Transcripts

D.C.'s Ward 7 Prepares For New Growth, New Residents

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:03
We go from the rural to the urban now as we bring our weekly transportation segment, "From A to B."

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:19
Last week, reporter Martin Di Caro visited neighborhoods in Northwest D.C.'s Ward 1 to explore the relationship between new development and access to public transportation. Today, we'll visit the Deanwood area of Ward 7, which as Martin tells us, is finally seeing some of the growth taking place in other parts of the city.

MR. MARTIN DI CARO

00:00:39
Take the Orange Line east of the Anacostia and you'll arrive in what looks and feels like a different city in one significant respect. While other parts of D.C. have exploded with new condos and retail space, the area around the Minnesota Avenue Metro Station is only starting to transform.

MR. DENNIS CHESTNUT

00:01:00
We are getting young African-American as well as other racial people moving into the area. One reason is because right now it is still relatively affordable, more affordable than some of other parts of the city received development and growth a lot sooner.

CARO

00:01:19
Sixty-two-year-old Dennis Chestnut runs the grass roots group, Groundwork Anacostia.

CHESTNUT

00:01:24
I've been in this neighborhood since I was born.

CARO

00:01:27
He's trying to guide the Ward smoothly into the next chapter of its history.

CHESTNUT

00:01:31
Very rapid growth has its drawbacks.

CARO

00:01:34
Three metro stations serve this part of the city, four, if you count the Capital Heights station just over the Prince George's County border. So it's fertile ground for new development.

CHESTNUT

00:01:43
You know, there is opportunity here for Metro and transit-oriented retail that could support, you know, this community in a lot of ways.

CARO

00:01:51
The city built a Department of Employment Services building next to the metro station last year. In Ward 7 there are at least seven major projects in the works receiving city subsidies. At the intersection of Benning Road and Minnesota Avenue, developers just broke ground on a $67 million mixed-use real estate project that will include mostly affordable rental housing among its 370 apartment units, a key to protecting existing residents from rising property values.

MS. CHERYL CORT

00:02:19
The people who are most vulnerable are renters because their rents can keep going up and up. Now, D.C. does have a moderate rent-control law for older buildings, but there are ways that building owners to get around that.

CARO

00:02:31
Cheryl Cort is the policy director at the Coalition for Smarter Growth. She accompanied me and Dennis as we made it to the busy intersection that also see more than 20,000 square of new retail space.

CORT

00:02:42
The city had originally acquired this whole area to put in a couple of government buildings but then decided that it would sell this parcel at the corner of Minnesota and Benning, which is kind of the heart of the, the commercial core of the community.

CARO

00:02:58
This part of the city may also get street cars. A study by the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University found that neighborhoods that get new rail transit systems like streetcars see housing become more expensive. In some places the unintended consequence is that renters and low-income households get priced out.

CARO

00:03:18
In this neighborhood, the District Department of Transportation is proposing an extension of the H Street/Benning Road streetcar line east of the Anacostia River. Octaviah Holt, is a 21-year-old professional and has lived in this Ward for five years.

MS. OCTAVIAH HOLT

00:03:31
I feel the change. I feel that it's really dramatic because one day a building there and the next day its, you know, a construction site for something new. So I just don't feel as though it's right to change so rapidly.

CARO

00:03:44
She says when she first heard about the street car project she thought...

HOLT

00:03:48
Who would put a trolley in this neighborhood, right? I don't feel as though there is a lot of crime but a lot of people wouldn't want to ride a trolley, the people that I know. And I feel as though it's not for us, it's not meant for us, the people that's in the neighborhood. It's meant for the newcomers.

CARO

00:04:03
Dennis Chestnut believes Ward 7 can indeed handle the changes that arrive with new residents and rail lines as well as the needs of the residents already here. He says the Ward's slow development has turned out to be helpful.

CHESTNUT

00:04:15
It wound up being a blessing in disguise for this particular area. Because of how rapidly it happened in some of the area and on the east side of the city in Ward 8 was one example of how rapidly it took place there. It has allowed the residents here in this area of Ward 7 to witness that and to prepare to some extent.

CARO

00:04:43
You can get a bird's eye view of the traffic roaring by on Route 295 by standing on an old pedestrian bridge connecting Deanwood to Kenilworth, a neighborhood that Chestnut says has been isolated from its neighbors ever since the highway was built through here.

CHESTNUT

00:04:56
This bridge is the only connection for this community to Minnesota Avenue.

CARO

00:05:05
And the Metro?

CHESTNUT

00:05:07
Well, and the metro.

CARO

00:05:08
Kenilworth is also starting to grow, but this pedestrian bridge is not considered adequate to meet its needs. Again, here's Cheryl Cort.

CORT

00:05:15
This pedestrian bridge was built a while ago and it's time for it to be rebuilt. But basically it doesn't feel like a very safe place.

CARO

00:05:21
There are plans for a new pedestrian walkway to connect the neighborhoods of the Minnesota Avenue Metro Station and the large government office building next to it.

CHESTNUT

00:05:28
It's very close to breaking ground.

CORT

00:05:31
It'll deter crime basically. That's what we really need for this connection.

CARO

00:05:36
The people of Ward 7 face the challenge of balancing the good that'll come with higher property values and more shopping choices with the negative consequences of gentrification, namely that long-time, lower income residents will be pushed out. Peter Tatian is a senior researcher at the Urban Institute. He says public perceptions may be key to the pace of change here.

MR. PETER TATIAN

00:05:57
There are definitely changes coming and if people who come out here to look will see the changes, but the problem is getting the people to come out here in the first place. There's still this perception that's out that this not a good place to be, I mean it's not a desirable place, but that's starting to change slowly.

CARO

00:06:12
Change slowly. Those words are usually not synonymous with D.C. anymore. I'm Martin Di Caro.

SHEIR

00:06:31
After the break, learning how to succeed as the owner of a one-of-a-kind business in D.C.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE ONE

00:06:37
My purpose is to make a place where people feel nurtured.

SHEIR

00:06:41
It's coming your way on "Metro Connection," on WAMU 88.5.
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