Tuesday, August 4, 2009

When Suburbs Move Downtown

Columbia Heights is where I like to call home. It's active and bright, close to downtown, metro-accessible, and relatively still affordable (which is saying something in the world of DC rental property). Apparently these features are not enough, though. The Post decided that the new Target has inherently changed the face of the neighborhood, The Target of Their Ambivalence.

While the article is interesting in its play on the local kitch, it addresses only one crowd. Columbia Heights is historically a community of strong diversity. Monica Hesse only writes to the young (white) singles in the neighborhood, clearly missing the strongly rooted black resident and immigrant families that give the area its life. On any given summer afternoon walking down the street, young kids are running past playing with friends, hip teenagers stand outside the 7-Eleven socializing, and older folks sit on their stoops watching the world go by. The mix of these ages and experiences interacting with one another on the street represents the quintessential city life. Target has not changed that.

Sure, the apartments and condos are getting a face lift, increasing rents. There are lots of young, upwardly mobile college kids now moving in too. But the families and long-term inhabitants are still around. The group houses are springing up more frequently where subdivided rentals used to sit. So maybe Target has changed the neighborhood, but less among the group house types who could have done the same shopping by jumping on the metro and heading 4 stops down to the Bed, Bath, and Beyond in Gallery Place. The real change has not been among the young singles, but for the families who've been here all along.

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