In Washington, insights gleaned from a conversation about the city’s patchwork of gentrifying neighborhoods really depends on two things: who’s doing the talking, and where the conversation is taking place.
Salon’s Will Doig writes about America’s changing cities with one question in mind: “How should we build the cities of our dreams?”
Doig’s the latest of many writers to tackle this touchy subject in his latest “Dream City” installment, exploring what a word like ”gentrification” means for the District, a city experiencing the fastest-growing population in the nation, a declining black population and seemingly recession-proof economic and housing growth all at once.
It’s also home to one of the widest, longest-standing income gaps between whites and blacks in the country.
With the theory that “gentrification” is like the secret word in Pee-Wee’s Playhouse — “say it and everyone freaks out” — Doig interviews two D.C. residents, Malcolm Woodland, 34, of Ward 8 and David Garber, 29, of Ward 6, about the changes gentrification has brought to their neighborhood and the city as a whole. Woodland is black and Garber is white.
• “I don’t think gentrification benefits or has ever benefited the previous community that was there,” Woodland said.
• “I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with a city that has multiple income levels,” Garber said.
As Woodland points out — and as many living in D.C. know — the topic of gentrification is difficult to explore outside of the lens of race. Still, while careful not to paint an unrealistic picture, Doig points out that a burgeoning population has resulted in a place more racially diverse and less segregated than it was in recent years. He ends his piece by saying the changing population could result in revitalized rather than razed neighborhoods, and a “golden era” for the city.
In some areas, District residents are hoping to facilitate a new type of change. In in one neighborhood, residents have formed a task force to make sure the businesses, homes and churches that sustained the neighborhood’s culture in the past are preserved as the Georgia Avenue corridor is developed into something new. Kaid Benfield of Atlantic Cities has more on the Georgia Avenue project.
“We do want new people on Georgia Avenue,” Darren Jones, a task force leader, told The Post’s Jeremy Borden in October. “But we want to make sure that the people who want to stay can stay and shape Georgia Avenue in the way we want.”
Tell us: Do you think gentrification is leading to responsible development — a ”golden era,” if you will — for the District?