Category: WRTG032f16

Built Environment Introduction: A Comprehensive Look at Potomac Gardens Apartments

Welcome!

My built environment descriptions and final analysis focus on Potomac Gardens Apartments. The housing complex, located just thirteen blocks southeast of the United States Capitol Building, is home to low income families and a large senior population. Potomac Gardens is one of 56 properties owned by the District of Columbia Housing Authority. What separates Potomac Gardens from DCHA’s other properties, is the eight foot tall iron fence that surrounds its perimeter. The fence was installed in 1991 with the intention of keeping residents safe; in 2016, the fence still stands and is more of a deterrent than a safety feature. My project looks at the history of Potomac Gardens and the ever-evolving neighborhood that surrounds it. 

My project consists of three descriptions and a final analysis. The links to all four can be found below.

Please read and enjoy! – Grace Wilmeth

 

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Potomac Gardens Divided: The “Prison-Grade” Fence Raises Questions and Controversy

It would be easy to walk past Potomac Gardens Apartments writing it off as just another old building in need of fresh paint, but there is more to the building that what first meets the eye. Potomac Gardens Apartments has a rich history filled with violence and controversy. Built in 1968, Potomac Gardens Apartments is a public housing project owned by the District of Columbia Housing Authority. The complex is located at 1225 G Street SE,  just thirteen blocks southeast of the United States Capitol Building (“Potomac Gardens”). Most known for the eight foot tall iron fence that surrounds it, the large, run-down, and bleak looking building houses low income families and a large senior population. While many believe the prison grade fence that surrounds the perimeter of Potomac Gardens Apartments facilitates a safe environment for all, my essay argues that the fence is a deterrent to residents and visitors alike.

The 8 foot iron fence that surrounds Potomac Gardens sends a bleak message to pedestrians walking by.

The 8 foot iron fence that surrounds Potomac Gardens sends a bleak message to pedestrians walking by.

When first walking up to the complex, it is difficult to notice anything besides the “prison grade” fence that surrounds it. The tops of the fence are bent out, making it is impossible for anyone to get in. In an effort to combat drug related violence, Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly had the fence installed in 1991 (Sheir). Before the installation, “local and federal law enforcement authorities described Potomac Gardens as the largest open-air drug market in the Washington area and estimated that more than $2 million worth of drugs were being sold on the grounds each week” (Kovaleski). While drug arrests significantly declined after the installation; the fence was built against the wishes of many residents who often compare themselves to prisoners or caged zoo animals (Blakely and Synder). In the late 1990s, teenagers who lived in the complex even referred to Potomac Gardens as “Baby Lorton,” referring to Lorton Reformatory, a Virginia prison that closed in 2001 (O’Donnell). In a 1994 article, Washington Post reporter, Serge Kovaleski describes the drastic change in the daily lives of Potomac Gardens’s residents after the installation. Kovaleski writes, “children frolic in the clean courtyards… and the pillows and stuffed animals that once sat in apartment windows to slow down stray bullets are gone, replaced in some units by flower boxes.” Residents even felt safe enough to host cookouts and to rent the corner units that were once vacant due to fear “of being exposed to to gunfire on two sides” (Kovaleski). In the year before the installation, Metro Police made 150 drug related arrests at Potomac Gardens; in 1994 only four arrests were made (Kovaleski). While many things changed for the better after the installation of the fence, many residents still had reservations, questioning authorities as to why they were being treated like caged animals (Escobar and Gaines-Carter). Twenty-six years have gone by since the installation of the fence, and while drug crime has diminished significantly, the fence remains of symbol of Potomac Gardens’s violent and dreary past (Blakely and Synder).

Images of the "prison grade" iron fence that surrounds the perimeter of Potomac Gardens. These photos were taken in September 2016.

Images of the “prison grade” fence that surrounds the perimeter of Potomac Gardens. These photos were taken in September 2016.

Today, the fence still stands, sending a bleak message to anyone who walks by. According to a Metro PD lieutenant, the fence surrounding Potomac Gardens, while helpful in apprehending possible suspects, gives “the impression that something dangerous is going on” (Depillis). If crime has gone down significantly, why is the fence still standing? Residents and fellow community members do not need an eight foot tall reason to be afraid of Potomac Gardens. I have a difficult time accepting that the fence still exists under the false pretense that it keeps residents safe. In reality, the fence is merely a tool used by MDP to apprehend possible suspects. How is that acceptable? Keeping an entire community locked up in their own homes so that one or two possible suspects can be detained. Crime in this neighborhood has gone down significantly since the 1990s (Depillis). The area surrounding Potomac Gardens is booming and has even become relatively high income (Sheir). Right next door to Potomac Gardens is Cambridge Row luxury condominiums. These two complexes are so close to each other that you could throw a paper airplane from one building to the next.

The yellow dot is Cambridge Row, the complex outlined in red is Potomac Gardens Apartments.

The yellow dot is Cambridge Row, the complex outlined in red is Potomac Gardens Apartments.

Built in the lot of the previous Salvation Army Capitol Hill headquarters stands Cambridge Row. Cambridge Row describes itself as a “boutique community of 25 thoughtfully designed condominium residences… located in a beautiful and walkable neighborhood” (“Cambridge Row”). The price of these condominiums range from $200,000 to $650,000. A price quite high for a neighborhood that is supposedly ridden with crime and drug violence. The building’s appearance is vastly different from Potomac Gardens. Green grass, fresh cement, and newly paved sidewalks welcome you to Cambridge Row. Next door at Potomac Gardens you are greeted with broken windows, chipped paint, and security cameras typically found in prison yards. While both of these complexes reside on the same block, they cater to very different residents. Cambridge Row appeals to young professionals by describing the complex as follows: “Located just moments to two metro stations, Barracks Row, Eastern Market and all of Capitol Hill. Cambridge Row offers the finest quality living in a beautiful walkable neighborhood filled with the Capitol’s best restaurants, bars, cafes, shops, open markets, grocers, and public transportation” (“Cambridge Row”). Potomac Gardens appeals to families by describing each apartment as a “family unit,” and by providing a list of nearby schools on their page on the District of Columbia Housing Authority’s website (“Potomac Gardens Family”).

These images show the vast differences between Potomac Gardens Apartments and Cambridge Row Condominiums. Images 1 and 3 are of Cambridge Row, while images 2 and 4 are of Potomac Gardens.

According to Google Maps, 197 feet separate the “family friendly” Potomac Gardens from the “boutique community” also known as Cambridge Row Condominiums. Roughly 200 feet away from an apartment building defined by its violent past is the newly renovated Cambridge Row. In 1989, the neighborhood surrounding Potomac Gardens was deemed “the most dangerous in America” by talk show host, Geraldo Rivera (Sheir). Today, McWilliams Ballard Real Estate, the developer of Cambridge Row, describes the neighborhood as “beautiful” and “walkable.” How can the same neighborhood be both “the most dangerous is America” and beautiful and walkable? While there is a twenty five year time difference between the two comments, Cambridge Row developers purposefully try to distance themselves from Potomac Gardens Apartments.

Cambridge Row’s website contains images of many of their units. Large windows are shown in many of these images, but the view of the outside cannot be seen because the image is either blurred or backlit. Cambridge Row is positioned in front of one of the complexes that make up Potomac Gardens. For many Cambridge Row residents, their bedroom window overlooks Potomac Gardens’s iron fence, broken windows, and security cameras. This detail would go unnoticed by someone looking at the images Cambridge Row provides on their website. If this was intentional, what is McWilliams Ballard Real Estate trying to hide? They purposely fail to mention that the majority of the building’s “beautiful views” include the back of Potomac Gardens.

These images are on Cambridge Row's website. As you can see, the view from the window in both images cannot be seen. In reality, outside the window pictured is the back of Potomac Gardens.

These images are on Cambridge Row’s website. As you can see, the view from the window in both images cannot be seen. In reality, outside the window pictured is the back of Potomac Gardens.

Does Cambridge Row really need to hide their proximity to Potomac Gardens Apartments? Why is being next-door to a public housing complex such a big deal? In reality, it probably wouldn’t be if Potomac Gardens did not have a prison-grade fence surrounding its perimeter. Like the MPD lieutenant said, the fence sends a message that something dangerous is happening. While the fence may allude to a dangerous environment, the neighborhood surrounding Potomac Gardens and Cambridge Row is “far from being the worst neighborhood in the city” (Abrams).

Often referred to as Hill East, the neighborhood surrounding Potomac Gardens and Cambridge Row, is “bursting with new retail, restaurants, and bars… scaffolding for new apartments and condos is popping up all along Pennsylvania Avenue corridor” (Sheir). In July 2016, Donatelli Development announced plans to redevelop the area around the Stadium-Armory Metro Station, which is a mile away from the two housing complexes. Their two building plan includes 400,000 square feet of retail space, 354 apartments, and 225 underground parking spaces (Perry-Brown).

An image provided by Donatelli Development of their plan for the Stadium-Armory Metro Station.

Donatelli Development’s plan for the redevelopment of Stadium-Armory Metro Station.

Gerard DiRuggiero of UrbanLand Company says that Hill East development “gives the area a sense of promise… it creates opportunities for people to take a chance. They can expect to pay a decent price for something that’ll grow in five to ten years” (Abrams). In addition to the redevelopment of the Stadium-Armory Metro Station, Hill East is a new home to many up-scale apartment buildings, like the already sold out Jenkins Row, Axis, and The Chelsea (Abrams). Developers would not choose to invest in an area that is ridden with crime. Since new developments are popping up all around Potomac Gardens, the neighborhood must not be as bad as everyone believes.

1. Jenkins Row 2. AXIS Condos 3. The Chelsea

1. Jenkins Row 2. AXIS Condos 3. The Chelsea

With the new housing and retail developments emerging, it is obvious that Hill East is an up and coming neighborhood. While there is a clear vision for the future of Hill East, it is currently far from perfect. Crime rates in Hill East and the neighboring Capitol Hill might not be the highest in the city, but crime in this area is far from non-existent. According to Metropolitan Police Department crime statistics, from January 2008 to January 2009, the area surrounding Potomac Gardens experienced 50 violent crimes and 157 property crimes. From January 2015 to January 2016, the same area experienced 40 violent crimes and 294 property crimes. While the property crime rate increased, violent crime decreased. At 250 reported crimes, the current total for all reported crime in this area is the lowest it has been in years. Overall, these numbers may not seem like an improvement, but crime rates, specifically violent crime rates, in Hill East are steadily decreasing each year (“Crime Map”).

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Current Crime Rates at Potomac Gardens Apartment. Total crime for the year is 59 crimes less than it was this time last year.

If the fence around Potomac Gardens keeps its residents safe, why does the District of Columbia Housing Authority not mention it? While there is not a website specifically for Potomac Gardens, there is a page about the complex on the District of Columbia Housing Authority’s site. All of the images of the complex found on this website do not include the fence. The images were specifically taken inside the fence or cropped so the fence is not visible. While the blocked views found in Cambridge Row’s images may be a coincidence, the lack of fence found in Potomac Gardens’s images is most likely not.

This is one of the images found on Potomac Gardens's page on the DCHA website. Notice that the photo was taken inside of the fence.

This is one of the images found on Potomac Gardens’s page on the DCHA website. Notice that the photo was taken inside of the fence.

 

In 2001, the residents of Potomac Gardens met to discuss the fence and whether or not it should be taken down. Similar to the early 1990s, when the installation took place, the fence had supporters and oppressors. Unsurprisingly, the opinions had not changed very much. Many residents, a majority of them mothers, believed the fence kept them safe and appreciated that their children could play outside without having access to the street. DCHA family commissioner and Potomac Gardens resident, Aquarius Vann-Ghasri, even compared the fence around Potomac Gardens to fences that surround wealthy gated communities (Depillis). Oppressors believed the fence to be dehumanizing and repeatedly compared themselves to prisoners and caged zoo animals (Depillis). After this 2011 meeting, DCHA officials decided to “put the issue down for the time being” (Depillis). Five years later, in December of 2016, the fence is still standing and the DCHA is silent. If the fence around Potomac Gardens is as great as all of its supporters say it is, why doesn’t DCHA install fences around other public housing projects? Why doesn’t Cambridge Row install a fence? Also, when residents say the fence keeps them safe, it insinuates that there is something that they need to be kept safe from. While I realize crime in Hill East raises some alarm, there are many complexes and housing developments in the neighborhood that do not have a fence surrounding their perimeter and they appear to be doing just fine. According to MPD crime statistics, Potomac Gardens (prison grade fence and all) currently has a higher crime rate than Jenkins Row Condominiums, one of the new luxury housing developments of Hill East.   

The blue dot represents Potomac Gardens Apartments, while the red dot represents Jenkins Row. As you can see both complexes are within walking distance from each other.

The blue dot represents Potomac Gardens Apartments, while the red dot represents Jenkins Row. As you can see, both complexes are within walking distance from each other.

Crime Statistics at Potomac Gardens from Jan. 1, 2015 to Jan. 1, 2016

Crime Statistics at Potomac Gardens from Jan. 1, 2015 to Jan. 1, 2016

Crime Statistics at Jenkins Row from Jan. 1, 2015 to Jan. 1, 2016

Crime Statistics at Jenkins Row from Jan. 1, 2015 to Jan. 1, 2016

While it is obvious that crime rates in Hill East are higher than they could be, I do not believe the prison grade fence surrounding Potomac Gardens Apartments is necessary. The fence was installed in 1991 in order to decrease the number of drug arrests and to prevent drug related violence. Since its installation, drug crime at Potomac Gardens has practically become nonexistent and total crime is decreasing (“Crime Map”). While crime may be decreasing, it is still present in Hill East and at Potomac Gardens. If the fence is as effective as all of its supporters believe it to be, shouldn’t all crime rates be close to non-existent? Times have changed, and it is obvious that the population and neighborhood surrounding Potomac Gardens has as well. It is no longer necessary for the complex to look like a prison and residents should no longer have to feel caged in their own homes. While the fence may have been effective in the early 1990s, it is not effective today, and does not even appear to be deterring crime. If the fence’s sole purpose is to prevent crime and it is not achieving this, why should it still stand?


Works Cited

Abrams, Amanda. “Hill East: Capitol Hill’s Lesser Known Neighbor.” Urban Turf, 2010, http:// dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/hill_east_capitol_hills_lesser_known_neighbor/2331.

“Cambridge Row.” McWilliams Ballard, www.livecambridgerow.com/.

Blakely, Edward J. and Mary Gail Snyder. “Separate Places: Crime and Security in Gated Communities.” Reducing Crime Through Real Estate Development and Management, edited by Marcus Felson, Urban Land Institute, 1998, pp. 53-70.

Depillis, Lydia. “What’s in a Fence? At Potomac Gardens, It Doesn’t Matter What Side You’re On.” Washingtoncitypaper.com, 11 March 2011. Accessed 2 October 2016.

Escobar, Gabriel and Gaines-Carter, Patrice. “A Housing Complex Divided: Anti-Crime Fencing Angers Some Potomac Gardens Tenants.” The Washington Post, 14 June 1992, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post, http://search.proquest.com/ hnpwashingtonpost/advanced?accountid=8285.

Kovaleski, Serge. “A Freedom of the 90s.” The Washington Post, 8 May 1994, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post, http://search.proquest.com/ hnpwashingtonpost/advanced?accountid=8285.

“Crime Map.” Metropolitan Police Department, http://crimemap.dc.gov/.

O’Donnell, Santiago. “More Than a Fence: 8-Foot Barrier Helped Cut Crime, Instill Hope at Potomac Gardens.” The Washington Post, 10 December 1992, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post, http://search.proquest.com/hnpwashingtonpost/ advanced?accountid=8285.

Perry-Brown, Nena. “The 1,267 Units Headed for Capitol Hill and Hill East.” Urban Turf, 2016, http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/the_capitol_hill-hill_east_development_rundown/ 11435.

“Potomac Gardens Family.” District of Columbia Housing Authority, www.dchousing.org/.

“Potomac Gardens.” Wikipedia.org, 2016, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potomac_Gardens.

Sheir, Rebecca. “What Does the Future Hold for Capitol Hill’s Potomac Gardens?” wamu.org, American University Radio. 16 January 2015. Accessed 2 October 2016.

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Annotated Bibliography

1. Abrams, Amanda. “Hill East: Capitol Hill’s Lesser Known Neighbor.” Urban Turf, 2010, http:// dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/hill_east_capitol_hills_lesser_known_neighbor/2331.

In this article, Amanda Abrams provides insight on the lesser known neighborhood of Hill East. She references ongoing plans to redevelop Stadium-Armory Metro Station and provides details about successful new housing projects like the already sold out Jenkins Row, Axis, The Colleen, and The Chelsea. Abrams states that Hill East is up and coming. Although, new developments are popping up, the neighborhood is far from perfect. She interviews Hill East residents who share the pros and cons of living in the neighborhood and references the family friendly amenities and schools nearby.

This source was used to explain the neighborhood of Hill East. I used some of the information as background, such as details about the upcoming developments. I also used some of the information as an argument. Most of her article explains the benefits of living in Hill East. I used this information to argue that since Hill East is an up and coming neighborhood with decreasing crime rates, Potomac Gardens no longer needs a perimeter fence.


2. Blakely, Edward J. and Mary Gail Snyder. “Separate Places: Crime and Security in Gated Communities.” Reducing Crime Through Real Estate Development and Management, edited by Marcus Felson, Urban Land Institute, 1998, pp. 53-70.

In their book, “Separate Places: Crime and Security in Gated Communities,” Edward Blakely and Mary Gail Synder use Potomac Gardens as an example of how the installation of a fence can occur without the permission or consent of residents. Soon after the installation of the fence, residents of Potomac Gardens began protesting and comparing themselves to zoo animals. Eventually protests settled down and residents grew to support the fence when drug violence and vandalism declined. Blakely and Snyder argue that while the fence may be seen as a giant cage, it can be used to prevent and stop crime.

I primarily used this source for background information. I used statistics found in the text to prove that the fence decreased drug arrests and violence in the early 1990s. I also used the residents’ initial reaction to the fence as an exhibit to show the varying opinions of the fence. I compare the initial reactions of the residents in Blakely and Snyder’s article to the current opinions of the fence found in Lydia Depullis’s article.


3. “Cambridge Row.” McWilliams Ballard, www.livecambridgerow.com/.

This is Cambridge Row’s main website. It provides information about the complex including pricing and available units. The images provided, blur and block the view of Potomac Gardens that should be visible through the windows of many of the condominiums. The website also refers to the neighborhood of Hill East as “beautiful” and “walkable.”

I use this source to explain the current redevelopment of Hill East. I also used this source as an argument: if developers built a luxury condominium complex in Hill East, then the neighborhood must not be as bad as everyone thinks. I also refer to the images found on the site. Large windows are shown in many of the images, but the view of the outside cannot be seen because the image is blurred or the window is backlit. The website purposely fails to mention that the majority of the building’s “beautiful views” include the back of Potomac Gardens.  I use the information provided on this webpage and compare it to the information found on Potomac Gardens’s website. Cambridge Row appeals to young professionals while Potomac Gardens appeals to families.


4. Depillis, Lydia. “What’s in a Fence? At Potomac Gardens, It Doesn’t Matter What Side You’re On.” Washingtoncitypaper.com, 11 March 2011. Accessed 2 October 2016.

In this article, Lydia Depillis explains the current controversy that surrounds the fence at Potomac Gardens Apartments. She explains that some residents want the fence taken down because they do not want to feel caged in their homes, while others believe the fence keeps them safe. Depillis also quotes and MPD officer who states that the fence surrounding Potomac Gardens, “gives the impression that something dangerous is going on.”

I used this source to explain the current opinions of the fence. I used the author’s interviews with residents as exhibits and as arguments for the fence to be taken down. Residents should not feel imprisoned in their own homes. I also used the MPD officer’s quote as an exhibit because it shows the real reason for the fence.


5. District of Columbia Housing Authority, 2016, http://www.dchousing.org/default.aspx.

This is the District of Columbia Housing Authority’s website. The site explains how DC public housing works and who is eligible to apply. The site provides a list of “selection preferences.” These preferences are ways low income families can reach the top of the waiting list. The DCHA website does not mention how long they have not been accepting applications or how long the waiting list actually is. When you hit “apply,” a notice pops up that says “The DCHA waiting list for housing choice vouchers and public housing is closed. DCHA will make announcements when the lists are open on this website and in the news media”

I used this source for background information. I used it to explain how DC public housing works and who is eligible to apply. I primarily used this source for my digital document description. I used this source with Petula Dvorak’s article, “In D.C., A Public-Housing Waiting List With No End.”


6. Dvorak, Petula. “In D.C., A Public-Housing Waiting List With No End.” The Washington Post, 11 Apr. 2013, www.washingtonpost.com/local/in-dc-a-public-housing-waiting-list-with- no-end/2013/04/11/6073e7d2-a2cc-11e2-9c03-6952ff305f35_story.html.

In this article, Petula Dvorak describes the waiting list for DC public housing. She provides background information as to why the list is closing and urges low income families to send in applications while they still can. Dvorak provides the wait times for specific housing accommodations. The estimated wait for a studio apartment is 39 years, while the wait for a one bedroom is 28 years. She uses the story of Kim Jones to explain the bleak process that is applying for DC public housing.

I primarily used this source for background information. I used Dvorak’s article to explain the DCHA waiting list. I also used her interview with Kim Jones as an exhibit to show the hardships faced by low income families who believe DCHA can provide them housing. I used this article with the District of Columbia Housing Authority’s website.


7. Escobar, Gabriel and Gaines-Carter, Patrice. “A Housing Complex Divided: Anti-Crime Fencing Angers Some Potomac Gardens Tenants.” The Washington Post, 14 June 1992, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post, http://search.proquest.com/ hnpwashingtonpost/advanced?accountid=8285.

In this article, Gabriel Escobar and Patrice Gaines-Carter interview supporters of the fence at Potomac Gardens and oppressors of the fence at Potomac Gardens. Escobar and Gaines-Carter explain the viewpoints of both groups. Supporters believe the fence is keeping them safe, while oppressors believe they are being treated like caged animals.

I used this source as background information. Escobar and Gaines-Carter provide basic information about the installation of the fence that explains why it was built in the first place. I used the interviews with fence supporters and oppressors as exhibits.


8. Kovaleski, Serge. “A Freedom of the 90s.” The Washington Post, 8 May 1994, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post, http://search.proquest.com/ hnpwashingtonpost/advanced?accountid=8285.

In this article, Serge Kovaleski explains the transformation that occurred at Potomac Gardens after the installation of the fence. Kovaleski provides reasons for the installation of the fence and  uses statistics to emphasize how they fence decreased crime rates

I used this source as background information. I used information regarding the transformation of Potomac Gardens after the installation of the fence to explain how the everyday lives of Potomac Gardens residents changed during the early 1990s. I also used Kovaleski’s interviews with residents as exhibits to show the varying opinions of the fence.


9. O’Donnell, Santiago. “More Than a Fence: 8-Foot Barrier Helped Cut Crime, Instill Hope at Potomac Gardens.” The Washington Post, 10 December 1992, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post, http://search.proquest.com/hnpwashingtonpost/ advanced?accountid=8285.

In this article, Santiago O’Donnell provides general information about the installation of the fence at Potomac Gardens Apartments. He explains the opposing view points and the controversy that surrounds the fence. He states that many teenage residents refer to Potomac Gardens as “Baby Lorton,” referencing Lorton Reformatory, a Virginia prison that closed in 2001.

I used the information O’Donnell provides about teenage residents of Potomac Gardens as both an exhibit and argument. I specifically use the quote about “Baby Lorton,” to argue that residents should not have to compare their home to a prison.


10. Perry-Brown, Nena. “The 1,267 Units Headed for Capitol Hill and Hill East.” Urban Turf, 2016, http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/the_capitol_hill-hill_east_development_rundown/ 11435.

In this article, Nena Perry-Brown provides a list of new developments in the neighborhoods of Capitol Hill and Hill East. She provides information about the redevelopment of Stadium-Armory Metro Station that is scheduled to take place sometime in the next year. The two building plan includes 400,000 square feet of retail space, 354 apartments, and 225 underground parking spaces.

I used this article as an argument. The redevelopment of Hill East is making the neighborhood nicer. I argue that developers would not chose to invest in areas that a ridden with crime. Since new developments are popping up near Potomac Gardens, the neighborhood must not be as bad as everyone believes and a prison grade fence at Potomac Gardens is no longer necessary.


11. “Potomac Gardens.” Wikipedia.org, 2016, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potomac_Gardens.

This Wikipedia page provides the basic background information for Potomac Gardens Apartments. It states the address, owner, and when the complex was built. The article also references the total number of units and how they are divided into family and senior housing. The page has an entire section dedicated to the history of Potomac Gardens and focuses on the installation of the fence and the protests that occurred shortly after.

I used this source for background information.


12. “Potomac Gardens Family.” District of Columbia Housing Authority, www.dchousing.org/.

This is a page from the District of Columbia Housing Authority’s website. The page specifically talks about Potomac Gardens Apartments. Instead of referring to the complex as an apartment building, they name the complex “Potomac Gardens Families.” The website describes the individual units as “family homes” and provides a list of nearby schools. The images that can be found on this page do not show the fence. The photographs were either taken inside of the fence or cropped so the fence is not visible.

I used this source to reference Potomac Gardens’s emphasis on creating a family friendly environment. I also mention that the images they use on their website, and mention that they do not show the fence. I use the information provided on this webpage and compare it to the information found on Cambridge Row’s website. Cambridge Row appeals to young professionals while Potomac Gardens appeals to families.


13. Sheir, Rebecca. “What Does the Future Hold for Capitol Hill’s Potomac Gardens?” wamu.org, American University Radio. 16 January 2015. Accessed 2 October 2016.

In this article, Rebecca Sheir talks about the evolution occurring in the neighborhood of Hill East. She states that Hill East is “bursting with new retail, restaurants, and bars.” Sheir emphasizes the impact Cambridge Row Condominiums development has had on Potomac Gardens residents. Many Potomac Gardens residents fear that the developers of Cambridge Row will force them to move out.

I used this article to explain the current controversy over the fence at Potomac Gardens. I use Sheir’s interviews with current residents as exhibits. I also used this article to reference the development of Cambridge Row and Hill East. I use the information about Hill East as an argument against the fence at Potomac Gardens.

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Commonplace Book Entry #7: Fleming Quote

” [A]n education [. . .] that was designed to support a truly direct, deliberative democracy [. . .] would be an education oriented to the ‘strong publics’ of decision-making rather than the ‘weak publics’ of opinion formation.” (205)

In this quote, Fleming comments on education and how he believes it should allow individuals to form their own opinions. By definition, a deliberative democracy is a form of democracy in which deliberation is central to decision making. To deliberate, is to thoughtfully weigh your options before making a decision. Fleming is correct when saying a deliberative democracy would create “strong publics of decision making.” He believes the education system should teach individuals how to form their own opinion rather than simply memorizing or conforming to someone else’s. I have seen both of these ideas in past assignments. Sometimes I am asked to form my own opinions, and other times I shape my answer around what I know my teacher wants. Fleming prefers an education system where students are required to form their own opinions and to make their own decisions.

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False Hope and Broken Promises: The District of Columbia Housing Authority

Potomac Gardens Apartments is one of 56 properties owned and managed by the District of Columbia Housing Authority (DCHA) (District of Columbia Housing Authority). DCHA assists low income families who are struggling to find affordable housing due to the high cost of living in Washington DC. Their goal is to provide “safe, quality, and affordable” housing  (District of Columbia Housing Authority). DCHA also provides various services that allow residents to improve jobs skill and continue education. The best part: residents of any DCHA property are only required to pay thirty percent of their income as rent (District of Columbia Housing Authority). Struggling families most likely come across DCHA’s website quite often. Some might even read the information and start to feel hope. Unfortunately, most of these families will never be granted housing.

Of the 56 properties DCHA claims to own, I was only able to find 36 of them on Google Maps.

Of the 56 properties DCHA claims to own on their website, I was only able to find 36 of them on Google Maps.

“I got on that list when my son was in my stomach. He’s 11 now.”

The list referred to in the quote above is the waiting list for DC public housing. The list is so long that DCHA stopped accepting applications in April of 2013 (Dvorak). At that time, the waiting list consisted of more than 70,000 applicants (Dvorak). Remember that DCHA owns 56 properties; combined, these properties only contain 8,000 units. For years, 70,000 families have been waiting for one of 8,000 units. According to Petula Dvorak’s article, “In DC, A Public-Housing Waiting List With No End,” the estimated wait for a studio apartment is 39 years, while the wait for a one bedroom is 28 years. The article also tells the story of Kim Jones. In 2002, a pregnant Kim Jones completed the paperwork necessary to be put on the DCHA waiting list. In 2013, Kim and her eleven year old son still do not have a home and are no higher on the list then they were in eleven years prior. The Jones family is not alone. Thousands of families just like theirs have false hope in DCHA. After years of waiting they are still without a home and will most likely never receive one, at least not from DCHA.

In an effort to guarantee that those with the most need receive housing first, DCHA put together a list of “selection preferences.” These preferences include: not having a fixed address, living in a unit considered substandard, involuntary displacement, rent burden, belonging to a working family, having a disability, or being older than 62 years of age  (District of Columbia Housing Authority). While DCHA states that these preferences may help you reach the top of the waiting list, they make it clear that these preferences do not guarantee housing assistance.

The DCHA website does not mention how long they have not been accepting applications. When you hit “apply,” a notice pops up that says “The DCHA waiting list for housing choice vouchers and public housing is closed. DCHA will make announcements when the lists are open on this website and in the news media” (District of Columbia Housing Authority). I find it strange that while it has been three years since DCHA has accepted applications, they do not mention it on their website. The way they word the notice makes it seem like the waiting list will only be closed for a short amount of time and that it will be opening soon.This, and the other positives aspects of living in a public housing complex listed on the DCHA website are the root of false hope felt by low income families all over DC waiting for public housing that is never going to come.

This is what appears when you hit "apply" on DCHA's website. Notice the last modified date.

This is what appears when you hit “apply” on DCHA’s website. Notice the last modified date.


Works Cited

District of Columbia Housing Authority, 2016, http://www.dchousing.org/default.aspx.

Dvorak, Petula. “In D.C., A Public-Housing Waiting List With No End.” The Washington Post, 11 Apr. 2013, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/in-dc-a-public-housing-waiting-list-with-no-end/2013/04/11/6073e7d2-a2cc-11e2-9c03-6952ff305f35_story.html.

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Commonplace Book Entry # 6: Paramedic Method

Prepositional Phrases

Linking Verbs

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Built in 1968, Potomac Gardens Apartments is a public housing project owned by the District of Columbia Housing Authority. The complex is located at 1225 G Street SE,  just thirteen blocks southeast of the United States Capitol Building. The 352 units that make up the complex are divided into family and senior housing. The large, run-down, and bleak looking building houses low income families and a large senior population. It would be easy to walk past Potomac Gardens writing it off as just another old building in need of fresh paint, but there is more to the building that what first meets the eye. Potomac Gardens Apartments has a rich history filled with violence and controversy.

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The District of Columbia Housing Authority’s complex, Potomac Gardens, was built in 1968. Located at 1225 G Street SE, the complex sits just thirteen block southeast of the United States Capitol Building. 352 units make up the complex. These units are divided into both family and senior housing. The large, run-down, and bleak looking building houses low income families and a large senior population. It would be easy to walk past Potomac Gardens writing it off as just another old building, but there is more to the building that what first meets the eye. Potomac Gardens Apartments has a rich history filled with violence and controversy.

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Something to Hide? A Look at Cambridge Row Condominiums

According to Google Maps, 197 feet separate Potomac Gardens Apartments from Cambridge Row Condominiums. Roughly 200 feet away from an apartment building defined by its violent past is the newly renovated Cambridge Row with studio spaces starting at $200,000 (“Cambridge Row”). In 1989, the neighborhood surrounding Potomac Gardens was deemed “the most dangerous in America” by talk show host, Geraldo Rivera (Sheir). Today, McWilliams Ballard Real Estate, the developer of Cambridge Row, describes the neighborhood as “ beautiful” and “walkable.” How can the same neighborhood be both “the most dangerous is America” and beautiful and walkable?

Before Cambridge Row was a luxury condominium complex, the building housed the historic Salvation Army Capitol Hill headquarters. Architects redesigned the building to offer thirteen brand new condominiums. In efforts to make the building appear more modern, it was painted a cream color, but the original shape and style remains unchanged. In addition to the Salvation Army building, Cambridge Row constructed a new adjoining building that offers twelve spaces (“Cambridge Row”).

These Google Map screenshots show the transition of the Salvation Army Headquarters as it became Cambridge Row Condominiums.

These Google Map screenshots show the transition of the Salvation Army Headquarters as it became Cambridge Row Condominiums.

The original Salvation Army building

The original Salvation Army building

The additional building built by Cambridge Row developers.

The additional building built by Cambridge Row developers.

When walking up to Cambridge Row, the first thing I noticed was how out of place it looks. The complex is next store to Potomac Gardens Apartments, which looks like it could easily double as a prison, and is across the street from Cesar Chavez Public Charter High School for Public Policy, a building whose main entrance features a graffiti styled portrait of the school’s namesake. The freshly paved sidewalks, bright green grass, and beautifully renovated building that welcome you to Cambridge Row do not appear to belong on the same street as everything surrounding it.

The area outlined in red is Potomac Gardens Apartments. The yellow dot is Cambridge Row, and the blue dot is Cesar Chavez Charter School.

The area outlined in red is Potomac Gardens Apartments. The yellow dot is Cambridge Row, and the blue dot is Cesar Chavez Charter School.

Cesar Chavez Public Charter High School for Public Policy

Cesar Chavez Public Charter High School for Public Policy

The day I visited Potomac Gardens, Cambridge Row happened to be having an open house. When Cambridge Row first opened they had 25 residencies for sale; now, there are only two spaces available. When I first walked into the space the first thing I noticed was how modern it looked. The space was very bright due to the large windows, and while the majority of the colors found in the space were cool-toned, the space was very inviting. The bright white cabinets in the kitchen stood out against the various blue, black, and grey elements throughout the space. Although the condo was quite small, whoever staged the rooms did so in a way to make them all feel larger.

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While researching Cambridge Row, I noticed that in many of the images posted on their website, large windows are shown, but the view of the outside cannot be seen. I found an image that appeared to be the living room of the available unit I toured. Directly outside the large window is the back of Potomac Gardens Apartments, a detail that is not visible in image found on the website. Was this intentional? Did the developers specifically chose this image? Was the photographer asked angle the shot in a way that blocked the view of Potomac Gardens? If this was intentional, what is McWilliams Ballard Real Estate trying to hide?

Directly outside this window is the back of Potomac Gardens Apartments, but from this image you cannot tell.

Directly outside this window is Potomac Gardens Apartments, but from this image you cannot tell.

After this discovery, I was curious about Potomac Gardens Apartment’s website. While there is not a website specifically for Potomac Gardens, there is a page about the complex on the District of Columbia Housing Authority’s site. I was surprised to see that all the images of the apartments found on this website did not include the iron fence that surrounds the perimeter of the complex. All the images were specifically taken inside the fence or cropped so the fence is not visible. While the blocked views found in Cambridge Row’s images may be a coincidence, the lack of fence found in Potomac Gardens’s images is most likely not.

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While both of these complexes reside on the same block, they cater to very different residents. Cambridge Row appeals to young professionals by describing the complex as follows: “Located just moments to two metro stations, Barracks Row, Eastern Market and all of Capitol Hill. Cambridge Row offers the finest quality living in a beautiful walkable neighborhood filled with the Capitol’s best restaurants, bars, cafes, shops, open markets, grocers, and public transportation” (“Cambridge Row”). Potomac Gardens appeals to families by describing each apartment as a “family unit,” and by providing a list of nearby schools (“Potomac Gardens Family”). The differences between these two residences are vast, but it appears they have one similarity: both appear to be hiding something from possible future residents. Cambridge Row’s website is full of images that highlight large windows, but the outside view cannot be seen. They purposely fail to mention that the majority of the building’s “beautiful views” include the back of Potomac Gardens. The District of Columbia Housing Authority also has something to hide by not mentioning the controversial eight foot iron fence that surrounds Potomac Gardens. They also fail to mention the large security cameras that make the complex look more like a prison than the “family friendly” environment they describe on their website. It seems like both Cambridge Row and Potomac Gardens have something to hide.


Works Cited

“Cambridge Row.” McWilliams Ballard, www.livecambridgerow.com/.

“Potomac Gardens Family.” District of Columbia Housing Authority, www.dchousing.org/.

Sheir, Rebecca. “What Does the Future Hold for Capitol Hill’s Potomac Gardens?” wamu.org, American University Radio. 16 January 2015. Accessed 2 October 2016.

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College Campuses as Holistic Learning Spaces

In their article “Recognizing College Landscapes as Learning Spaces,” Kathleen G. Scholl and Gowri Betrabet Gulwadi argue that today’s universities should provide students a holistic learning environment with both indoor and outdoor spaces so they can experience both community interaction and personal reflection. Using the evolution of college campuses, the benefits of human-nature interactions, and the characteristics of holistic learning spaces, Scholl and Gulwadi argue their point.

Laboratories were the first spaces on college campuses that were specifically designed for learning.

In order to fit the needs of a twenty-first century college student, universities are having to evolve. Scholl and Gulwadi argue that simply upgrading technology and adding on to buildings is not enough; instead, universities should create spaces that provide a holistic learning experience. Early American colleges were built to be self-sufficient. The goal was to build a space away from the city in order to limit distractions. College campuses consisted of “closely clustered buildings designed to protect students from the lures of the outside world” (Scholl and Gulwadi). With the addition of laboratories and observatory spaces in 1862, physical campuses were beginning to add to student learning. The previous “closely clustered” buildings were being replaced by open spaces and zones for specific disciplines. For the first time, college campuses were being looked at as learning spaces, not just groups of buildings set up outside of the city. Scholl and Gulwadi state that “older campus plans emphasized disciplinary boundaries and newer campus designs are more amorphous and integrative.” This transition shows the evolution of college campuses and their response to changes in education.

Outdoor spaces, like this one at the University of South Carolina's campus, provide students with the opportunity to experience human-nature interactions.

Outdoor spaces, like this one on the University of South Carolina’s campus, provide students with the opportunity to experience human-nature interactions.

Using the Attention Restoration Theory, Scholl and Gulwadi argue that certain campus design features “help mentally fatigued individuals.” The Attention Restoration Theory (ART) states that exposure and interaction with nature “has specific recovery effects on the human attentional system” (Scholl and Gulwadi). A university’s learning environment is more than just classrooms; Scholl and Gulwadi believe that the learning environment also includes the open space found outside. These open spaces add to the holistic learning landscape by providing students a place to interact with nature. Spending time in nature is beneficial for restoring cognitive functions such as concentration and direct attention. Scholl and Gulwadi urge universities to find a balance between indoor and outdoor learning spaces so their students can experience human-nature interaction.

An example of a traditional university classroom.

While human-nature interaction is necessary for the productivity of all students, outdoor class instruction is not suited for all academic subjects. Scholl and Gulwadi argue that a holistic university landscape, combining both human-nature interaction and the traditional indoor classroom, is the solution. Traditional classrooms “provide ample opportunities for structured learning experiences that draw upon students’ direct attention” (Scholl and Gulwadi). The typical classroom setting, while necessary, requires all of a student’s direct attention. Human-nature interactions allow students to restore this direct attention, equipping them with the cognitive functions needed to productively work in a classroom. In order for college campuses to be as efficient for student productivity as possible, Scholl and Gulwadi believe a holistic landscape is necessary. This landscape includes the open space outside and the traditional indoor classroom.

 


Works Cited

Scholl, Kathleen G., and Gowri Betrabet Gulwadi. “Recognizing College Landscapes as Learning Spaces.” The University of North Carolina Greensboro, 2015.

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The Gender Revolution and Its Affect on Interior Design

In her article “His & Hers: Designing for a Post-Gender Society,” Suzanne Tick argues that interior designers and architects should set out to create non-gendered spaces that will better accommodate the evolution of traditional gender roles and identities that is happening in today’s society. Tick uses the gender shift in today’s workplace, the ever-evolving definitions of “male” and “female,” and the nationwide focus on bathrooms to support her claim that interior designers need to embrace the gender revolution and work with it.

As traditional gender roles are evolving to fit the advances of today’s society, designers should use their spaces to promote change.While a new wave of feminism has begun to break down hierarchy in the workplace, Tick argues that today’s office landscape “is still deeply rooted in Modernism.” Modernism is design style shaped solely by male necessity. Even in today’s society, as women become more prominent in positions of power, the design of most workplaces specifically cater the needs of men. Tick believes that it is time for interior designers to change this. Instead of creating spaces that only accommodate one group of people or a specific gender, designers should join the gender revolution and begin to incorporate gender sensitivity into their work.

Annemiek van der Beek’s Primal Skin is a makeup collection is designed for men.

Annemiek van der Beek’s Primal Skin is a makeup collection is designed for men.

As androgyny becomes today’s norm, the traditional definitions of masculine are feminine are changing. The fashion and beauty industries are the first to fully accept this phenomenon. Fashion designers such as Alexander Wang have even begun to create gender neutral pieces, and makeup lines like Annemiek van der Beek’s Primal Skin are being designed to attract male buyers. Tick states that the processes of architecture and interior design are much slower than those of fashion and beauty. If designers do not take it upon themselves, Tick believes that the opportunity to create accommodating spaces for all, will be missed. What was assumed about gender is changing as individuals begin to identify themselves regardless of their assigned sex at birth. Students have started not specifying their gender on forms and others are asking to have their gender unspecified. Schools are even accepting this, which is huge. Tick argues that designers cannot fall behind the gender revolution, and instead should embrace it by creating spaces that promote acceptance and change.

As gender neutrality becomes a societal norm, signs like this one are being used instead of the "typical" restroom signs we are accustomed to.

As gender neutrality becomes a societal norm, signs like this one are being used instead of the “typical” restroom signs we are accustomed to.

Due to the evolution of gender identity, bathrooms have become the focus of change, and have created controversy across the country. In order to accommodate all individuals, large corporations like Google have created gender neutral and unisex bathrooms in their offices. This movement is providing individuals the choice to not choose a gender while at work. Tick realizes that bathrooms, while “only part of the puzzle in addressing gender inclusivity in the office,” are spaces that are sensitive to personal issues. Tick believes that designers can help address these new and sometimes uncomfortable situations revolving space. Gender neutral bathrooms are vastly different from the gendered restrooms we are all used to, but making everyone feel accommodated is what is important. Tick pushes designers to think of ways to address the bathroom situation by stressing the importance of creating an office landscape where everyone is safe and comfortable. Offices are places “where everyone is expected to collaborate closely,” so they need to be accommodating to all. Instead of waiting for gender neutrality to become a regulation, Tick pushes interior designers and architects to get ahead of the movement and to begin creating gender neutral spaces today.


Works Cited

Tick, Suzanne. “His & Hers: Designing for a Post-Gender Society.” Metropolis Magazine, http://www.metropolismag.com/March-2015/His-or-Hers-Designing-for-a-Post-Gender-Society/. 

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Violence, Controversy, and A Fence: A Look at Potomac Gardens Apartments

 

This sign welcomes you to Potomac Gardens Apartments. Instead of being on the main building, the sign is located on a side building.

This sign welcomes you to Potomac Gardens Apartments. Instead of being on the main building, the sign is located on a side building.

Built in 1968, Potomac Gardens Apartments is a public housing project owned by the District of Columbia Housing Authority. The complex is located at 1225 G Street SE, just thirteen blocks southeast of the United States Capitol Building. The 352 units that make up the complex are divided into family and senior housing (“Potomac Gardens Family”). The large, run down, and bleak looking building houses low income families and a large senior population. It would be easy to walk past Potomac Gardens, writing it off as just another old building in need of fresh paint, but there is more to the building that what first meets the eye. Potomac Gardens Apartments has a rich history filled with violence and controversy. There is more to the building than just its appearance, which is one of the many reasons why I am so intrigued by it. 

When first walking up to the complex, it is difficult to notice anything besides the eight foot tall iron fence that surrounds it. The tops of the fence are bent out, making it is impossible for anyone to get in. In an effort to combat drug related violence, Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly had the fence installed in 1991. While drug arrests significantly declined after the installation, the fence was built against the wishes of many residents, who often compare themselves to prisoners or caged zoo animals (Blakely and Synder). Twenty-six years have gone by since the installation of the fence, and while crime has become close to nonexistent, the fence remains a constant reminder of Potomac Gardens’ violent and dreary past.

The 8 foot iron fence that surrounds Potomac Gardens sends a bleak message to pedestrians walking by.

The 8 foot iron fence that surrounds Potomac Gardens sends a bleak message to pedestrians walking by.

The fence completely surrounds the perimeter of the building, serving to both keep everyone inside and to prevent outsiders from coming in. The fence sends a message and it is definitely not a good one. According to a Metro PD lieutenant, the fence, while helpful in apprehending possible suspects, gives “the impression that something dangerous is going on” (Depillis). There have been plenty of conversations about destroying the fence but decisions are never made. I have a difficult time accepting that the fence still exists under the false pretense that it keeps residents safe. In reality, the fence is merely a tool used by MDP to apprehend any possible suspects. How is that acceptable? Keeping an entire community locked up in their own homes so that one or two possible suspects can be detained. Crime in this neighborhood has gone down significantly since the 1990s and is practically nonexistent today. The area surrounding Potomac Gardens is booming and has become relatively high income (Sheir). Right next store to Potomac Gardens is Cambridge Row luxury condominiums. These two complexes are so close to each other that you could throw a paper airplane from one building to the next.

Cambridge Row Condominiums

Cambridge Row Condominiums

Built in the lot of the previous Salvation Army Capitol Hill headquarters, stands Cambridge Row. Cambridge Row describes itself as a “boutique community of 25 thoughtfully designed condominium residences… located in a beautiful and walkable neighborhood” (“Cambridge Row”). The price of these condominiums range from $200,000 to $650,000. A price that seems quite high for a neighbor that is supposedly ridden with crime and drug violence. The building’s appearance is vastly different from Potomac Gardens. Green grass, fresh cement, and beautiful brick sidewalks welcome you to Cambridge Row. Next store at Potomac Gardens you are greeted with broken windows, chipped paint, and security cameras typically found in prison yards.

Times have changed, and it is obvious that the population and neighborhood surrounding Potomac Gardens has as well. It is no longer necessary for the building to look like a prison and residents should no longer have to feel caged in their own homes. While the fence may have been needed in the early 1990s, it is not needed today and something needs to change.


Works Cited

Blakely, Edward J. and Mary Gail Snyder. “Separate Places: Crime and Security in Gated Communities.” Reducing Crime Through Real Estate Development and Management, edited by Marcus Felson, Urban Land Institute, 1998, pp. 53-70.

“Cambridge Row.” McWilliams Ballard, www.livecambridgerow.com/.

Depillis, Lydia. “What’s in a Fence? At Potomac Gardens, It Doesn’t Matter What Side You’re On.” Washingtoncitypaper.com, 11 March 2011. Accessed 2 October 2016.

“Potomac Gardens Family.” District of Columbia Housing Authority, www.dchousing.org/.

Sheir, Rebecca. “What Does the Future Hold for Capitol Hill’s Potomac Gardens?” wamu.org, American University Radio. 16 January 2015. Accessed 2 October 2016.

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