Gentrification Doesn't Always Pay Off
Print Friendly and PDF

Earlier in the 21st century, Washington, DC was a trendy destination for gentrifiers. The federal government employs numerous well-educated, well-compensated workers, whose jobs were largely maintained after the 2008 crash. After 9/11 in 2001, federal agencies went on a huge spree of hiring armed men to prevent terrorists from attacking the Small Business Administration or whatever, with good effects on street crime. Lobbyists have big expense accounts.

H Street Northeast is an east-west street located about a mile north to northeast of the U.S. Capitol that got trendy:

But now … from the Washington Post news section:

H Street was once a symbol of D.C.’s rebirth. Now it’s barely holding on.

By Paul Schwartzman
November 20, 2023 at 6:00 a.m. EST

… A decade ago, following years of disinvestment after the 1968 riots, H Street NE evolved into a haven of buzzworthy cuisine and nightlife, drawing visitors from across the region. As luxury high-rises went up and a Whole Foods opened, the neighborhood became, after the city’s financial collapse in the 1990s, a symbol of D.C.’s rebirth.

Yet, more recently, the allure of H Street has faded as the corridor has come to reflect a more contemporary version of Washington—a city still recovering from the pandemic, buffeted by economic uncertainty and battered by violent crime.

Located northeast of the U.S. Capitol, from Second to 15th streets NE, H Street’s diminished prospects are partly the result of competition from newer nightlife playgrounds at the Wharf, Navy Yard and nearby Union Market, as well as traditional standbys like U Street, Adams Morgan and Georgetown.

The corridor’s challenges also are exacerbated by violent incidents over the past year that drew national attention, including assaults on a member of Congress and a staffer. At the same time, a steady grind of burglaries, robberies and stolen cars add to a collective sense of unease. There also is the near-constant presence of aggressive panhandlers and clusters of people lingering on sidewalks, many of them appearing disheveled, disoriented and, at moments, menacing.

… Days later, the owners of a restaurant with locations on H Street and Dupont Circle announced they are shutting down, citing a “spike in violent crime” among their reasons.

“I’m just done,” Aaron McGovern, who closed Brine Oyster and Seafood House on Nov. 11, said in an interview. Several months ago, he also shuttered Biergarten Haus, a longtime H Street tavern. “People don’t want to come to H Street, not only because there are better options but because of the scariness of the street.”

At 11 p.m. on a recent Friday, the longest line—two dozen people—was outside the Safe House, among the 20 or so marijuana shops that have opened on H Street since 2021. Landlords, seeking to avoid punishing tax penalties, were willing to lease vacant storefronts to cannabis entrepreneurs, said Anwar Saleem, who, as executive director of H Street Main Street, a nonprofit business advocacy group, maintains a list of the shops.

Saleem acknowledged in an interview that the strip “doesn’t feel comfortable,” a sense he attributed to corner drug dealing, the homeless population, a pervasive smell of marijuana and other factors. His organization, he said, has spent $30,000 this year fortifying the security systems of businesses and replacing windows shattered during break-ins. …

The growing sense of danger in the neighborhood is reflected in crime data. Since January, for example, the number of violent crimes increased from 76 to 96, or nearly 25 percent, compared to the same period last year. The number of stolen cars rose from 115 to 163, or 41 percent, while robberies increased from 62 to 79, or 25 percent and burglaries jumped from 14 to 36. Overall crime is up nearly 6 percent. …

A little more than a year ago, Washington Commanders running back Brian Robinson Jr. was shot and wounded during an attempted robbery on H Street NE. In February, Rep. Angie Craig (D-Minn.) fought off an apparently disturbed attacker in her apartment building who she said punched her in the face. The following month, a man stabbed an aide to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) during a random late-afternoon encounter on the corridor.

I wonder what the Deep State conspiracy theory is for how and why the Powers That Be willed that there would no longer be this nice street for restaurants adjacent to the heart of American power?

It’s almost as if there is no Inner Party pulling all the strings for malevolent but brilliant reasons…

[Comment at]

Print Friendly and PDF