My Dream of Shaw- Looking back at 2003

Yes, for the few of you still following, I changed the look of the blog.

Back on the old blog, which is still sitting at inshaw.com/blog and duplicated somewhere here there is a post I wrote 14 years ago. Fourteen years, that’s a teenager. That’s half the lifetime of some of the newer resident’s walking around! Fourteen years ago, Shaw was a different place. So I’m going to repost that dream.

Note: I don’t feel the same way now as I did then, and I probably wouldn’t put it the same way as I did back then. But for the sake of honesty and truth, I’m not editing it, not even for the spelling errors.

From In Shaw An Historically Gentrified Blog

My Dream of Shaw
Taking an idea from my church’s reading group that we are constantly changing the world into what it aught (ms) to be, I began thinking about what I would like Shaw to be in the near future.
I want a diverse neighborhood. Diversity meaning a strange balance between rich and poor; black, white, hispanic and asian; poor, lower income, middle class, upper-middle class, and rich; old and young; gay and straight, all these in numbers where one does not stick out like a sore thumb or overwhelm and dictate the nature of Shaw.
Jesus said the poor shall always be with us. As long as there is public housing in Shaw and Section 8, we will have our poor. Yet, I have been reading that poor can be a temporary situtation. I grew up poor, in a lower class neighborhood. Some of my friends grew up the same, working class, or homeless, but have transcended poverty and wander somewhere in the middle class zone. I hope the same for my neice and nephew who are currently on public assistance, that they too may transcend their current economic standing. In order to transend poverty or at least not have it as a permanent designation for a family, there must be opportunities in the form of education, training and jobs; things lacking in areas of concentrated poverty. In order to de-concentrate you have to bring in the other classes. Bringing in the other classes will result in the displacement of the poor but not all the poor.
To balance the economic groupings of Shaw, the area needs a healthy middle class population to deconcentrate poverty. This middle class should range from contractors, plumbers, teachers, police, civil servants, IT, and retirees who invested well. They should provide the tax base to help fund social services and give to socially minded charities. But realistically, their numbers will displace some, raise prices (rent, real estate taxes), and they will make demands that old timers will find annoying.
In an 2001 Washington City Paper article an author, writing about his U Street neighborhood, mentioned that as soon as the area blacks begin moving into the middle class they move out of DC and into PG County, just over the border. He noted how the houses in his immdediate area were being bought by whites. My point, you can’t force black folks to stay, especially when they aren’t convinced that the crap they put up with (drug dealing, crime, trash, etc) isn’t going to go away soon enough. Why wait 5 years for the area to get better if you can buy in a quieter lower crime area today? If blacks aren’t moving in great numbers to replace the ones moving out, and there are whites/hispanics/asians willing to pay top dollar, then logically the racial demographics of the area will change. There are middle class black buying and staying in Shaw, but not in the numbers to maintain an overwelming majority. We come as singles, working married/gay couples, not so much as families with children. We are putting up with the crime, the trash, and all the other reasons of why those who have moved out, moved out, hoping that in a few years it will improve. I hope more black middle class households move to Shaw to make it the gleaming neighborhood it once was before the riots and to maintain the history of the area. But realistically, non-blacks are attracted to the area, and hopefully their numbers ( I’m specifically thinking of the clutch you purse ever time they see a black person population) will not overwhelm making it uncomfortable for blacks.
As far as businesses go, I dream of fewer liquor stores. A few places where I can walk to in 15-20 minutes from the house and grab a pastry, or sit down and eat, or buy a book. U Street has a lot of that with Cake Love (great cakes!!!) the kazillion Ethopian restaurants, the Islander Restaurant, and the other stores along U and 14th Streets. I would live to see some of that along 7th Street and North Capitol. I dream of places where I want to spend my money because they have something I want.
Shaw should be diverse. It should have services and businesses for everyone. It should be low in crime and as clean as a city can be. It should feel like home.

Don’t get cray cray with your nostalgia

150X3rdSt.jpgThis is an old photo, probably from 2003, but I’m not sure, of 1508-1514 3rd Street NW. Those houses all boarded up in the photo now have real windows and doors and people. As you can probably see and guess, no one was displaced in the revitalization of those vacant houses. Guess what Shaw had a lot of back in the late 1990s and early 2000s…. boarded up nasty vacant houses.

This photo is from the “good old days” or the end of the “good old days” in Shaw. These are the “good old days” I guess some people are getting nostalgic about. It seems to be the same nostalgia that people in New York have about the old Times Square, back when it was filled with hookers, muggers and peep shows. I would like to remind you that the good old days, no one would deliver food to the house, you almost had to trick cabbies to drive you home and the local businesses were greasy carry outs, hair salons, dirty liquor stores, and unlicensed independent corner pharmaceutical distributors. Back in 2003 we would have killed to have a $30+ entree sit down restaurant to bitch about.

But it is 2017 and we have the luxury of complaining because we are hot stuff, for now. Who knows if there will be another middle class flight from the cities? It has happened before, it could happen again. Mansions have been split up to become rooming houses, and later rehabbed to become condos. History has taught me the good times do not last forever, neither do the bad.

Yes, those vacants in the photo above ‘might’ have been affordable to buy. Might, depending on the level of work needed to make them safe and livable. Might, depending on the dependability and skill of the contractor and the workmen. Might, provided it wasn’t a lead encrusted, termite riddled, pile of crumbly bricks with jerry rigged wiring and asbestos lined pipes. ‘Cause fixing that stuff costs money.

I will blog about the good/bad old days to remind you how far this neighborhood has come. I will blog to remind you not to get too crazy with your nostalgia.

Problems with Derek Hyra Book: Part III What Does It All Mean

The last section of Derek Hyra’s book Race, Class and Politics in the Cappuccino City are just two chapters, seven and eight.  There isn’t much to add than what I’ve already wrote on the previous two sections, except for some minor disagreements with the author. My major problems were in Part II.

The minor disagreements are in regards to what is and who is missing. For Truxton Circle at least there was a spike in the growth of “Other,” people who were not exclusively Black or exclusively White, these people are missing. So are middle class African Americans. Gen X and Baby Boomers aren’t players in this book either, though both made the neighborhood more palatable for the Millennials (born between 1980-2000 according to Hyra) who are all over the damned place now.

I understand an author, especially when you’re not writing a huge tome, has to be exclusive in choosing what and what not to write about. It just appears to me that some things were left out because they didn’t fit or did not support the author’s thesis. Yes, the new residents fought for dog parks, but they also fought to improve people parks too, something that isn’t explored.

O St Market ConstructionLastly. Hyra in his last chapter mentions , “Neutral ‘third spaces’ may facilitate the development of bridging social capital.” Yes,  agreed, however we get back to what is not mentioned. Places like Ben’s Chili Bowl and Busboy’s & Poet’s are mentioned but I think the author is blinded by appearances. There are places in Shaw that have something for everyone, one place being the O Street Giant, ’cause everyone has to get groceries. I have never eaten at Busboys & Poets and have been to Ben’s less than a handful of times in my 17 years of living here, but I’ve been to the Giant hundreds of times. The story of the O Street Giant transforming from the Ghetto Giant to the Gentrified Giant is an interesting one, not explored in this book. I have seen my neighbors there, I’ve seen my fellow parishioners there. It serves the people buying grass fed beef with a black card and those buying family pack chicken with an EBT.  The Giant is truly an inclusive third space. Instead he, and various other writers like to write up how horrible or exclusionary coffee shops, $12 cocktail and $30+ entree restaurants, restaurants & coffee shops that did not exist 15 years ago, some not even 5-10 years ago, are.

Problems with the Derek Hyra Book: Part II WTF is Going On?

So continuing from yesterdays Part I, Part II contains chapters 4-6 in Race, Class and Politics in the Cappuccino City and the part that contained a factual error that made me question the whole book.

The error? Someone who is Hispanic and has now been here long enough not to be a new comer, is described once as White and a new comer. To be fair the person described himself as a new comer at the time Hyra was researching the book. Time has passed, but books do take a good while to get published. However the racial thing, that a bigger error, especially when you have the issues of race and the book is pushing a particular narrative. In the case of the racially misidentified person, it appears the story is of a “White” newbie replacing a longtime Black leader.  But the case was the Black person being replaced moved, or was moving, to be with his wife ( a total surprise to me, didn’t know Jim got married), so the new comer filled in. Yes, it may seem a little more sinister if the new comer is White, which he wasn’t. If you had seen him, you would not confuse him with a White guy.

neighborhooddrugdealersI should mention Part II is where he brings out his “Living the Wire” idea. The evidence is a little flimsy appearing to be based on one civic association social where White residents regaled in stories of crime. We all have our coping mechanisms. I do remember those who would do the same, and notably those White residents who did, immediately moved when they became parents. Parents do not want to ‘Live the Wire.’ Those who did want to live dangerously, eventually moved.  Besides anyone who wants to live The  Wire, needs only to move 40 miles north, where housing is way cheaper in Baltimore.

Problems with the Derek Hyra Book- Part 1 the Poor Setting

Hyra book coverSo it has been well over a month or two since I sent questions to Dr. Derek S. Hyra’s publicist and no one has gotten back to me. Fine. I’m not sure who is reading this blog anymore anyway. And since I’m guessing hardly anyone is reading this, I’m just going to say it,  Race, Class and Politics in the Cappuccino City wasn’t a great book.

It has some things going for it. For one, it is about Shaw (more the U Street area) that’s a reason to check it out of the library. Secondly, it is an easy read. I was able to finish it in two work days, so the writing style is very approachable. And if you ignore the notes, references, and index, it is less than 200 pages.  That’s the good.

The not good comes from inaccuracies, undefined/poorly defined/ vague terms, and cherry picking. I came to the book with an open mind. I was aware that Hyra sympathized with OneDC, an organization that protests and complains about gentrification. I can enjoy an anti-gentrification book, unfortunately, a glaring factual error in Part II made it difficult for me to trust the author. Talking with other people there are other minor factual errors in the book, that doesn’t help.

In the first part of the book, Hyra describes how he did his research, where the neighborhood is, and his theories. The first two chapters are okay, the third sent me on a margin writing fit. Chapter 3 “From Company Town to Postindustrial Powerhouse” contained a poor definition of Washington, DC. or DC. Hyra frequently uses “DC” when it appears that he means “DC Area”. Here’s the difference, one of these things has representation in Congress, one does not. It is a common sin of suburbanites and people who live outside of the District of Columbia, and yes, this got under my skin like a mite. He described the defense industry as having “a major DC presence.” The word “area” after “DC” would have been more accurate. On page 51, Table 1, he lists the top 5 defense contract firms, none in the District of Columbia. I understand the need to talk about the area economy but it confuses matters the way it is written.

Next I’ll write about Part II: WTF is Going On?

319 R St NW- Not hoping for the best, but the less ugly with a turret

319 R St NW So the Bates Area Civic Association (BACA) voted to support Plan B, which was building a distinct 3rd floor and a new turret, that looks like a little hat (See The Turret is Plan B). It was what the ANC and the residents of the 1700 block of 4th and Richardson apparently agreed on.

The developers ‘threatened’ that they could by right raze the building. Maybe. I don’t know if it would have been worth it because if the building were razed there would be no need to stick to Plan A either and they would have had to be within 60-62% of lot coverage. The current structure is about 70 something of lot coverage.

Anyway, I am still sad that the plan does not incorporate the turret like 1721 4th St does.
Rooftops
It looks less like a pop up.

Here is a newer picture I took a few days ago of 1721-1717 4th St NW. The building on the left is 1721, and it includes a pop up. The blue building in the middle is an original Wardman, minus some roof vents that existed earlier. The building on the right is 21st century infill. The one with the popup has a mix of historic charm and more square footage, the middle, has the historic charm and details, and new one, plain and has that extra floor. The buildings on the left and right do rise above the one in the middle but the heigh difference isn’t too drastic or jarring.

What 1721 does is use that old mansard roof and expands on it. There are other additions in Truxton Circle that add a floor. There is a popup on the 1600 block of fourth street that blends in well. I can’t seem to get a good photo of it because there are two trees that block the view, and maybe the trees help obscure the popup.

Q and 3rd I’m still trying to make up my mind regarding this pop up on 3rd and Q. It isn’t horribly ugly, it isn’t charming either. It might grow on me like the Darth Vader house at 1651 New Jersey Avenue NW.Vader House at 1651

I’m afraid that the 319 R St developers will go with ugly…. 1500 block of 3rd Street ugly. This particular ugly has been slapped by the market’s invisible hand for being so dang ugly.
Ugly Popup 2 

319 R St NW- The Turret is Plan B

There will be a BACA meeting Monday July 10th to discuss 319 R Street among other things. There was no meeting July 3rd because of the 4th.

So the ANC sent the developers (Fred Schnider Investment Group) proposal to her residents and looking at the plans, Plan A has a 3rd story, no turret. Plan B has the turret.

Developers Plan B

But it looks in Plan B like the turretted style is a tad ugly. There is some vacant space between the turret and the top floor windows. In Plan A (not shown here) there is a small row of windows, that fills the space between the turret and the larger 3rd floor windows. I wanted to like it but, it could look better. I’d approve of this less than flattering Plan B.

I was hoping for something like 1721 4th Street where the turret was incorporated into the 3rd floor. Popup on 4th   Also Plan B would have them destroying the old turret and us hoping that they bother to rebuild the odd little hat of a turret to go back on.

The other problem, I’m just now noticing is how it looks against the adjoining buildings. Currently three of the other houses along R Street NW are vacant investments gone bad. So there isn’t anyone in those buildings to cry foul. The transition from 319 to 317 is abrupt.

I might suggest a bit of a mansard like roof, with an opening for a deck, and the rooftop space on top. It would mean fewer windows on the top corner. But it could also make the transition from 319 to 317 less obvious and make the 3rd floor with the roof top entrance look less like a pop up.

Around abouts the edge of Shaw- 1942

Panhandler on 7th -1942
Panhandler on 7th Street NW

So I was bopping around the Library of Congress site, looking to tell one story. Well, because I’m too lazy to figure out how to search properly (I’m very disappointed in myself as a librarian) I came across a few photos of life in 1942 around the area of 7th and Florida Avenue NW. As you know Florida Avenue tends to make up the northern border of Shaw, or what was to become Shaw.  This prior to the urban renews plans and prior to Shaw being named Shaw as a neighborhood.

Anyway….

These photos were taken by the noted African American photographer Gordon Parks. He like other notable photographers like Dorothea Lange, worked for the Farm Security Administration. As you can see and as you know, this area is not a farm, little matter…. old timey pictures, yay!

Display window at 7th Street and Florida Avenue, N.W.

If you look in the reflection of the window with the hats, I believe you can see the building that houses Halfsmoke, maybe. I know there was a football stadium over there where Howard University Hospital sits, and those are the stadium lights you can see in the reflection as well. However the turret is not exactly the same so, I’m not sure.

From these photographs I can see hanging out on the 1900 block of 7th Street is a historic activity. However the panhandlers of the 1940s were a heck of a lot better dressed than the hangers out and the odd panhandler found between Florida Avenue and S Street these days. They wore hats in the 40s. And they sold hats on 7th Street. At this moment I don’t think you can get a decent  hat on 7th, unless you have one delivered to the Amazon pickup locker at the 7-11 on 7th and Rhode Island.

Saturday afternoon, 7th Street and Florida Avenue, N.W.

At some point I’ll actually get around to posting the things I meant to post. Until then, enjoy.