Gentrification DC

Yes, I must have a bug in my bonnet. That and work has slowed down here.

Last year, well October 2003 I attended the very crowded American Cities discussion on gentrification at the City Museum. I have notes I don’t remember if I entered them into this blog. If I didn’t (too lazy to search) well here it is.

Jim Abdo, president of Abdo Development began with his side of the story. He talked about historical buildings and that he, unlike some of the other developers, only rehabbed abandoned buildings. No one got kicked out.

His take points out something that I haven’t touch upon in my gentrification rants, historical or historically interesting buildings. The neighborhoods in question, Columbia Heights, Shaw, LeDroit Park and Capitol Hill have some pretty neat buildings. Sadly it is only the middle & upper classes that can keep the buildings with the historical details up. It is good if you score a house that still has the pocket doors, the original stained glass, the long windows, the original crown molding, the wood floors, the carved newel posts, the detailed iron fences and stair railings, oh I could go on. When the middle classes fled the city and these houses with so much detail were rented out or sold to those with less some of those details got lost to the practical. Long tall windows are expensive to replace so they got replaced by cheaper squat ones. Pocket doors removed or walled up. As the neighborhood got rougher it just probably didn’t make sense to invest that much into the property. So gentrification is saving some housing provided the rehabbers have an appreciation for history.

Next on the panel was Maria Maldonado from CASA Maryland. She talked about what gentrification was, the replacement and displacement of one neighborhood with another. She talked about immigrant families that have been there for over 18 years and are being forced out due to market conditions. She also mentioned a horrible incident where 20 lawyers descended on one building scaring the tenants. The odd thing, she mentioned was that people come for the diversity but it is the economic power of the incoming group that forces out the diversity.

The last fellow I have notes for (I left before it all ended) was from Arlington and talking about affordable housing.