DCentric » 14th Street 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 Will Chains Fill 14th Street? http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/05/will-chains-fill-14th-street/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/05/will-chains-fill-14th-street/#comments Wed, 02 May 2012 17:52:00 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=15861 Continue reading ]]>

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.

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From Locksmiths To Luxury Condos: Businessman Talks 14th Street Evolution http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/04/from-locksmiths-to-luxury-condos-businessman-talks-14th-street-evolution/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/04/from-locksmiths-to-luxury-condos-businessman-talks-14th-street-evolution/#comments Thu, 12 Apr 2012 15:18:45 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=15340 Continue reading ]]>

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.”

Elahe Izadi / DCentric

Work has already begun to transform Downtown Lock Co. on 14th Street NW into luxury condos.

Downtown Lock Co. started as a family business, and had been on 14th Street since 1910. Houchens, 70, is a D.C. native from the H Street NE corridor. He said he grew up in the shop, and recalled how celebrities would stop by from time to time because the locksmith and electronics repair store was one of the few places in the area to be an official service center for Lionel toy trains. Houcheons said senators and people like Johnny Cash and Jerry Lewis would visit during his years working there.

Houcheons and his partners bought the business in the 1970s, along with the building at 1345 14th St. NW. This was shortly after the 1968 riots that destroyed more than 1,000 buildings in D.C.

“Somebody looked [at us] and said, ‘You’re pretty stupid buying that building,’” Houchens recalled. “It turned out to be a good investment for anyone who bought property there.”

A good investment indeed; Houchens said they bought the building for $37,000, and sold it for $2.5 million. Downtown Lock Co. has temporarily relocated to Hyattsville, Md. where space is cheaper, but most of their business remains in the District.

Houchens isn’t bitter about 14th Street’s transformation (perhaps because he profited so handsomely from it). He acknowledged that perhaps some people don’t like the changes because they are afraid that D.C. “is becoming like New York City. Space isn’t available anymore.”

“After being there for so many years, you miss it,” he said. “… But the neighborhood changed for the better. It became a safer place. People thought it was safer to come there.”


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