Greater Greater Washington

Posts about Gentrification

Transit


Behold how the Purple Line corridor is changing

When built, the Purple Line could dramatically improve transit commutes in Montgomery and Prince George's counties. To explore that and other changes the line will bring, researchers created a series of maps including this one of the "commute shed" of each Purple Line station, or how far you can get on transit before and after it's built.


All images from the Purple Line Corridor Coalition.

Two weeks ago, the Purple Line Corridor Coalition organized a workshop called "Beyond the Tracks: Community Development in the Purple Line Corridor" to bring different stakeholders together and talk about ways to prepare for changes along the future light-rail line between Bethesda and New Carrollton, which awaits federal funding and could open in 2020.

The coalition is a product of the National Center for Smart Growth at the University of Maryland, which hosted the workshop. Members of the group include nonprofit organizations, developers, and local governments in Montgomery and Prince George's counties. At the workshop, they looked at examples from cities like Minneapolis and Denver, which recently built light-rail lines.

The 16-mile corridor contains some of the region's richest and poorest communities, in addition to major job centers and Maryland's flagship state university. When it opens in 2020, the Purple Line will help create the walkable, urban places people increasingly want. However, rising property values could potentially displace small businesses and low-income households. To illustrate and explore these issues, the Center for Smart Growth produced a series of awesome maps.

Like the DC area as a whole, the Purple Line corridor is divided from west to east, with more jobs and affluence on the west side, and more low-income households on the east side. Many of the estimated 70,000 people who will ride the Purple Line each day in 2040 will come from communities in eastern Montgomery and Prince George's county to jobs in Bethesda and Silver Spring.

But today, getting between those areas can be difficult and time-consuming, whether by bus or by car. It's no surprise that many commuters along the eastern end of the Purple Line have one-way commutes over an hour.

These maps, and the map above, show the "commute shed" of three Purple Line stations, or how far you can get on transit in an hour. In all three cases, the Purple Line opens up huge swaths of Montgomery, Prince George's and DC to each community. While the Purple Line only travels through a small portion of our region, it adds another link to our existing Metro and bus network, meaning its benefits will go way beyond the neighborhoods it directly serves.

But better access comes with a price, namely rising property values. The revitalization of downtown Silver Spring has resulted in higher home prices in surrounding neighborhoods because of the increased demand to live there. But Silver Spring and Takoma Park still have substantial pockets of poverty, meaning that low-income residents may not be able to afford to stay in the area once the Purple Line opens.

There are two ways to ensure that neighborhoods near the Purple Line remain affordable for both current and future residents. One is to protect the existing supply of subsidized apartments. Many complexes near the Purple Line have price restrictions for low-income households, but they will expire before it's scheduled to open in 2020.

The other is to build more new housing near the Purple Line. New homes are usually expensive, but increasing the supply of housing to meet demand can result in lower or at least stabilized prices. We're starting to see this in downtown Silver Spring, where thousands of apartments have been built in recent years. But Montgomery officials reduced the number of new homes allowed in Chevy Chase Lake and Long Branch due to concerns about changing the character of each neighborhood.

There are a lot of great and interesting communities along the Purple Line. But many of them are dramatically different places than they were even 10 years ago. They'll be different in 10 more years, whether or not the Purple Line is built. We can't preserve these places in stone, but we should try to ensure that the people who enjoy and contribute to these places can stick around in the future.

Events


Events roundup: How can longtime and new residents coexist?

The District is changing rapidly as many people, including many young professionals, want to move to walkable, bikeable, transit-oriented neighborhoods. That is also creating tension with long-time residents worried about themselves or their neighbors getting pushed out or favorite businesses closing. What can we do to build harmony rather than conflict?


Diverse hands image from Shutterstock.

The Washington Interfaith Network (WIN) is holding a forum about this very issue tonight, Thursday March 6, 7-9 pm at All Souls Church, 1500 Harvard St. NW. It will feature longtime residents and new residents who share the same concerns about housing affordability, transit, and more, along with candidates for DC mayor.

Also, get your zoning update questions answered at open houses, get an update on Red Line repair progress, and more after the jump.

WIN's Drew Bongiovanni writes,

[DC's demographic change] has created in our city a constant tension, a perception that DC is split between new and long-term resident, between have and have-not, where residents of differing age, race, and class do not see one another as neighbors. The voice of the media often insists that new and native DC residents are at odds, pitting these communities against one another by warning that they do not share the same vision for the city.

The action is about seeing whether DC residents can meet that tension head-on and unify around common interests such building affordable housing, ending homelessness, creating living wage jobs, and building a better transit system that better serves all residents.

WIN seeks to ... bring together young voters who share rooms and split rents on Capitol Hill, the families that move into the suburbs, and the seniors who are all struggling to afford housing in the District. To bring together the 18 year-old that has found themself without a place to sleep and the recent college graduate who has moved to the city for their very first job. To organize the rider of a city bus and the bus driver to work together to demand a better transit system. To discover the common ground between the young couple that worries they will need to move from the city to raise kids to those whose roots to this city are too deep for them to ever imagine leaving.

More details are on this flyer.

Zoning update open houses: DC's Office of Planning is holding a series of open house meetings for residents to discuss the proposed changes to the zoning regulations. You can talk to OP staff about the changes on a one-on-one basis to learn more about the proposals. Go here for the draft zoning regulations.

Here is the schedule for the remaining open houses:

  • Friday, March 7, 8:30 am-5 pm at the DC Office of Planning, 1100 4th Street SW, Suite E650.
  • Tuesday, March 11, 4-8 pm at Petworth Library, 4200 Kansas Avenue NW.
  • Wednesday, March 12, 4-8 pm at Deanwood Recreation Center, 1350 49th Street NW.
  • Friday, March 14, 8:30 am-5 pm at the DC Office of Planning, 1100 4th Street SW, Suite E650.
  • Saturday, March 15, 10 am-2 pm at Thurgood Marshall Academy PCHS, 2427 Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue SE.
  • Friday, March 21, 8:30 am-5 pm at the DC Office of Planning, 1100 4th Street SW, Suite E650.
  • Friday, March 28, 8:30 am-5 pm at the DC Office of Planning, 1100 4th Street SW, Suite E650.
Women and transportation webinar: The American Planning Association is hosting a free webinar on issues facing women who work in transportation. The webinar is on Friday, March 7 from 1-2 pm. To register, go here.

Get a Red Line progress report: Next week, hear about Metro's work to rebuild the Red Line from deputy general manager Rob Troup. He'll be speaking at the Action Committee for Transit's monthly meeting this Tuesday, March 11 at 7:30 pm at the Silver Spring Civic Building, One Veterans Place. As always, ACT meetings are free and open to the public.

Organize for 16th Street bus lanes: The Coalition for Smarter Growth is kicking off a campaign for a dedicated rush hour bus lane on 16th Street, where half the people move by buses which get stuck in traffic. Join them for a happy hour from 6-8 pm at JoJo Restaurant and Bar at 16th and U on Wednesday, March 12.

Speak up for King Street bike lanes: The King Street bike lane saga continues at the Alexandria City Council meeting on Saturday, March 15. Show your support for pedestrian and bicycle improvements with fellow walkers and bikers, and the Coalition for Smarter Growth. The public meeting is 9:30 am-12 pm at 301 King Street #2300 in Alexandria. If you'd like to speak at the meeting, please RSVP through CSG.

Arts


Come see Clybourne Park, then talk about it with us

In 2011, we organized a group outing to see Clybourne Park, the award-winning play about gentrification in Chicago, at the Woolly Mammoth. Come see it with us again next month in Arlington!


Image from the Arlington Players.

The Arlington Players will stage the show for its local community theater debut Sunday, February 9 at 2:30 pm at the Thomas Jefferson Community Theatre in Arlington. Then, we'll have an open discussion with the director, cast, and some of your favorite GGW contributors.

The play opens in 1959, in Chicago's Clybourne Park neighborhood, the same time and place depicted in Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun, before jumping to the present. It weaves themes of race and gentrification with dialogue on zoning and commute times.

A white family is moving out, and one of their neighbors is concerned because they sold the house to what the neighborhood's first African-American family. 50 years later, the neighborhood is almost exclusively black, and now a young white couple has bought the house and plans to replace it with a McMansion. Not surprisingly, the characters show no comfort in addressing the big issues that lay before them, preferring to dance around them as much as possible.

The theater's located at 125 S. Old Glebe Road, a little over a mile from both the Ballston and Virginia Square Metro stations. It's also accessible by Metrobus routes 10B, 23A, 23C, and 4A as well as ART route 41. You can purchase tickets here. And if you can't make our outing, you can still catch the play between January 31 and February 15 at 8:00 pm on Friday and Saturday nights and on Sunday afternoons at 2:30 pm.

Development


Raise the height limit? That's part of a bigger question

Should DC raise its height limit? A study aims to answer this question, but we can't consider this issue entirely in a vacuum. The real question is, where should DC grow?


Photo by jerdlngr on Flickr.

The National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) and DC Office of Planning (OP) are running the study, which includes 5 public meetings over the next 2 weeks, starting this Saturday in Tenleytown.

Rapidly-rising housing prices in the District show that many more people want to live in DC than do today. Without extra supply, that means more gentrification, and greater numbers of less wealthy renters getting pushed out of their longtime neighborhoods.

More supply isn't the only solution, but it's an important piece. In short, DC is building housing fast, but not fast enough.

So where should this housing go? There are obstacles to new housing just about everywhere.

  • In wealthy neighborhoods, residents file lawsuits against new developments, and the historic preservation process often lops off an extra floor or two for project after project.
  • In poorer neighborhoods, many residents also worry about larger buildings, and fear that change will bring gentrification that displaces longtime residents.
  • Downtown, the height limit restricts buildings so that there is very little more that can be built.
DC hasn't maxed out on available development sites yetthere are more buildings yet to go up in NoMA, around the ballpark, in Hill East, at McMillan (whatever survives strong neighborhood opposition and historic review), and elsewhere. But as Payton Chung pointed out, the Office of Planning's estimates leave only about 60,000 more housing units of space in vacant lots and major redevelopment opportunities.

Beyond that, and even before, the growth has to go to wealthy neighborhoods, poorer neighborhoods, and/or downtown. We haven't had a citywide discussion about what mix of these is the right one. Instead, individual neighborhoods and developers fight the same battle on site after site. Each neighborhood tries to be the best at pushing development to someone else's neighborhood. Some "succeed" more than others.

The same happens for transportation. The MoveDC study is looking at how much to focus transportation investment on the downtown or on neighborhoods. This question goes hand in hand with the question of where to grow. Neighborhoods and BIDs all want transportation investments. The right answer is to locate the transportation investments in and around the places where we want the growth to be.

Not growing is a bad solution for many reasons, and isn't even realistic. The height limit may be one part of an answer. If it's not, then residents need to find answers elsewhere, not stick their heads in the sand.

The 5 meetings are:

  • Saturday, August 3, 10:30-12:30 at the Tenley-Friendship Library
  • Tuesday, August 6, 6:38-8:30 pm at Dorothy Height/Benning Library
  • Wednesday, August 7, 6:38-8:30 pm at the Mt. Pleasant Library
  • Saturday, August 10, 10:30-12:30 at Catholic University's Crough Center
  • Tuesday, August 13, 6:38-8:30 pm at the Office of Planning in Southwest
Please try to attend one (or all!) of the meetings and voice your opinions on the height limit and DC's growth.

Development


Are Logan Circle's changes wonderful, or something else?

14th Street and Logan Circle have developed into a premier destination in DC, and there is much to celebrate about that. But the neighborhood is also becoming an ever-more-exclusive neighborhood that increasingly feels out of reach for many.


Photo by thisisbossi on Flickr.

Transformation has raced ahead

The Washington Post wrote this weekend about "Gentrification in Overdrive on 14th Street." What is occurring along 14th Street now, one could scarcely even call "gentrification" any more.

I work just a few blocks west of 14th Street, and venture over there occasionally. Before, I lived there for 5 years, wrote a blog about the area, and was on a first-name basis with many 14th Street business owners. I felt as if I knew every building and block by heart.

What I find is a neighborhood that, in less than two years' time, has transformed to a point where even I barely recognize it.

The admittedly sensitive topic of "gentrification" came up in roundabout ways numerous times during my 14th Street blogging days. Commenters would bemoan the loss of the supposed "character" of old 14th Street with the opening of every new wine bar or high-end furniture store. Escalating housing costs and businesses that were increasingly perceived to cater to a certain demographic (often white, always wealthy) led to a great amount of suspicion. And even many of us who didn't regard every restaurant opening with skepticism, such as myself, still questioned in what direction the neighborhood was headed, and who stood to benefit.

With the skyrocketing real estate prices and the nature of the businesses flooding into the corridor, I now feel that we have an answer to those questions. And if you aren't in a position to afford a $900,000 condo, you probably aren't going to like those answers.

It's better... but is it 'wonderful?'

It's a given that a city needs revenue in order to provide services to its citizens. Inhabited, maintained, tax revenue-generating properties are a positive for the city. And when the businesses that fill properties along commercial corridors succeed, they not only put revenue in the city's coffers, they incite more businesses to open and help to cultivate an energy and vitality that many seek via city living. Ideally, you have a win-win situation: a more bustling, energetic city that is providing more and better-quality services to its residents.

Harriet Tregoning, director of the DC Office of Planning, told the Post, "What is going on on 14th Street is fascinating, anomalous and wonderful for the city." Fascinating, yes. Anomalous, perhaps. Wonderful? Well that depends on who you ask, and who you are.

You won't find many who clamor for the conditions of the "old" 14th Street, or at least not the social ills that plagued it and surrounding streets throughout much of the latter-half of the 20th century. I have family members who lived along the corridor in the mid-80s who can regale you with stories of the drug transactions, prostitution, and other activities that took place just outside their front door.

The corridor was woefully underdeveloped, a victim of the flight out of the city that began in the late 1950s and reached its zenith immediately following the 1968 riots. In that respect, there's little argument that 14th Street is in a better place today than it was 20 or 30 years ago.

But there is no shortage of people who clamor for a more connected and sustainable neighborhood, one more accessible to a broader array of people where there's a greater likelihood that many of its residents will be able to put down roots and investment in its improvement for the long term.

A significant reason why 14th Street was able to turn around and become a desirable address was the tireless work of many residents who moved there during the 1970s, '80s and '90sand remained. There were no million-dollar penthouse condos there then, and that was part of its appeal. But at some point the prices started rising, and haven't stopped since.

Stability quickly turns into unaffordability

For many people, there didn't seem to be much of an "in between" stage for 14th Street and Logan Circle. The neighborhood never really seemed to strike that balance between offering stability and a good quality of life with affordability and approachability.

It seemed to vault between two extremes over a relatively short period of time. The change that took place along 14th Street was drastic, and whenever change occurs that quickly, there will be people who were able to "get in" and are largely satisfied, and there will be people who find themselves shut out.

My wife and I found ourselves in the latter category. After living in a one-bedroom Logan Circle apartment for 5 years, we determined that, in addition to needing to provide my wife with a saner commute to her Montgomery County employer, we had tired of running into each other and simply needed more space.

We would have preferred to remain in Logan had we been able to, but aside from a handful of two-bedroom apartments and condos that were approximately the size of (or smaller than) our one-bedroom home, we found ourselves largely priced out of the market. A $600-$700,000 "luxury" condo, with its associated condo fees and taxes, was simply beyond reach.

But my evolving feelings about my old neighborhood don't just come from my own experiences while living there. They're also shaped by what has happened there since we left. The types of businesses that have continued to move into the neighborhoodposh eateries and bars, furniture stores selling $6,000 sofas, boutiques selling $100 pairs of yoga pantsare good at attracting young, moneyed visitors to the neighborhood, but aren't necessarily the kinds of businesses that serve the daily needs of residents. How many times a week, for example, are you going to drop $80 or $100 on dinner? How many $15 cocktails will you consume? How many $2,000 chairs will you purchase?

Beyond the upscale boutiques and restaurants, and the neighborhood's overall shift in commercial character, lies an even greater issue: who is moving here for the long term? I certainly do not mean to suggest that there aren't many fine, committed residents in Logan Circle invested in the long-term betterment of their neighborhood. I know from firsthand experience that there are. But much of the new housing along and around 14th Street and featured in the Post story isn't being built with long-term inhabitance in mind.

Many people can only live in a studio or cramped one-bedroom apartment for so long. Eventually you couple off, have a child, or simply decide you need more room. Where to, then? With, as the Post notes, two bedroom condos in the neighborhood fetching close to $1 million, and houses garnering more, it's safe to assume that many will not remain.

How do you build a community with such a constant revolving door of residents? And what happens if you can't? They are questions Logan Circle residents will need to answer over the coming years and decades.

Trendy destination, yes; good neighborhood?

14th Street is a very popular destination, but as a neighborhood Logan Circle today can feel a bit hollow. Undoubtedly, there are many fun places to go, good drinks to be drunk, and great food to be eaten. It's lively, it's safer, and it's generating a lot of money for the city. "Huzzah!" to all of that.

But before we stamp it with a "wonderful" and seek to determine how we can emulate it in other DC neighborhoods, consider everything that it may not be: Affordable. Approachable. Sustainable. Economically diverse. And then ask yourself what the District would look like if every neighborhood developed along a similar path.

I recently took a stroll along 14th Street, past old haunts like Thaitanic, Great Wall, and Pulp, and past new additions like Be Too, Black Whiskey, Ghibellina, Pearl Dive, and everyone's new favorite French brasserie, Le Diplomate. I felt some nostalgia for the street I walked along so many times, and I marveled at the frantic energy and the rapid pace of change that brought it to this point.

And then I studied the people dining outside at 14th Street's many sidewalk cafes, and I wondered how many of them live in the neighborhood? How many could? How many would make it their home for 10, 20, 30 years? And how many simply view it as a playground of sorts, good for a night out or a stroll, but otherwise not a place they canor care tosettle in?

Change is inevitable, and there are many things to enjoy about the "new" 14th Street. It's a great destination, and can be a fine place to live. But I'm not sure that everything's wonderful.

A version of this article was posted at North FlintVille.

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