Real Estate


Luring Wegmans with Walter Reed

Flickr: christine592

Wegmans may finally be coming to D.C. according to the Examiner. The family-owned mid-Atlantic chain was named the best grocery store in the nation for “overall satisfaction” according to the most recent rankings by Consumer Reports in 2009.

D.C. officials are hoping that the massive Walter Reed Army Medical Center’s planned redevelopment in Northwest will finally give them the bait they need to lure the District’s first Wegmans grocery store.

The highly sought-after grocer has two scheduled meetings this week with Mayor Vincent Gray and council members at a retail development conference in Las Vegas that historically has been the breeding ground for major real estate deals in the District.

That conference, the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), is where almost half of all retail leases are signed every year. As for Walmart, the other chain with its eye on D.C.– Consumer Reports placed it near the bottom of those 2009 rankings.

Charles Fields, a spokesperson for Consumer Reports said that while Walmart is a price leader, it earns low scores on service, the quality of its meat and vegetables and store cleanliness.

“It’s not like only black neighborhoods get gentrified”


"I heart gentrification"-sticker on Columbia Road NW.

Lurking in the comments section to Ta-Nehisi Coates’ recent post about “The City as a Problem” is a discussion about gentrification in Columbia Heights. Here’s Ta-Nahesi’s response to one of his reader’s comments about the Green line, urban renewal and city planning:

It’s one thing to say “No black people can live here.” It’s quite another to say “People who are poor, a disproportionate number of whom are black, can’t live here.”

Moreover, I strongly suspect that social engineering and market forces aren’t actually producing the same results. I reported on local DC for several years, and I get back there pretty regularly. It’s certainly true that, say, Columbia Heights is a lot whiter than it used to be. But there are certainly black people there. (One of my best friends lives there as a matter of fact.)

I don’t think you can really expect black people to be shielded from America, itself. It’s not like only black neighborhoods get gentrified. As a Baltimore native, I can assure you that white people get pushed out to. But that’s very different than the state mandating that all white people be pushed out. The intent isn’t the same. Neither is the effect.

The whole thread discussion is worth a read.

Righteous Real Estate

Flickr: ONE DC

Lydia DePillis of the City Paper writes about a new source for affordable housing in the District– churches. DePillis visited one house of worship, the Temple of Praise, an interdenominational megachurch that Mayor-for-life Marion Barry attends; the Temple has big plans for Ward 8. The church is so popular, it has outgrown the huge building it built just eight years ago; now it wants to construct something larger and transform the current Temple into a charter school. Beyond that, the ambitious church wants to develop affordable housing on its property.

And Bishop Glen Staples isn’t stopping there. He’s working on building a medical clinic, and wants to construct senior housing and a new community center, as well as a credit union, local retail, and restaurants—which neither the market nor the government have brought to that part of Ward 8 (even the local McDonald’s is vacant).

“There’s nothing here,” says Staples, taking a break in his dark wood and leather-trimmed inner sanctum, while the noon service thunders outside. “I don’t know if politicians are able to do anything, if they want to do anything, I don’t know, but I do know nothing’s been done. So it’s incumbent on us to try to do something.”

“Re-knitting an urban fabric” might be just what this city needs:

The particularly important thing here: These are the kinds of building projects many neighborhoods either grumble about or reject altogether. A church’s willingness to put them in its own neighborhood demonstrates a confidence in its ability to be a positive and stabilizing influence, re-knitting an urban fabric shredded by drugs and crime, in places where private capital would never voluntarily go.

Now Reading: Sociology in My Neighborhood

Flickr: M.V. Jantzen

Construction in NoMA, which is being transformed by gentrification.

Excuse me, while I nerd out to an exciting new blog– Sociology in My Neighborhood: DC Ward Six. Penned (typed?) by a Professor of Sociology at George Mason University, the site explores the same issues DCentric does, albeit on a hyperlocal level. Here’s part of a post about whether segregation is caused by racism:

Generally, sociologists study whether people are segregated because of personal choice, economic reasons, or racial discrimination. Economic factors are definitely a big reason, especially when we look at housing costs, but racial discrimination still exists. Let’s take a look at sociologists Michael O. Emerson, Karen J. Chai, and George Yancey’s “Does Race Matter in Residential Segregation? Exploring the Preferences of White Americans.”…

Controlling for all sorts of variables, Emerson and his colleagues found that whites are neutral about the likelihood of buying the house if the neighborhood is 10-15% black. Above 15% black, whites say that they would not likely buy the house. They write, “Our findings suggest a low probability of whites moving to neighborhoods with anything but a token black population, even after controlling for the reasons they typically give for avoiding residing with African Americans.” The reasons that whites typically give are crime and declining property values. So, even when the neighborhood offered has little crime and good property values, whites still choose not to live in those with 15% or more black residents.

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Welcome to D.C., our Rent is High

Flickr: NCinDC

Isn't hunting for an apartment the *worst*? And now, it's even more difficult!

Bad news for renters in D.C. via the Washington Post– our median rent is the third-highest in the country…right after San Jose and San Francisco. Oy.

Those from more distressed areas who have come here chasing jobs find waiting lists, more stringent credit checks and rents triple what they left behind.

In local apartment buildings, rents jumped 8.2 percent — about twice the long-term average — to $1,643 this year as vacancies disappeared…The area’s vacancy rates are the second-lowest in the nation, after New York City.

“There’s been a structural shift from owners to renters in this country in the past few years,” said Gregory H. Leisch, chief executive of Delta Associates. “It’s the most rapid shift I’ve ever witnessed in the 40 years that I’ve been in this business.”

While the high foreclosure rate helped push more people into rentals nationwide, that factor was less influential in the Washington region, many economists said. Instead, the local rental market is thriving mostly because the area added jobs more quickly than the rest of the nation during the recession, luring newcomers who were unable or unwilling to purchase a home here.

I know some might say we’re already “there”, but I hope D.C. doesn’t become an enclave for just the wealthiest and the luckiest (here’s looking at you, Manhattan).

“It is an entitlement thing.”

Another response to Megan McArdle’s “Gentrifiers Lament” for The Atlantic, this time from local blog In Bloom. One of McArdle’s neighbors in Bloomingdale penned this:

Gentrification is also hurting middle-income African-Americans and minorities. By “middle-income,” I don’t mean middle-class, because I am far from that monetary threshold. By “middle-income,” I’m talking about myself, friends, and others who are like me: young, educated professionals who make above the poverty level, but not quite enough to afford to buy or to rent in a neighborhood that is ideal to what we are looking for. Whether it’s due to the market, neighborhood, or gentrification, landlords and owners are pricing the rent at such an unaffordable rate that the $30,000-$45,000 income we earn annually looks even more dismal…

my plea to you, gentrifiers *, is to make sure to make this a mixed-income, or rather a melting-pot neighborhood with various incomes and socioeconomic statuses. Yes, the median neighborhood income is probably now well above my $39,000 annual income, but I’m a responsible citizen who works, goes to school, and adds value to our neighborhood and community at large. Please understand that this isn’t so much of a race thing as it is an entitlement thing.

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“L Street SE” is one of the “Most Dangerous Neighborhoods” in U.S.

L St SE: one of America's "Most Dangerous" nabes.

It’s number nine on a list of the “25 most dangerous neighborhoods 2010“!

For the second year in a row, using exclusive data developed by Dr. Andrew Schiller’s team at, and based on FBI data from all 17,000 local law enforcement agencies, WalletPop reveals the top 25 most dangerous neighborhoods with the highest predicted rates of violent crime in America…

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Are you scared of Bed Bugs, too?


A pesticide-covered bed bug!

Bed Bugs are all over the news, and if you live in DC, chances are you’re snickering about how unlike New Yorkers, we can still go to the movies even as you nervously make a mental note to check your own mattress, later on. Just last week, WTOP reported that  we were the ninth-most-infested city in the nation.

I believe it. Two weeks ago, I saw a memorable message on Twitter retweeted a few times; it warned people near Columbia Heights to not be tempted by a nice mattress which had been left out on the curb. “It has BEDBUGS!”, the tweet blared.

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On Re-branding Midcity

At a well-attended meeting last night at Busboys and Poets, local business leaders and citizens gathered to discuss branding the area around 14th and U as “Midcity”, to create a more cohesive, arts-centric identity for neighborhoods bordered by 7th and 15th Streets and Florida and Rhode Island Avenues, NW. During a question and answer period, concerns were raised about the lack of inclusion of the area of Columbia Heights above Florida Avenue (too poor?), and the focus on theaters and galleries vs. restaurant and retail establishments. The City Paper was there, and they captured some of the skepticism:

“I have nothing in common with a business down at the Convention Center,” Fales said, noting that she wouldn’t necessarily even recommend someone walk that way at night. “I don’t want to be part of an arts district, because I’m already part of something–the Midcity Business Association.” Applause came from the back of the room.

For those wondering if Midcity is as contrived as “NoMa”, see this post by DCist about the term’s history; it contains a picture of a map from 1937 utilizing the designation.

DC Home Prices Rise

People bought fewer houses nationwide in the month of July than they did in June, but when they DID buy a home, they paid more than they would have in 2009. The Washington Business Journal reports:

Existing-home sales plunged nationwide in July, but prices were higher than a year ago with price gains in Washington among the biggest in the nation…

In Washington, the year-over-year price gain was 4 percent, to an average sales price of $351,100. Washington’s gain in prices was the fourth strongest among the nation’s 20 largest markets, topped only by Boston, New York and San Diego.