More Comments on Gentrification
Wednesday, June 15, 2011 3:20:53 PM
(For the moment, the editor would like to use gentrification to mean fixing up a rundown neighborhood. “Rundown” isn’t just a few vacant houses. It means vacant lots, a crack house or two and not very promising businesses. That means many options for the neighborhood as to how those lots are filled and how those old buildings and warehouses are used.)
For example, a nice big place in a rundown area usually means space for large crowds and plenty of parking, since there aren’t that many people around and the car might not be safe there anyway. That’s an opportunity for a go-go club. If not a go-go club per se, but a place with dancing permitted and a liquor license. It can be rented to a promoter, who can fill it with twentyish types for a few nights a month. It can be very profitable. The neighborhood may get trashed, but that’s at 3:00am, so the operator can plead that it wasn’t his doing.
1234 Ninth Street was home for many years to City Lights, which supplied theatrical lighting for productions in the metropolitan area. The were rumored to have several million dollars worth of lighting equipment. They didn’t talk much. Then they moved somewhere, leaving a nice big place in a rundown area. From the July 1992 newsletter of that year:
Alton Gayle, AMG, Inc. came to seek Blagden Alley's approval for their liquor license. After some discussion, the Association voted to oppose the application for a liquor license. The vote was 16 opposed, 1 in favor and 2 abstentions.
After several months, the project died and City Lights sat vacant for a while It then housed street vendor carts for several years. It’s now an art gallery and fancy party place. The presence of a go-go club in the area in the early nineties would not have helped the area. Since it was in the early nineties that the new Convention Center site was effectively decided, this might have been important. (It sounds as if there is a minor league version of this on the 1300 block of Ninth. People have left the neighborhood because of it.)
Other roads not taken and mid-course corrections along the way include:
The Blagden Alley Naylor Court neighborhood had severe drug problems in the 80's and 90's. DC had as Police Commissioner a guy named Fulwood. Not the best Commissioner DC has ever had. A neighborhood can’t do much about that. A new 3D Commander at the time was utterly ineffective. The neighborhood complained to Jack Evans, as surely did probably everyone else in 3D. Then 6 months later there was a new commander. The editor never heard the details but he liked the result.
As a side note, the editor googled “fullwood dc” to check spelling and found this.
A charter School
A charter school of dubious effect on the neighborhood never happened a few years ago. A close call, but it did avoid locking in a problem and locking out better development on the 1200 block of Ninth Street.
In the late 80's or early 90's, there was a proposal for a non-profit type of office building on Square 369, where the Whitman now stands. It seems never to have gotten by the initial briefing to the neighborhood. At the time the editor thought that perhaps the development community had let the community out of the real estate version of leper colony. However, after that briefing no other proposals like it were floated for many years. The editor concluded that the Convention Center siting had been decided, and until it was built all commercial development in the area was frozen. No Whitman but a bland office building. Not a happy thought. Perhaps than there would have been no Quinceys and other fixups on the 1100 block of Tenth.
Sometimes a Vacant Lot is Better
A totally inappropriate house, which would have made Bauhaus seem Rococo, was proposed for a long vacant lot on the 1200 block of Tenth. It was opposed and the lot is still just grass. The grass is prettier.
The editor thinks that one of the major problems in gentrification is impatience: The very understandable urge to get anything built, hoping for the betters. The editor believes that the local community has shown remarkable patience and has been rewarded for it. Sometimes the best answer is “no”.