My Washington readers might be interested in this new look at the Columbia Heights Target at Campus Progress. Its focus is on the store’s outreach to the (large) local Latino community, which is somewhat lacking, but I was especially drawn to this concluding passage:
But the storeâ€™s decision not to include bilingual signage reflects the deeper fears of certain residents and observers: that the real question about Target and Columbia Heights gentrification isnâ€™t whether it will have short-term benefits, but rather whether, in the long run, it will severely reduce the socioeconomic and racial diversity of the neighborhood by spurring the development of more luxury and upper-class housing.
The very first thing to note is that gentrification has clearly increased the socioeconomic and racial diversity of the neighborhood. A decade ago, the neighborhood was not particularly diverse by just about any measure.
But I think this just isn’t a helpful way to look at the issue of gentrification. You can see many of my reasons here. In general, I think critics need to be more sophisticated about the costs associated with fighting gentrification and the benefits to everyone (including mother earth) of urban redevelopment. Many of the Latino children in the neighborhood attend nearby Bell Multicultural High School. They go to school in a brand new building, part of a school system with a growing budget, thanks to the city’s increasing tax base. Development is quite often a positive sum game.
Which isn’t to say that the District couldn’t do it better. I just happen to think that focus on class conflict and who is intruding upon whose territory isn’t very helpful.