But others argued that gentrification by non-whites does have different implications for neighborhoods. Commenter Gente Negra, wrote:
Brandon Anderson / Flickr
D.C. was once called “Murder Capital.” In 1991, at the height of the crack epidemic, 479 people were murdered. But the end of 2011 brought good news: the number of homicides in D.C. had reached a 50-year low. The Washington Post reported that meanwhile, Prince George’s County experienced a slight increase in its number of murders, and that D.C.’s poorer residents moving into the county have taken neighborhood disputes and other issues with them, contributing to the uptick in crime.
Given the city’s demographic changes, a number of people are pointing to one reason in particular: gentrification. The narrative seems logical enough: violent crime tends to be higher in poorer neighborhoods, and demographic changes have left D.C. a wealthier city. That may make sense in D.C. neighborhoods where there has been gentrification. But it doesn’t fit when examining District communities that have historically had the most homicides and the highest poverty rates.
Elvert Barnes / Flickr
Stan's has been on H Street Northeast since 1978.
The H Street Northeast corridor has plenty of new bars and restaurants that draw evening crowds, but the area is low on daytime foot traffic. A new grant program is intended to change that by boosting the corridor’s retail options.
In the past, we’ve written about the $1.25 million grant program and about some fears that businesses catering to newer and wealthier clientele would benefit rather than longtime businesses. The grant was made available to new or existing businesses, as long as they weren’t restaurants, bars, liquor stores, hair salons or barbershops.
The first round of winners were announced Wednesday morning. They include Bikram Yoga Capitol Hill, H Street Care Pharmacy and Wellness Center and The C.A.T. Walk Boutique, all of which opened along the corridor between 2006 and 2010. That may lead to easy charges that the program is benefiting newer businesses over older ones. But also winning a grant: Stan’s Inc., a clothing store that has been in D.C. since 1947 and on H Street since 1978. DCist reports that owner Leon Robbins will renovate the store and expand its clothing line using the $85,000 award.