Meanwhile, in D.C., the Gentrification Wars

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 12 2012 11:01 AM

Meanwhile, in D.C., the Gentrification Wars

This piece by Garance Franke-Ruta is one of the most comprehensive fact-based shellackings of a stupid idea that I've seen in years. Stephen A. Crockett, Jr. yawns out a piece about how gentrifiers are "swagger-jacking" D.C.'s black culture. "This place was a place well before you," he writes, debunking an idea that absolutely nobody believes and is itself debunked by the D.C. history-inspired names of new bars. How dare the Brixton come in and bleach out U Street?

Franke-Ruta responds to the emoting and reminiscing with some facts.

It's very clear from the data on D.C.'s Census Tract 44 - the heart of the U Street neighborhood, where I've lived since 2006 - that the black population dropped dramatically long before any of the so-called "culture vulture" venues came in. More than 1,100 people left the neighborhood between 1980 and 2000, a third of the population. That is a profound population loss, and it coincided with a time when just about the only new major development in the area was Marion Barry's Frank D. Reeves Center project, a government building that's had something of a troubled history. Again: the bulk of the black U Street population loss happened by 2000, more than a decade before the Brixton came onto the scene.

Imagine that: The new businesses and residents took over space that wasn't being used, thanks to tax credits designed for that purpose? You can call it gentrification, I guess, but the pejorative version of the term implies that old residents were priced out and forced out.

And this Crockett line is a swing and a miss.

I don’t know what’s worse: the fact that D.C. was once so marred by murder that it was nicknamed Dodge City or that there is now a hipster bar on U St. that holds the same name.

Many would argue that the murder was actually worse.


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