Saturday, April 13, 2013

Eyesores, Urine Smells, and Gentrification

It seems that whenever a high-end development is going in, the press has to repeat the developers' or the real estate agents' marketing materials. In the Post today, the Where We Live Blog reported on the redevelopment of the Edmonds School at 9th and D St, NE, on Capitol Hill. The totally conventional renovation technique of the past 40-50 years -- "exposed brick and high ceilings coupled with hardwood floors and such standard amenities as an in-unit washer and dryer" -- are described as "a 'creative confluence' of old and new" and "allows the historical elements to bleed through."

Most significantly, the Post has to legitimate the new development with its $1.8 million units by degrading a fake past: "The old school had become an eyesore in recent years with cars parked on the front lawn and cheap, not historically correct vinyl windows installed." I've walked by this building numerous times and never saw it as an eyesore.

As far as I remember, it also never had a front lawn, but rather had very clean cement that ran from the building's base to the sidewalk. In addition, it was the functioning corporate office of the DC Teachers Federal Credit Union.  I took these photos today of credit union's information about loan rates, bizarrely covered with the Washington State Labor Laws, and a sign stating that the credit union's ATM was no longer available, presumably because the building had been sold.

How many neighbors were dismayed by the "cheap" windows on the building?

The Washington City Paper similarly legitimated the new Hawk and Dove by stating: "The original place was dark and rotting, the smell of urine persistent and legendary." The next week, I got my name in the paper for my comment: "I definitely don't remember any urine smell. I remember it as a great bar." My neighbor wrote, "It's the suburban mall-ification of the Hill! The place looks and feels like this guy's other restaurants in the neighborhood, only more corporate."

The press presents a past of ruin, rotting, and chaos. Maybe these tall tales come from the developers and real estate agents, I don't know. Yet, these myths do a disservice to everyone. Those living here before 2013 are seen as poor guardians of the city and our only hope comes from those who can afford $1.8 million homes and the developers who convert public property -- Edmonds was once a school -- into privatized space for them. 

P.S. The Post also repeated the developer's words: the developer Martin Ditto "says that he thinks that the condos will draw a mix of people, from retired couples wanting to downsize to young professionals looking for a safe place to live on Capitol Hill" (my italics). Is this news? Is this objective reporting?

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