Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Two Views of Gentrification

There was an article in the Washington Post discussing the renaissance of Columbia Heights around the Metro Station. $1 Billion dollars worth of development is rising from the ground with apartments, shops, and the usual chain stores like Target the ubiquitous Bed Bath & Beyond. It's TOD at its best.

But the redevelopment with affordable housing we see as awesome is seen completely differently by a number of people around the country that see their neighborhoods change before their eyes. In a recent This American Life (if you don't listen I highly recommend it), there was a discussion about 'The Plan'. 'The Plan' theory is the idea that the white population of DC uses planning and backroom deals to get rid of the african american population; condemning their public schools and infrastructure while using the land to build condos and upscale shops. It's not just about the real estate market, but blatant intent.

It's interesting to see the Post article the day after listening to the podcast, mostly because of the stark differences in the views portrayed. The awesome redevelopment around transit versus the displacement of residents and a plan to dilute the population with whiteness such as sushi.

Located near the District's geographic center and bound by 16th Street and Georgia Avenue, Columbia Heights' disparate narratives play out on the neighborhood's Internet mailing list, in which one posting last month was headlined "Sushi Coming to Columbia Heights!" Another updated viewers about a late afternoon shooting.

Black residents made up just over half the neighborhood's population in the 2000 Census, although their share had declined since the previous count while the numbers of Hispanic and white people grew. From 2000 to 2005, home buyers' median income rose from $76,000 to $103,000, according to the Urban Institute .

I suggest listening to the podcast before reading the article, and seeing if you can spot the differences portrayed.

1 comment:

MightyMe said...

Insightful post. Yes, there will always be at least two views of gentrification. I try to be in the middle, realizing that there is an intent to rid the city of minorities and the poor in favor of wealthier and/or whiter residents, which is wrong. On the flip side, I can't knock progress and development. It just shouldn't come at the expense of longtime residents. But, DC is in need of better shopping.