Co-editor Dr. Sabiyha Prince and three of the book’s contributors — Dr. Maurice Jackson (Georgetown University), Dr. Johanna Bockman (George Mason University), and Dr. Bell Julian Clement (George Washington University) — will discuss the book, which is titled Capital Dilemma, at the church this Wednesday at 7 p.m.
“Gentrification, inequality, racism and class divides are defining qualities of the everyday experience of communities in Washington D.C.,” reads a Facebook post for the event. “Capital Dilemma is an amazing work by academics and intellectuals of the DMV area that helps us understand these experiences and fight to change them.”
Read more about Capital Dilemma from the Facebook event page:
A documentary by professors at American University and George Washington University examines gentrification in the U Street area, Columbia Heights and Petworth.
The documentary, called Dog Parks and Coffee Shops, aims to make locals aware of how income inequality and buying decisions can hurt integration.
“Back in the day, Washington D.C. was America’s first city with a Black majority population, and many neighborhoods were predominantly Black,” says a narrator in the film’s trailer. “Today, many of those same neighborhoods have experienced significant demographic shifts.”
Sonya Grier, a marketing professor at AU and a co-producer of the documentary, said that consumption habits are one of the largest source of headaches in rapidly changing neighborhoods.
As the notion goes, gentrifiers move in to traditionally low-rent neighborhoods, open middle class destinations such as dog parks and coffee shops, and in the process cause tension among longtime residents by way of rising rent and a higher cost of goods.
“If you have people living in separate consumption worlds, that doesn’t support harmony, integration and unity within communities,” Grier said. “It supports what we observed, what we call faux diversity.”
Grier, who lives north of Petworth in Brightwood, said the idea for the documentary came from a trip she and co-producer Vanessa Perry, a marketing professor at GWU, took to U Street. The two professors noticed that, despite the racial diversity of the neighborhood, people of different ethnicities weren’t actually mixing.
Instead, groups of similar people tended to go to the same destinations. On the outside, Grier said, neighborhoods like U Street and Columbia Heights might look diverse. But walk inside businesses and restaurants and the crowds tend to be more homogenous. And that, she said, can lead to problems.
“One of the issues we identify in the film is that there’s not a lot of interracial discussions in these areas and that can lead to mistrust,” Grier said. “In the Shaw neighborhood, they have a campaign to get people to say hi to their neighbors. The fact that they need that campaign actually says a lot.”
The documentary will be part of the Reel Independent Film Extravaganza at the Angelika Pop-up Theater at Union Market next weekend. The filmmakers will also hold a free screening and discussion of the film at the Northeast Neighborhood Library at 330 7th St. NE at 2 p.m. Oct. 11.
Grier said she and the other filmmakers behind the documentary hope to use it as a tool to spur discussions between old and new residents and across racial lines.
“Something is going on where people aren’t interacting,” she said, “and we hope the film can act as a stimulus to get people talking about these issues.”
The neighborhood has changed and 14th Street NW, from Thomas Circle north to Florida Avenue and beyond, is probably the best example. On one block after another for the past decade, we have seen the transformation of the 14th Street corridor.
A note to potential commenters itching to comment on “change” and “gentrification” — these are observations and you are free to make your own interpretations as to their desirability. You can always consider what the Don Draper character on “Mad Men” says: “Change is neither good nor bad. It simply is. It can be greeted with terror or joy, a tantrum that says ‘I want it the way it was,’ or a dance that says, ‘Look, something new!’ ” Or not.
Newcomers of the past three to five years are to be forgiven if they don’t remember when residential buildings at 14th and N, 14th and Q and on the 1500 block of 14th Street (east side) did not exist. The same applies to the north side of the 1400 block of P Street NW (and Church Street just to the north) where large residential buildings face Whole Foods, which opened in the fall of 2000.
We “old-timers” still consider these to be “new” buildings.
The Retail Catch-Up
More than a decade ago, older businesses began closing shop to make way for new businesses that catered to the multitudes of new arrivals in Logan Circle — and more than few of those businesses are now gone (Garden District and go mama go! are two examples). However, Cafe Saint-Ex, Pulp and Home Rule are still going strong.
Shuttered store fronts on 14th Street opened as art galleries, restaurants, posh drinking establishments and upscale home decor stores. It’s been said that it takes a decade for retail to catch up with residential changes in gentrifying neighborhoods. If that is the case, then around 2000 the catch-up began. And, yes, it is hard to over-estimate the importance of Whole Foods as an anchor store for the 14th and P Streets shopping and residential corridor.
Residential Construction Boom
The boom in residential building construction continues on the 14th Street corridor. New residents, including young families have brought a different vibe to the sidewalks. Done or nearing completion are District, The Aston and Northern Exchange — the first on 14th between S and Swann, and the later two at 14th and R.
Coming in the next year are the massive Louis complex at 14th and U Streets and 1919 14th Street at Wallach Place. All will bring more residents — and more businesses to the first floors of the buildings.
The remainder of 2013 as well as 2014 will see even more residential-retail and business buildings on the 14th Street corridor:
- The Jefferson 14W is finishing up at the northeast corner of 14th and W Streets, including a large YMCA.
- The former site of Latino Auto Sales at the southeast corner of 14th and Florida will become condos by the end of 2013.
- The Central Union Mission will be moving out this year, from the southeast corner of 14th and R. UrbanTurf reports that construction will begin June.
- Filling in a gap on 14th Street, Furioso Development will bring an office building, which will be leased by Whitman-Walker Health.
- An empty warehouse at 1728 14th Street will become a commercial business building.
- Elevation Media reports that a 48-unit, seven story building will break ground in the last quarter of 2013 on the Zipcar lot at the northeast corner of 14th and Corcoran.
- Abdo has plans for the corner of 14th & Rhode Island.
I have undoubtedly missed some changes and some projects here. But the main point is that the 14th Street corridor is far from done. Expect to see something more in 2014 and beyond — there are still plenty of empty lots and one-story build-ins just itching for something new.
By now you’ve heard about the new exhibit at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Pump Me Up: D.C. Subculture of the 1980s, which is lighting up Twitter and Instagram and popping up everywhere in your Facebook feed. Finally, the culture critics say, Washington has an exhibit all its own, featuring the only musical form indigenous to the area — go-go — and attracting tastemakers from all over.
But here’s my advice, Borderstanis, don’t just go to the exhibit. Do the Washington thing and attend a lecture or panel discussion. This month, the Corcoran is offering a series of events to highlight the show, geared at all of the music geeks and amateur music historians out there. Each of these events is full of such cool information, it will no doubt figure prominently as your standard “Did you know…” conversation piece from here on.
The History of Go-Go
If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s a primer: in the aftermath of the riots of 1968 when neighborhoods across the city were destroyed, Chuck Brown emerged with a new funk sound (go-go), that was hyper-local to each DC neighborhood and “crew.” Around the same time, an underground punk scene was thriving with the 9:30 Club at its heart (it was downtown then).
Graffiti, street music, self-promotion and a do-it-yourself culture connected this local music scene, in a time where many people felt abandoned by a corrupt government and overwhelmed by violence. All of this resulted in something Washingtonians can now be proud of: a unique punk, hardcore, and go-go scene, now being studied by academics and historians the world over.
The Corcoran has collected (on loan from local institutions like the 9:30 Club and Globe printing press) an incredible display of memorabilia, including a huge selection of neon Globe concert posters; old music photos, flyers and record covers; DC political memorabilia (lots of stuff on Mayor-for-life Marion Barry); video footage of shows, riots, graffiti and violence; and newspaper clippings depicting the tragic murders and the rise of drugs in 1980s DC.
The exhibit was curated by Roger Gastman, a Bethesda native, publisher, filmmaker and graffiti connoisseur of “Exit Through the Gift Shop” fame, now also the guy behind the new film “Legend of Cool “Disco” Dan.” In fact, the king of DC graffiti, Cool “Disco” Dan, figures prominently in the storyline, shown tagging DC buses and making a name for himself – long before DC Donutz came around.
Events and Exhibit
Details on the events are below and the exhibit runs through April 7. All events are $10 for non-members, $8 for members, and $5 for students. Register early — you’re not the only academic in town.
- Bustin’ Loose: Stories from D.C.’s Underground Music Scenes, Tuesday, March 12, 7 pm Panel Discussion: Tomorrow, take in this panel featuring homegrown experts of the unique-to-D.C. underground youth culture of go-go and hardcore, just swapping stories: 9:30 Club owner Seth Hurwitz; D.C. Go-Go and hip-hop artist DJ Kool; discographer, writer and DJ Iley Brown, II; and musician Alec MacKaye.
- Go-Go Music: The History and Evolution of DC’s Legendary Beat, Monday, March 18, 7 pm Lecture: Ever heard of ethnomusicology? Of course you have. Expert Kip Lornell, Adjunct Professor of American Music and Ethnomusicology at George Washington University and co-author of The Beat: Go Go Music from Washington, DC, will talk about go-go music’s development and ongoing popularity, including the births of bands such as Rare Essence (RE), Trouble Funk, and Junk Yard Band in the 1970s and 1980s, as well as more recent bands and their modern take.
- DIY DC, Thursday, March 28, 7 pm Panel Discussion: Do-It-Yourself was not invented by Martha Stewart, people. Both go-go and punk subcultures followed a DIY approach, often promoting their own music, making their own posters and creating their own scene outside of a mainstream record label or industry. Discussion will focus on the music and gangs of pre-gentrification DC and panelists include Trouble Funk’s “Big” Tony Fisher, Rare Essence’s Andre “Whiteboy” Johnson, Washington music writer Mark Jenkins, former D.C. Police detective Donald “Goose” Gossage and Gangster George, a former member of the Gangster Chronicles crew.
According to a list released last week by Forbes, DC is no longer one of the top 10 most dangerous cities in America. The yearly list ranks U.S. cities with a population over 200,000 according to their violent crime rate as reported by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports database; this year, DC came in 16th.
So how did DC, a city that has been one of the top 10 most dangerous cities for several years, manage to escape the list this year?
According to a separate Forbes article, gentrification, tax breaks, and urban reforms are responsible for the drop in crime and homicides. (In the early 1990’s, the city was racking up 500 homicides a year; this year, DC is on track to have 100.)
John Roman, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute and a contributor to the article also explains that the expansion of the federal government and lobbying and consulting firms help to drive-up incomes in the area. Additionally, the article points to the demise of Prince George County’s high-rise public housing towers, which were replaced with garden-style apartments.
According to the article, “gentrification can be a brutal process for the residents who are priced out of their neighborhoods… but in DC, three to four square miles went from brownfields to upscale condos.” Many examples of this change can be seen in the Borderstan area with the revitalization of the 14th Street, U Street and Shaw areas.
Detroit, St. Louis and Oakland were the top three most dangerous cities on the list.
The topic of gentrification in the District is generating some buzz — as it often does. Last week, the Root DC’s Stephen A. Crockett Jr. introduced us all to the term “swagger jacking,” which then triggered a slue blog posts (including our own) on the subject of DC’s economic, cultural and racial shift.
Shortly after Crockett’s piece, The Atlantic published a follow-up story that exposed a series of counter arguments to Crockett’s commentary. In the article – “The Politics of the Urban Comeback: Gentrification and Culture in DC” – writer Garance Franke-Ruta argues that DC’s developmental boom [aka: gentrification] should not be seen as such a bad thing.
Yes, DC is changing; but the once dubbed “Chocolate City” has been undergoing this major transition for more than a decade. And according to Franke-Ruta, development in the city (especially in the U Street area) is not to blame for the loss of DC’s black population – that happened long before the “culture vultures” swooped in with construction cranes and hipster ambiance.
“A close look at the Census data shows that black population loss in the neighborhood actually slowed as gentrification picked up, dropping almost in half from the previous decade’s rate,” writes Franke-Ruta.
The article also emphasizes the importance of the District’s continuing development for tax revenue and population retention purposes. (I don’t know about you, but I am sick of being referred to as a “transient city.”) Encouraging revitalization, development, small business establishments and residential space in DC (especially in the U Street corridor) has been a major priority for the District’s last four mayors.
So there you have it – two sides of the city’s decade-long great divide. Crockett longs for a city that dodges a disheartened sense of “faux black ethos,” while Franke-Ruta longs for a less dodgy city. Is one argument better than the other? And is there a way for the city (and for U Street) to continue to develop and evolve in a way that pleases the majority of the District’s residents?
While Sam’s Pawnbrokers on 14th Street NW may not get the elongated elegy that Melody Records did, it is nonetheless the closing of another area stalwart. Washington City Paper indicates that it will remain open until May, but that ‘FOR SALE’ signs have already appeared on the store. (If you bothered to look up while walking down 14th, you’d have seen the sign already.)
Sam’s has been there for 40-plus years at 1508 14th Street NW. While the owner has been patiently waiting for the biggest payoff, I wonder if this is a rare win for a small owner — gentrification pushed up the value, while tech advances like eBay predicted a depressed future market for wares… maybe he got out while the getting was good?
Supply & Demand: Why Your Rent is Too Damn High
Urban Turf explains why you may feel like channeling your inner Jimmy McMillan while looking for new digs. Turns out, the vacancy levels are the second lowest in the country (only behind metro NYC), which allows owners to keep boosting the rents. Be sure to take the Borderstan Reader Poll, Rent: What’s Your Pain?
Locals Unplugged — Don’t Miss
If you own a small business in DC or just dream of opening your own, come on out to Busboys and Poets on October 13. This edition of Locals Unplugged! is hosted by Live Green and Think Local First DC and will feature Jasmine Chehrazi, founder of Yoga District. Get some good advice, ask some questions and learn the zen of navigating business red tape. There’s a small fee, which you can pay here, to get your ticket.
U Street is a ‘Great Place in America’
The American Planning Association issued their ‘Great Places in America’ list, which includes great public spaces, neighborhoods and streets in the United States. This year, U Street NW made the list of the Top 30 (Eastern Market has been named to the list in the past). DCist notes that the resurgence of the neighborhood is one of the top reasons the area made the list, yet is also a source of concern to area residents grappling the growing pains of gentrification.
New Little Sister for DC?
Or big sister, since the city in question is Ankara? At any rate, Mayor Vince Gray just announced that Ankara, Turkey is the latest addition to DC’s list of sister cities (making it 12 total). Washington City Paper dives into what requirements a city must meet in order to become a sister city, what other cities made the list and what the heck a sister city actually means.
Where Chefs Eat, After Hours Edition
Despite the abundance of bars and restaurants on 14th Street NW and Dupont Circle, you may be hard pressed to find our local chefs hanging out on a bar stool after hours. That is, according to the Washingtonian‘s informal poll of some chefs. The list includes El Centro DF and Masa 14’s Antonio Burrell, who ditches the neighborhood for the far reaches of H Street NE or Annandale… although we forgive anyone for Honey Pig noms. Any surprises on the list?
From Luis Gomez and Matty Rhoades
View the slide show of photos of development projects planned or underway in the 14th Street corridor. Each photo has a caption explaining the development project; click on Show Info to see the captions.
Washington’s 14th Street NW corridor was a big redevelopment project waiting to happen. As inner city and downtown living became popular again in the 1990s it now seems impossible that valuable chunks of land in the heart of D.C. would remain unused or underutilized.
The 1.5-mile strip of 14th Street from Thomas Circle to Columbia Heights had a relatively large number of empty or underutilized lots that were ideal for residential and commercial projects. Even now there are still empty lots or properties with small one-story structures that are suitable for new buildings.
From Michelle Lancaster
Empty Buildings, Empty Promises
A number of buildings owned by Shiloh Baptist Church on 9th St. have been vacant for years. So Council Member Jack Evans’ proposal to give the buildings a tax exempt status if they are redeveloped by the Church is a popular idea, right? Wrong. He pulled the bill on Thursday after vehement neighborhood protest. The buildings have remained vacant, despite promises and plans and were incorrectly classified, costing the city a cool $100,000 in a tight budget cycle. DCist has the recap and prior coverage.
Speaking of Redevelopment
I try to refrain from editorializing (too much) in these recaps, but I can’t help but tell you that this piece on gentrification in Greater Greater Washington is simply great. It’s one thing to take on Megan McArdle at the Atlantic, it’s another to start to outline ideas and policies to handle a very real DC/Borderstan issue.
Streetcar Plans Move Forward
Washington Business Journal has the story and full PDFof the plans as the H St. NE and Anacostia trolley project moves forward. There are a number of questions about the project, notably the price tag and how to pay for it. The $194 million dollar project must be fully vetted before the FY 2011 DC budget will allocate funds for the H St. NE line.
Creepy Crawlies: The Guide
Yes it’s Halloween and Jersey Shore ended last night but we’re not talking about either of those things. No, it is a fate far worse than GTL for life: bedbugs. DC has found them in a number of very public places and private residences lately, but not to fear — TBD has compiled your guide to identifying, eliminating and preventing the scourge at your place.
Mary the Borderstan Movie Fan’s column on movies runs every two weeks. This week, however, Mary reviews a play that is running at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company: Clybourne Park. For more information about the play and how the theme and plot relate to the Logan Circle-Shaw area, see the Friday post, “Woolly Mammoth’s ‘Clybourne Park’ Looks at Gentrification.” Mary and her husband have resided in Dupont-Logan since the 1990s. She is a retired professor of English and association executive.
Note on special ticket promotion: Woolly Mammoth is running a special promotion with $30 tickets for Borderstan readers. When purchasing tickets use the code 788. Go to woollymammoth.net for more information and tickets.
Clybourne Park cleverly juxtaposes a day in 1959 when a white family is moving out with a day in 2009 when another white family is preparing to move into a house in a near north suburb of Chicago.
The first family has sold the house to a black family (possibly the Younger family from Lorraine Hansberry’s play, A Raisin in the Sun), while the second white family is redesigning the same house to suit their upscale notions, though its neighborhood is now mainly black. They are planning a Koi pond in the back yard.
In the first act, a couple of neighbors come in to argue against the sale as devaluing all the property in the area. Ignoring the force of a tragedy that has happened in the house, they accuse the white couple of profiteering, disregarding community mores, and opening up the neighborhood to “unfortunate” influences.
The second act, 50 years later, features arguments about how the new couple’s yuppie renovation will destroy the memories that black families have made for themselves in the neighborhood.
The play pits a black couple against a white couple in each act. In the first, black woman and her working-class husband, who has come to pick her up from work, is a servant; in the second, a younger and more affluent black couple is played by the same actors.
They are more articulate than the black couple in the first act, and they make their arguments against turning the house into a McMansion from positions of equality with the white couple who have bought the house. The tables have turned.
As drama Bruce Norris’ play works very well, and the production at the Wooly Mammoth Theatre on D Street, near the Chinatown Metro, is excellent.
However, I thought the first act, which sets up the problem of block busting had a bit too much broad satire, played too broadly.
Gentrification. It can be a controversial word. No, it is a controversial word. Ask around for what it means to people and you will probably get a number of answers or definitions–some good, some bad, some mixed.
Woolly Mammoth Theatre is currently running Clybourne Park through April 11 (more about the show below). The theme is highly relevant considering the recent changes in our neighborhood.
Gentrification and Borderstan
Gentrification is a topic of discussion in DC because the city’s demographics are changing: less African-American and more white, Asian and Latino. More upper middle class and few working class and poor.
The Logan Circle, Shaw and U Street neighborhoods have all seen huge influxes of new residents, many of whom have more education and higher incomes than many of the long-time residents of the area. Moreover, the majority of the new residents are not African-American.
Some of the change is due to the newcomers moving into existing residences where African-Americans previously lived. However, it is also due to the huge number of new–and expensive–residential buildings constructed in the past five to 10 years. The rapid demographic changes in the Borderstan area in the past decade are astounding. (Also, see “DC’s 600,000 People: The Redistricting Angle.”)
The change in local retail is another one of the major shifts that comes with gentrification. The recently arrived expensive restaurants and boutiques on the 14th and U Street corridors are examples. So is the 1400 block of P Street NW (yes, there was life before Whole Foods). If you have lived in the neighborhood less than seven to 10 years, it is difficult to fathom the enormity of the change. It is not just the number of new businesses, but how different they are in terms of their customer base.
“Clybourne Park” at Woolly Mammoth
As for Clybourne Park, here is what Woolly Mammoth says about the show:
A white community in 1950’s Chicago splinters over the Black family about to move in. Fast-forward to our present day, and the same house represents very different demographics as we climb through the looking-glass of Lorraine Hansberry’s classic A Raisin in the Sun. These hilarious and horrifying neighbors pitch a battle over territory and legacy that reveals how far our ideas about race and gentrification have evolved–or have they?
Clybourne Park explores the evolution of racism and gentrification over the past half-century in America by imagining the conflicts surrounding the purchase of a house in a white neighborhood in the 1950s by an African American family, and then the re-design of that house in “post-racial” 2009. While Clybourne Park is a Chicago neighborhood, the play makes no direct reference to its geography. Woolly believes Clybourne Park is highly reflective of the changes happening to neighborhoods throughout DC and across the metropolitan area (and urban America).
Have you seen Clybourne Park? If so, what did you think? Are you planning to see it? We hope to have a review here at Borderstan for you next week.
Special Ticket Promotion
Woolly Mammoth is running a special promotion with $30 tickets for Borderstan readers. When purchasing tickets use the code 788. Go to woollymammoth.net for more information and tickets. Performances are Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. at 641 D Street N.W.
Pieces on Gentrification
Woolly Mammoth’s Radio Woolly has podcasts, blog entries, and special events listings at the “Is your neighborhood Clybourne Park?” on its Web site. Some of the Woolly’s blog entries are very well written and offer interesting perspectives, including Shaw. For another DC angle, read “G” is for Gentrifier at Barry Farms (re)Mixed blog.
Finally, you might want to check out this recent New York Magazine piece, “What’s Wrong with Gentrification?”