When is gentrification done?

I’m just wondering out loud here, but I was thinking, when do you stop being transitional and just be? Shaw, by far, is not the first DC neighborhood to experience gentrification. Georgetown, that horribly expensive neighborhood with the obnoxiously expensive stores, used to be black and more economicly diverse. So was the West End which is Foggy Bottom. Now these are expensive, non-transitional neighborhoods, and so not diverse (Euro-trash of any shade does not count).
Then there are neighborhoods that seem to be continuously transitioning and have been transitioning for a forever and a half. Capitol Hill comes to mind. Of course the borders of Capitol Hill keeps changing and will include the parking lot of RFK, and the gates of Gallaudet University at this rate. And apparently, and I could be wrong, Adams Morgan has been transitioning for over 20 years.
So what will Shaw be? Well the borders are set by what was the Shaw Middle School district as it was in the 60s, and butts up to North Capitol a big dividing line, so it won’t be like Cap Hill. But even comparing the core of Cap Hill, we don’t have the same architecture, the same historical district pressures, or tourist pressures (thank G-d). It could be like Adams Morgan where the lower classes and fixed income folks are constantly in peril, in danger of losing their homes as the middle and upper classes improve the homes and define the commercial strips. Or will we be like Georgetown and Dupont, where the working class has been kicked to the curb?
Oh well, the only way to find out is to stick around.

7 thoughts on “When is gentrification done?”

  1. I think that patterns of gentrification in DC are changing. 10 or 20 years ago you could draw a line between the “good” (usually meaning “white”) areas of DC and the “bad” areas of DC. Gentrification moved block-by-block, generally to the East. First 17th St, then 16th St, etc.

    Now there is (a) huge urban housing demand; (b) relatively little available housing on the market; and (c) lower crime, which means more people are prepared to move into “marginal” areas.

    As a result, a much bigger swath of the city is gentrifying (everything from Petworth to Trinidad and beyond), but its doing so slowly, house-by-house.

    Also, DC is starting to see a larger flux of affluent African Americans. So gentrification is no longer strictly a black and white deal.

    My prediction… neighborhoods like Shaw will change very slowly over the next 10-20 years – not like Dupont and Logan did. They will steadily become more affluent, but more slowly become whiter. Some will become affluent and stay black.

    – JM

  2. Housing in D.C. may still be undervalued, based on appreciation rates. That doesn’t mean all the homes are roomy, or even on “safe” streets (witness your post previous to this one). But in 1991-92 I lived at 1623 5th, N.W., off of “R”. I and a friend rented it for $750 a month. When I asked the landlord how much it would have been to cop, she said $95,000. That was only 13 years ago. Bet that house has appreciated by at least 300%, and some other little skinny rows near us were only worth 95-105K back then- especially near the 7-11 on Rhode Island and 7th. Those babies are going for a king’s ransom now.

    Enjoyed meeting you at the D.C. Blogger Meetup- we should all do another during our beautiful spring.

  3. I was gonna post re: this the other day, but got sidetracked. I agree w/ half of what JM said…gentrification used to be a black/white deal, but now it is more inline with the word’s true definition: “The restoration and upgrading of deteriorated urban property by middle-class or affluent people, often resulting in displacement of lower-income people.” (dictionary.com).

    So, given the influx of people from all over the globe, its more about income level than color, at least on the “moving in” side of the coin. Those being displaced are mostly black, however, but like JM said…there are certainly affluent blacks moving in as well.

    Where I don’t agree with JM is in the pace of gentrification. I think it will be much quicker than 10-20 years in this area. When we had our initial meeting w/ our realtor regarding selling our Falls Church house, he said we’re like the 10th young couple to “cash out” of the burbs & move into the city. Also, even during the economic slowdown of the past few years, this area still added about 80,000 jobs per year. And being the center of the “war on terror” means there’ll be no letup in defense spending/hiring for the foreseeable future. Mix in the fact that:

    1)metro won’t be expanding into the burbs fast or far enough
    2)the roads are getting saturated more every day
    3)burb prices are insane also
    4)the burbs have their own problems…asian gangs, latino gangs, etc.

    and you’ll see that DC is a great alternative. As DC becomes more & more cosmopolitan, you have people moving in that are used to an urban environment, and demand the cultural amenities that the burbs lack.

    my $.02


  4. After I read this post, I went to run some errands. I got stuck behind “rubble trucks” twice which is normal. I think of these rickety ass trucks as the pulse of gentrification. As long as there is a steady stream of revenue, a need to haul rubble to the city dump, and a pool of day laborers; gentrification will continue. I think of Alexandria as fully gentrified in most respects. Yet I still see rubble truck there all the time. I think they’ve been gentrifying for just as long with more visible results.

  5. I guess I could try to explain myself better. Gentrification to me is both economic AND racial. Economics playing a greater role but race is the visual sign of it as well. There are several things going on all at once and it can get confusing.

  6. I have a general observation…

    but I think I’d better start with some bona fides:

    1. I’m a (black) gentrifier.

    2. I was born in this neighborhood.

    3. Several generations of my family (prior to my parents’) were home- and businessowners in Shaw.

    4. I do understand that some have a reasonable fear of being economically displaced.

    So, having said that, my observation:

    Have you ever noticed how we’re all supposed to wring our hands and self-flagellate in shame at the mere mention of (cue dum-dumDUM music track) “gentrification?” I, for one, reject the notion that Shaw should remain forever the province of the Old, the Poor, the Cracked-Out, and the Criminal.

    The reality is, the poor are not helped by being concentrated in their own poverty. That’s sorta why we now make it our business to tear down The Projects (and trust me, ain’t nobody crying the blues over the loss of the Robert Taylor Homes… Good Times, my a$$).

    Or, thinking about it in another way, do we honestly believe that Target would have moved into Columbia Heights if that company did not believe that there was sufficient income in that and its surrounding neighborhood to support it’s store. For what… to be nice?

    So, if one of our goals is to de-concentrate poverty (and shouldn’t it be?), that leaves us with two options: bring the Not-Poor to where the Poor are (i.e., gentrify), or move the Poor to where the Not-Poor are.

    While I’m all for preserving housing options (and not just for the poor and working poor, but also for “core workers” like teachers and first-responders).

    I guess skipped the chapter on “guilt” during the How to be a Liberal class, or maybe I just was to busy reading Jane Jacobs The Death and Life of Great American Cities, but I’ll skip the crocodile tears about “gentrification” (what, am I expected to move out… and donate the equity to one of the crackheads who always seems to be lurking about the gas stations on Rhode Island?), and I’ll push for a neighborhood that’s diverse along income, age, and household-type lines.

    Just my .02…

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