MS. REBECCA SHEIR
We'll head back into the District now for our weekly transportation segment, "From A to B."
MS. REBECCA SHEIR
This week and next we're bringing you stories about public transportation and the role it plays in a neighborhood's growth and dare we say a neighborhood's power. Next time around we're going to spend time in the Deanwood and Kenilworth neighborhoods in Ward 7. But we begin today in the Georgia Avenue corridor in Ward 1. It's an area that's seen a lot of demographic change over the past decade as new residents, many of them white, have moved into historically African-American neighborhoods. And Martin Di Caro reports, transportation is playing a big role in how this community is evolving.
MS. SYLVIA ROBINSON
This is going to be the site of another big development, where this post office and this...
MR. MARTIN DI CARO
This two-mile stretch of Georgia Avenue sandwiched between the Shaw and Petworth Metro stations, looks like a big construction zone as projects proposed in the past few years are being realized.
There were eight major development projects that were in various stages of planning.
This neighborhood already looks a lot of different than it did a decade ago.
We've been watching this change for the last couple of years or so. You know, we welcome change, I mean, there was a lot that needed to be changed and there wasn't any issue with that.
What community organizer, Sylvia Robinson, does have an issue with is whether the people who have been living here for years will have a voice. She formed the Georgia Avenue Community Development Task Force to monitor the new development rising above the streets in the form of condo complexes and retail outlets.
We are primarily African-American, low-income community. Typically we're not asked about the changes that are coming. We wanted to make sure that we were very proactive in how the neighborhood got shaped.
The D.C. based Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education policy think tank, says this area is part of the sixth fastest gentrifying zip code in the entire country. That's based on census data measuring the change and share of the white population from six percent of the population in 2000 to 33 percent in 2010.
But while gentrification is often simplified as meaning wealthier white residents as poorer black residents move out, Robinson says there is more to it here.
I consider gentrification an attitude. It's the idea that you are coming in as a planner, developer, or city agency and looking at a neighborhood as if it's a blank slate.
The slate is getting crowded. Much of the new development is close to the Shaw Metro Station and Robinson is not opposed to this but she is concerned that it will create isolated pockets of housing and retail that may not be easily accessible to all resident.
The development of our community is really going to hinge on people being able to move up and down that segment of Georgia Avenue freely and easily.
Right now, folks here don't have too many options to do so, other than the 70 Bus Line.
I grew up on riding the 70 Buses. It's just notoriously unreliable and always has a very interesting set of characters. They're supposed to run every 10 minutes, but what you'll get is like three buses in a row and then nothing for about a half an hour.
Robinson says without better bus service, people may not be willing to visit neighborhoods north of the Shaw Metro where there are restaurants shops and places to hang out already.
Your average resident doesn't talk development and land use and transportation nodes and things like that. They just want to say, hey, if it's easy to get there, you know, I'll go, if not, I won't go.
It's a possible unintended consequence of development near a metro station. It may focus economic activity there at the expense of neighborhoods further away.
It's the city's job to serve the people and there's a whole range of people that live here that need to be served and you can't leave some out at the expense of others.
Anika Rich is a senior at Howard University who has witnessed Shaw's rapid change.
MS. ANIKA RICH
It's much more diverse. There would usually just be, you know, black people. Black people lived in these houses, they raised their families here. You saw children in the neighborhood, now you hardly ever see children around this way unless they're coming to and from the high school.
She shares Robinson's concern that the new development is creating pockets of activity on the Georgia Avenue Corridor.
I don't think that people are going to be connected to it. I know that there are plans that Howard University has to try and, I guess, lure us to the other side of the street.
Getting to those places means taking the 70 Bus Line.
The bus isn't very good. It's not reliable. It's kind of, people on it are not the safest people.
In recent years, this section of the city has seen safer streets, higher property values and more shopping options. But some residents have been priced out. Peter Tatian is a senior researcher at the Urban Institute.
MR. PETER TATIAN
It's an extraordinary change. I've been in D.C. over 25 years and I remember when that part of town was considered off limits by many people, that you wouldn't want to even go there. And now it's become one of the priciest areas, many people cannot afford to buy homes in this part of the city anymore. The median price of a home is over $500,000 now in many parts of Ward 1,
Whether the city can maintain enough affordable housing under the pressure of gentrification will determine who remains.
We just need people who can afford homes that cost over $500,000. We need other folks as well.
Residents in Shaw and Pleasant Plains are dealing with a transformation that is yet to arrive in other neighborhoods even ones with multiple metro stations and plenty of bus service. In part two of this series we'll visit the Deanwood and Kenilworth in Ward 7 to look at why those neighborhoods development have been slow to attract developers despite access to transit. I'm Martin Di Caro.
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