On Saturday afternoon I headed over to Northeast D.C. 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 D.C. 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.
Rob Pitingolo blogs at Extraordinary Observations. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.
| September 22, 2010; 3:00 PM ET
Categories: D.C., Local blog network
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