Up-and-Coming Neighborhood

On Saturday afternoon I headed over to Northeast DC to check out the H Street Festival. I've been over to H Street a couple of times now, but this was really the first I got to see it in the middle of the day. It's a neighborhood in transition, and one that I'd like to really watch closely over the next few years to see how it evolves.

Between the construction that has really ripped up the street and a rate of vacancy that goes back to a time when nobody in their right mind came to this part of town, Sometimes it honestly does look like a bomb went off and blew everything up.

At the same time, new businesses are opening, quite rapidly I might add. A lot of the new bars have clustered between 13th and 14th Streets. These are definitely some of the edgier bars in DC. They have a lot more character than places downtown that fill up with suits every day after work. A lot of people describe H Street as "gritty" - a quality that adds to the charm of the neighborhood. There isn't a Starbucks or a Chipotle. But there are two coffee shops and ethnic restaurants.

I'm curious to see what H Street becomes. Will it look something like Logan Circle? A neighborhood that was once one of the roughest in town, transformed into a place where people go to shop at Whole Foods and drink Starbucks coffee? Maybe it will look more like Adams Morgan? A transitioning neighborhood that just can't seem to finish the transition.

I've seen plenty of urban neighborhoods in the Rust Belt that were down on their luck. It's usually a pretty sad sight. It hurts to hear people talk negatively about a neighborhood they once loved, or to describe it as a place where nobody wants to go anymore. Say what you'd like about gentrification, certainly there will be winners and losers, but to look at a place like H Street and argue that it would be better off abandoned and boarded up?.. that's a tough one for me to swallow.


    Gentrification has many aspects to it, but its essential component is neighborhood re-investment of private wealth--- that is, a net flow of investment into the neighborhood after decades of disinvestment.

    As for H Street NE, a resident who doesn't care for going out to bars and restaurants still has to pay rising rents or rising property taxes. Many middle-class people are willing to pay the extra costs for these amenities, but much of DC lives in a level of poverty that makes a restaurant dinner a luxury that's out of reach.

    I prefer reinvestment to blight, but I think there's a reasonable counter-argument.