DCentric » H Street NE http://dcentric.wamu.org Race, Class, The District. Wed, 16 May 2012 20:20:35 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.2.1 Copyright © WAMU What To Call Gentrification By Non-Whites: Does Race Matter? http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/02/what-to-call-gentrification-by-non-whites-does-race-matter/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/02/what-to-call-gentrification-by-non-whites-does-race-matter/#comments Fri, 03 Feb 2012 19:27:04 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=13949 Continue reading ]]> 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:

I have witnesses this phenomena in Orlando, and Miami, in which upper class and affluent African Americans are revitalizing [sp] formerly blighted areas which were once Historically African American communities. In the Orlando Parramore district they have relocated FAMU (an HBCU) Law School, renovated an African American history Museum, built a mixed income housing complex, and relocated the Orlando Magic stadium. Unlike the case when city developers destroyed the Parramore in Orlando, and Overtown in Miami, with I-4 and I-95 respectively. This new form of gentrification and [African American] led gentrification seems to be more sensitive to the preservation of the historical nature of the surrounding areas.

In D.C., gentrification by whites hasn’t necessarily come at the cost of completely wiping out a neighborhood’s history. In some instances, the renewed investment has helped to preserve it. For example, the historic Howard Theatre in Shaw is being renovated at the same time the neighborhood is being gentrified. Honoring a neighborhood’s history can also come with smaller gestures; on H Street NE, restauranteur Joe Englert named one of his restaurants Granville Moore’s as a nod to the building’s former occupant, a renowned African American doctor in the 1950s. Englert told the Washington Post that knowing the building’s history gives “the neighborhood a depth and it shows that these main streets didn’t just spring from the head of Zeus.”

But what kind of impact does paying such homage to the past have on longtime residents, some of whom may be getting priced out of their neighborhoods? Another DCentric commenter wrote:

From my understanding, gentrification is simply the revitalization of a neighborhood by newcomers. Displacement refers to outpricing and removal of formerly entrenched communities. Thus, I don’t consider supposed gentrification in Anacostia to be of the same, much hated ilk as that in other parts of the city. Sure, wealthier blacks are moving in, but has business followed? Where is the redevelopment? Who is being “kicked out” because of their presence? Exclusionary gentrification is associated with whites because its businesses cater solely to white people, unfortunately. Anacostia is not a gentrified neighborhood. I would agree that “gentrification” by blacks and Latinos requires its own terminology.
Commenter monkeyrotica took issue with that thought, writing that, by-and-large, new businesses in gentrifying neighborhoods are frequented by people of similar incomes, regardless of race:
Are middle class businesses [SP] geared towards whites that much different from middle class businesses geared towards African Americans? Sure, they each tend to go to different nightclubs, barbershops, and hair salons, but they both go to the same upscale eateries, grocery shops, and clothing stores that underclass residents have been priced out of.

What’s your take: what does gentrification by non-whites look like? Is gentrification all the same, no matter the race of the gentrifier?

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When Yoga Studios and Old Clothiers Benefit http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/01/when-yoga-studios-and-old-clothiers-benefit/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/01/when-yoga-studios-and-old-clothiers-benefit/#comments Tue, 10 Jan 2012 18:37:44 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=13335 Continue reading ]]>

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.

Stan’s is one of H Street’s last remaining clothiers, stores that have operated on the corridor in the aftermath of the 1968 riots. These stores cater to an older, African-American male clientele. But they’ve suffered setbacks in recent years: the recession, streetcar construction and demographic changes. In 2010, Robbins told the Washington City Paper that his business has been declining since 2000. “Customers are richer than before,” Robbins said. “My customers used to only own the shirt on their backs, that’s why they had to look so good.”

Other businesses can still benefit from the grant program. Another round of applicants are under review and there may be a third round of awards, as well.

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When Early Gentrifiers Can’t Afford to Stay http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/01/when-the-first-gentrifiers-cant-afford-to-stay/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/01/when-the-first-gentrifiers-cant-afford-to-stay/#comments Fri, 06 Jan 2012 21:52:43 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=13239 Continue reading ]]>

Michael Feagans / Flickr

Love Cafe is closing on Jan. 29 after nine years on U Street.

Businesses move to transitional neighborhoods because space is cheap and there’s potential for future growth. But sometimes the economic success of these neighborhoods leads to the demise of the early gentrifiers.

Love Cafe opened at 15th and U Street, NW in 2003, two years before Busboys and Poets moved into the corridor and signaled rapid change in the community. This week, Love Cafe owner Warren Brown announced he’s closing Jan. 29 because rent has gotten too high. H Street Playhouse on H Street, NE is closing moving after it opened along the corridor in 2002, ahead of the trendy bars, restaurants and high rents.

Of course, some businesses that moved into neighborhoods at the beginning stages of gentrification do remain. They could be at an advantage because they got their feet in the door early. But gentrification happens in stages, and just like the longtime businesses that successfully weather gentrification, newer businesses also have to keep adapting to neighborhood changes in order to survive.

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Ben’s Chili Bowl Owners Buy Longtime H Street Shop http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/11/bens-chili-bowl-owners-buy-longtime-h-street-shop/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/11/bens-chili-bowl-owners-buy-longtime-h-street-shop/#comments Tue, 01 Nov 2011 16:58:29 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=11933 Continue reading ]]>

Adam Gerard / Flickr

H Street clothing shop George’s Place, Ltd. will soon be replaced after 43 years of business. Nizam and Kamal Ali of Ben’s Chili Bowl reportedly bought the property at 10th and H Streets, NE for $900,000. The Alis aren’t set on opening another Ben’s, though; they’re conducting market research to see “what concept might best fit the neighborhood,” Washington City Paper reports.

Back in September, we profiled George’s Place owner George Butler as he was readying to sell his property after decades on H Street. He reflected upon his time on the now gentrifying corridor, and he said he felt there was little impetus to keep longtime, black-owned businesses afloat.

Ben’s is a rarity in D.C.; it’s been on U Street since before the 1968 riots, and has not only survived but thrived as that corridor experienced revitalization. Ben’s has expanded its half-smoke empire in recent years with the opening of a location at Nationals Park and Ben’s Next Door on U Street. The Alis have strong roots in the District; so if they’re the ones to buy up a longtime H Street shop to open a restaurant, should it be called gentrification? If not, then what is it?


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As Business Closes, Owner Looks Back at Decades on H Street http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/09/as-longtime-business-closes-looking-back-at-decades-on-h-street/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/09/as-longtime-business-closes-looking-back-at-decades-on-h-street/#comments Tue, 20 Sep 2011 14:08:10 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=10584 Continue reading ]]> George Butler, 73, will be closing his men's clothing store after 44 years on H Street NE. George's Place Ltd. will close in a few months. No word yet on what will take its place at 10th and H Streets, NE. An employee rings up a customer at the register. Butler says he has a particular eye for fashion and takes care to stock his store with items he knows customers will like. A sign on the front of George's Place reminds passersby how long it's been on the corridor. An employee sorts through items at George's Place. Owner George Butler says he's known for his selection of hats. George Butler speaks with longtime customers about his impending closure. A customer tries on shoes, hoping to take advantage of George's Place's going out of business sale.

George Butler is closing shop after nearly five decades. His men’s clothing store, George’s Place Ltd., is an H Street NE institution, one of the longest-running businesses on a corridor now synonymous with gentrification. But the recession, online competition and H Street streetcar construction led him to call it quits.

The 73-year-old managed clothing stores on the street in the 1950s before opening his store in 1968.

“I saw a future in H Street and my being in the neighborhood, I knew a lot of my customers,” he said while sitting in the back of his store on a recent afternoon. Hats and shoes lined the walls, along with 50 percent off signs.

Through it all, he’s had a front row seat to all the ups and downs of the corridor: from the heyday when  it was “it was like Connecticut Avenue, like downtown,” to the 1968 riots. “I’m a vet, and I saw things I never saw in the war,” he recalled of the riots. “The street was unreal. Fires were everywhere. It was just burning down.”

The riots marked the commercial decline of the street, beginning decades of empty storefronts. “People left and never came back,” Butler said.

In recent years, new restaurants and bars have opened up, breathing a new kind of life into the corridor. But he feels there’s little impetus to support black-owned businesses. He said they’re being pushed out to make room for upscale restaurants and bars catering to whites.

“It was like Connecticut Avenue, like downtown, all the way down to 15th Street.” – George Butler

He said that the streetcar construction, a project meant to improve the corridor, took a toll on sales.

“Customers couldn’t park. It basically forced me out of business.”

Assistance programs are available to businesses hurt by the streetscape project. Ward 6 Councilman Tommy Wells even called out George’s Place in a press release about tax relief for businesses affected by the construction. But, as Butler sees it, such help came too late.

Butler admitted other factors, a declining economy and competition from big box chain stores with low prices, also contributed to the closure. “And I’ve been in retail for 54 years. I’m tired.”

Butler then stood up to greet old customers, men he knows by name. “When are you closing up?” one asked. “Not for a few months,” he responded.

“I’m going to miss this place because it made me feel good to come here and see the things I like. I can walk from where I live,”  said Marc Humphries, 56. “I was down here a few weeks ago and we were talking about the changes on H Street. I felt like it was going to be any minute now.”

Some would say that Butler is hardly a victim of gentrification. His property is now listed at $1.4 million. (There are no buyers yet, he assured me). He agreed that he stands to make money in the end, but “I don’t look at the money in my situation. I look at how long I’ve been here.”

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DCentric Picks: ‘Sister Citizen’ Author Talk and H Street Fest http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/09/dcentric-picks-sister-citizen-author-talk-and-h-street-fest/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/09/dcentric-picks-sister-citizen-author-talk-and-h-street-fest/#comments Thu, 15 Sep 2011 16:55:53 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=10569 Continue reading ]]>

What: Author Melissa Harris-Perry discussed her book, “Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America.”

When: 6:30 p.m., Monday.

Where: Busboys and Poets, 14th and V streets NW.

Cost: Free.

Why you should go: Harris-Perry explores the effects of the stereotypes black women have had to combat for centuries — sexual lasciviousness, devotion and outspoken anger — and what black women now expect from political organizing.

Other events to consider: Head out to H Street NE between noon and 7 p.m., Saturday for the H Street Festival. The free event will feature fashion shows, live music, art displays, costume karaoke, Chinese dragon dancers and more. But it’s also a great opportunity to check out the transformation this corridor has undergone over recent years.

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How to Get Money For Your H Street NE Business http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/09/how-to-get-money-to-start-an-h-street-ne-business/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/09/how-to-get-money-to-start-an-h-street-ne-business/#comments Tue, 13 Sep 2011 18:15:02 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=10507 Continue reading ]]>

Elahe Izadi / DCentric

Many bars and restaurants have opened up along H Street NE in the past few years, but few retail options remain.

D.C. has just unveiled the application for a grant program that gives money to new or existing retail businesses along the H Street NE corridor. There’s about $1.25 million available for the program, and the first wave of applications is due by Oct. 26.

As we’ve noted before, the program is intended to boost retail along the commercial strip, which has seen a wave of gentrification. Many new bars and restaurants have opened up shop while daytime foot traffic has been minimal.

Longtime businesses can apply to the grant, as long as the money isn’t for liquor stores, barbershops, hair salons, phone stores, bars or restaurants. Eligible businesses include stores selling home furnishings, clothes, groceries, books, art or “general merchandise goods,” with special consideration to those with “innovative retail elements.” There are other stipulations in the application, which can be seen below:

H Street NE Grant Application

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D.C. Program Could Boost H Street Retail http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/08/d-c-program-could-boost-h-street-retail/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/08/d-c-program-could-boost-h-street-retail/#comments Thu, 11 Aug 2011 13:00:41 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=9476 Continue reading ]]> The corner of 7th and H streets NE has a mix of small, longtime businesses and vacancies. Anna Collins, co-owner of Metro Mutts at 5th and H streets NE, rings up a customer. Metro Mutts is located at 5th and H Street, NE, on the same block as several small business and some vacancies. Terri Hill, manager of A Fresh Look by Janice & Company at 7th and H streets NE. Michelle Jones, owner of A.S.P.I.R.E. health store at 7th and H streets NE. A number of new businesses have populated formerly vacant storefronts along the upper end of H Street. But they're mostly restaurants and bars.

Much has been made of the changes along H Street NE as the corridor continues its transformation from a primarily low and middle income black community to one that is wealthier and whiter. Trendy bars and restaurants are increasingly opening in vacant storefronts, attracting diverse patrons en masse during late night hours. But the crowds are nowhere to be seen during the day.

A new D.C. grant program is intended to draw more retail options to the street, creating an H Street that’s as bustling during the day as during the evening. That’s welcome news for many existing business owners who want more people on the streets and in their shops.

“You just don’t want it to be all bars and restaurants,” said Anna Collins, co-owner of pet store Metro Mutts at 5th and H streets.

The Fine Print

Starting this fall, the District will have $1.25 million to offer new or existing retail businesses that are “small and unique” along H Street. A grant application, currently in development, will be available in September. Business proposals that include “entrepreneurial and innovative retail element[s]” will be given special consideration, according to the District law that created the grant. And the program is slated to have more cash to offer over the next five years. The tax revenue generated from the increased retail will be invested back into H Street projects.

There are rules as to who can apply. Retail shops are eligible, excluding liquor stores, restaurants, bars, barbershops, hair salons and phone stores. The businesses must take up at least 1,200 square feet and be located directly on H Street between 3rd and 15th streets. And businesses will only get money if they create jobs that employ D.C. residents.

“Partially, it’s recognizing as a landlord you could charge a much greater rent for a business with a liquor license,” said Charles Allen, chief of staff for Councilman Tommy Wells (Ward 6). “A bookstore will never be able to compete with the liquor license.”

Although existing businesses can apply, they won’t get money offering the same exact service, Allen said. They have to propose something that creates jobs.

Open Arms

The program has already solicited some interest. Local resident Loren Copsey has plans to open the area’s first bicycle shop in February 2012 and plans to apply for grant funds to do so.

“I kind of would like the feeling of being a pioneer on the block,” he said. “It’s been under-utilized, with so many buildings that are vacant and small businesses that are hanging on.”

“The mantra we’re going with now is ‘retail breeds retail,’” he added. “The more retail you have, the more traffic you have, and in general [it] can really help businesses that are currently existing.”

Indeed, many existing businesses welcome the prospect of more retail along the strip.

“We want this district to look like 14th Street, because that’s the way it used to look here. You could get everything along H Street,” said Terri Hill, manager of hair salon A Fresh Look by Janice & Co. at H and 7th streets NE. “We’d like to see [more retail]. It doesn’t matter to me what kinds.”

Retail for Whom?

Hill questioned whether the District’s program will attract businesses that will benefit more low-income residents. Resident Darcy Kirkland, who watched Hill work on his wife’s hair, said he wants the kind of retail that “helps the poor people out.”

But new retail could serve a variety of clientele. Metro Mutts is the only pet store in the area, and Collins said her clients include longtime residents and newcomers living in nearby luxury, pet-friendly condos.

“We want this district to look like 14th Street, because that’s the way it used to look here.”

“We’ve had customers who’ve lived here 30 to 40 years who have said we haven’t had anywhere to buy cat food,” she said. “Everyone wants there to be options. We try to do a little bit of everything.”

The same goes for Michelle Jones, owner of health food store A.S.P.I.R.E. along H and 7th streets NE. Many of her first customers were seniors who couldn’t find apple cider vinegar and other health products within walking distance. Jones wants to see more clothing and groceries stores along the strip.

“Lord knows we don’t need more liquor stores,” she said.

Even if the strip’s vacant buildings don’t all get filled with retail, the grant program may help create jobs in D.C., which has a higher unemployment rate than the national average. Jones has had a number of residents ask her about jobs, but she said her three-month-old business needs to expand before she has enough money to hire.

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High Property Taxes and Changing Neighborhoods http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/07/high-property-taxes-and-changing-neighborhoods/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/07/high-property-taxes-and-changing-neighborhoods/#comments Tue, 19 Jul 2011 15:52:14 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=8860 Continue reading ]]>

Nic McPhee / Flickr

Pamela Johnson, who owns a storefront in the H Street NE neighborhood, says her property value has gone up so much that she can’t afford to pay her tax bill. Her story is included in The New York Times gentrification piece, which caused Matthew Yglesias to ask if property owners can ever be the victims of gentrification:


Normally you think of the gentrification problem as applying to renters. Objective conditions improve in a poor neighborhood, which is good. But the improved conditions lead to higher rents, so the poor people wind up not benefiting since they have to move out. It’s difficult for me to see how this kind of problem could afflict property owners, who regardless of race or class considerations ought to benefit from asset appreciation.

But as Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic points out, winning out financially isn’t always the only priority for owners:

I actually think it’s fairly easy to understand Johnson’s beef. She likes her neighborhood as it is. She may well be able to “sell high,” but the fact is she doesn’t want to sell at all. She probably would love to see her property values rise, but the neighborhood isn’t simply, for her, a financial instrument–it’s an emotional one.  In that sense, Johnson isn’t very different than millions of other humans who invest in neighborhoods.

Her contention that the city is “driving us out of here.” is very much debatable. But it’s worth noting that a class of owners with a commitment to something more than a naked financial return is a good thing. When Matt asserts that the city is trying to make H Street a “desirable place to live,” I am compelled to ask “desirable for whom?” I’m not being obtuse here–I understand, in the aggregate, his larger point. But very often people find a kind of value in their living condition that eludes socioeconomic data.

And although individual owners may make money by selling properties in increasingly pricey areas, what kind of overall effect do such sales have on neighborhoods? In Logan Circle, for instance, a group of low to moderate-income homeowners are contemplating selling their modest town homes to a developer for $800,000 each. If they decide to sell, they could walk away with a large return. But if they sell and leave the neighborhood, they take with them much of Logan’s remaining income diversity.

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In Your Words: New York Times Tackles D.C.’s Gentrification http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/07/in-your-words-new-york-times-tackles-d-c-s-gentrification/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/07/in-your-words-new-york-times-tackles-d-c-s-gentrification/#comments Mon, 18 Jul 2011 18:52:03 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=8836 Continue reading ]]>

Elvert Barnes / Flickr

The Grey Lady published a feature about gentrification around H Street NE and how the city is losing its black majority:


The shift is passing without much debate, but it is leaving ripples of resentment in neighborhoods across the city, pitting some of the city’s long-term residents, often African-American, against affluent newcomers, most of whom are white, over issues as mundane as church parking and chicken wings.

The story makes mention of the defeat of Adrian M. Fenty in the 2010 mayoral race and how some focused on used dog parks and bike lanes as symbols for affluent whites “re-arrang[ing] spending priorities to suit themselves.” Adam Serwer of The American Prospect argues the disparity in unemployment rates was the issue in the election; for whites, unemployment increased by 1 percent, while it increased by 5 percent for African Americans and doubled for Latinos:

What happened during Fenty’s term was that black people and Hispanic people lost their jobs while white people largely kept theirs. Blaming this on Fenty is unfair, but given that politicians are always evaluated in part by the jobs they help create (or lose) voting him out was an entirely rational decision. I’m not sure why, in a story about Washington DC’s internal racial divisions, the only mention of this is a throwaway line about unemployment in Ward 8. Alongside the city’s black exodus, the uneven impact of the economic crisis is the story.

The story touched off a Twitter debate among locals about the city’s changing face and how the media and the public talks about gentrification:

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