Stephanie Barbara Frank, in her publication titled, “If We Own the Story, We Own the Place,” suggests that people must take different approaches to gain more insight into gentrification in Shaw as a whole. Frank suggests looking at gentrification through a conversation of cultural heritage against economic development. She enumerates in her dissertation that we must understand gentrification as a very local process. In Frank’s words, “The key to unlocking the stories about the neighborhood undergoing gentrification is first-hand exploration of the people and the place” (85). Frank further explains that we must look for evidence of gentrification and its ramifications in mediums that span across the architecture of homes to the diction in local newspapers. She even suggests that if you don’t talk to the local people about their experiences, then there’s no weight to your findings.
This source provides extensive background information on gentrification around the Howard Theatre and D.C. at large, but I mainly want to focus on the toolkit section found towards the end of the publication. This section does provide various methods in which we can understand the power of gentrification at play while being an active observer in the area. I want to use this source as a guide to inform my research from this point forward. I want to further explore Shaw and all the information it has to offer if I look for the right things. I believe this source will help me achieve my goal because it gives me the agency to do so.
In her “Introduction: The Gentrification Game,” Barbara Lewis views gentrification through a lens that many may not even consider–war. Lewis argues that the word gentrification, although it has become a buzzword, is rooted in something much more sinister than a gilded view of progress. Lewis says, “At bottom, gentrification is a war game, with at least five basic elements” (2). The first element is to identify the “enemy” and launch a smear campaign, and the second element is to pursue a “divide and conquer” strategy. The third element, according to Lewis, is to breach borders, and the fourth element is to remove the defeated group from their land. The final element is to reflect on history, but blame the “enemy” to justify your conquering. To put it in this perspective is to introduce the fact that there is an inherent violence in gentrifying a space, and this violence does not have to be entirely physical. Rather, this violence is mostly the control and eventual destruction of a preexisting narrative. Lewis supports her argument by using historical examples that span from the colonial era to the present day. What’s most interesting to note about her argument is that it sheds light on the concept that gentrification was never new. It evolved in its practices and processes, but it has been a prominent tool used by the privileged throughout American history.
What I found especially helpful to put into context with my other sources is the concept of gentrification being an act of war. Lewis highlights that the processes of both gentrification and war have five phases in common. These five phases, she proves, are constant and they can allow us to understand the true effects of both events. Some may argue that because of the lack of immediate bloodshed, there is no violence to gentrification. It’s not the same as pulling a trigger. However, the piece Lewis has published encourages us to understand a different kind of warfare. In the context of the Howard Theatre, U Street, Shaw, and broader Washington, Lewis would suggest to think of everything as deliberate. Think of the design of everything as deliberate simply because it was so and everything has an agenda. Maybe then we could explain the takeover of Shaw by white millennials.
In “Underpinning and Shoring of Historic Howard Theatre in Washington, DC,” Englert and Eddy suggest that the restoration of the Howard Theatre was an intense process that inevitably brought to light major construction challenges. This source is primarily an analysis on the different construction techniques used to restore the Howard Theatre to its current state, but it also provides insight into architectural choices made for the theatre itself. Englert and Eddy, in their report, emphasize the need to maintain the exterior appearance of the Howard Theatre as it was built originally. The interior of the Howard Theatre would preserve some of its original architectural designs, but would accommodate newer technology. In doing so, Englert and Eddy illustrate the deliberate decisions made to bring the Howard Theatre into the twenty-first century.
This source is arguable one of the most unique in my collection. There is little commentary about socioeconomic and demographic differences relating to either Shaw or the Howard Theatre, which some may interpret as a negative characteristic. However, I believe the lack of commentary and the reporting of construction challenges allow for me to make connections regarding Shaw’s socioeconomic and demographic shifts myself. This source also allows me to think about how Howard Theatre came to be a nightclub for some people while also serving as a place one might go to if they wished to listen to opera. This connects especially well with my analysis of the theatre’s website because I will be able to draw relationships between the various services of the theatre to its architecture.
In the journal publication “The Back-to-the-City Movement: Neighbourhood Redevelopment and Processes of Political and Cultural Displacement,” Derek Hyra adds nuance to the process of gentrification in Shaw. Hyra acknowledge on one hand, the influx of younger affluent residents in Shaw may result in an improved quality of life. He suggests that newer residents may demand better infrastructure repairs and political participation. On the other hand, Hyra also acknowledges that there may be differing perspectives among community residents. Younger affluent residents want to make Shaw a center of revitalization with the neighborhood earning a title of being “new and improved.” Older residents are often pushed to the side and are displaced from their homes, churches, and other community centers. The role of the Howard Theatre in Shaw, however, continues to serve as a place where primarily older residents are able to attend despite the changes around them.
I especially like the analysis that Hyra provides connecting the influx of young white affluent residence to possibly unforeseen social implications. I admired the way the source brought to light two different narratives regarding gentrification and how one might look at it. The source illuminated what newer residence may view their role as, which is essentially as saviors of the neighborhood. The source also illuminates that older residents may view the same phenomenon as a narrative to eventually evict them from their home and destroy their culture. Both views, in my opinion, are equally valid and I believe I can find a way to incorporate them into my larger essay.
In Capital Dilemma: Growth and Inequality in Washington, D.C., Derek Hyra gives insight on the greater dilemma of gentrification in Washington. This publication is a book with several chapters dedicated to different dimensions of gentrification and its effect on the District’s race relations. The book reinforces “the reality that the District of Columbia is a much more vibrant, vital, and changing urban center than tourist postcard scenes of munificent parks and public spaces might suggest” (322). Hyra explains this by thoroughly deconstructing demographic changes by asking questions like, “Who is supposed to be here? Who is actually here?” He also explores the concept of economic inequality in D.C. by investigating the evolving economic employment structures and its effect on hiring patterns in socioeconomically depressed areas. His findings lead him to suggest that, no matter how turbulent changes may seem, they actively change the identity of a neighborhood or region. However, Hyra does not endorse viewing such changes passively and encourages residents to take an active role in shaping their communities using the successes and failures of Washington as guides.
In my opinion, this source is especially important for me to understand and put into conversation with my other sources. This is the case because the source enables me to connect the Howard Theatre, buildings I’ve seen around the theatre, and my interactions with Shaw into broader context. My field research on the Howard Theatre has been extremely specific to this point, and while I understood fragments of a larger narrative, this book clearly puts my experiences into perspective.
Robert Samuels of the Washington Post, in his article “Aged out of the District,” makes the argument that the District of Columbia is actively trying to invite millennials to stay by making neighborhoods more desirable to live in. In this article, Samuels does acknowledge that, with the rising cost of housing and other services, the millennials that can afford to live in D.C. are usually single and affluent. However, he says that the rapid increase of housing costs may inadvertently be pushing even those single millennials out. They are more likely to stay in the District in the short term and in knowing they are only there for a small amount of time, they don’t bother making meaningful connections with long-time residents. Furthermore, the District has been getting so expensive to live in that these millennials are second-guessing their decision to start families. In perspective, however, this does not fare well especially for older residents who may be low- or fixed-income. Then, it is needless to say that community development in the District of Columbia is simply vicious.
Many of my other sources allude to how affluent white millennials are moving to D.C. neighborhoods like Shaw because it’s simply the “next big thing.” Businesses are starting up, crime rates are being reduced, nicer brunch places boasting watered-down ethnic foods are being built. A dream come true until one looks at the repercussions. The truth is, rising costs have inadvertently led to rise of homelessness in D.C. This is a concept that my other sources allude to but have never named. In relation to my other sources, this source can potentially highlight the aftermath of city-sponsored development projects. I can then connect this source and contextualize it with the demographics of who now attends Howard Theatre, or maybe who does not.
According to this Washington Post article written by Debbi Wilgoren, it is entirely possible to align the interests of real estate developers and long-time residents of Shaw. To do this, Wilgoren introduces the ongoing conflict of residents being forced out of their neighborhood due to community development and then a proposal drafted by an advocacy group. In one instance, she quotes a single mother, Anika Trahan, who says, “We cannot afford to stay.” Through the advocacy group Manna, Wilgoren explains that consensus between residents and developers can indeed be achieved. She explains Manna has proposed to have developers: 1) Increase available affordable housing, 2) Offer below-market rents for existing businesses, and 3) Recruit more Shaw residents for jobs created as a result of projects. The success of this proposal is astounding. As Wilgoren states, “Manna officials said the proposal, developed over 18 months, has the support of several advisory neighborhood commissioners, Ward 1 Council member Jim Graham (D), various churches and nonprofit organizations in the neighborhood and five private developers interested in building there.” Ultimately, this proves that the success of developers doesn’t always have to be at the expense of residents.
This source is will be an essential piece in concert with my other sources because it offers a perspective that would otherwise be unheard. Many of my sources describe a deliberate scheme to systematically oppress the residents of Shaw through gentrification while using the history of the Howard Theatre as a lens. There is truth to this. However, this Washington Post article suggests that there is a possibility to hinder that scheme, to bring about progress that isn’t at the expense of others.
In Lance Freeman’s book titled There Goes the Hood : Views of Gentrification from the Ground Up, the central argument is that there is no one view of gentrification any more valid than another. The concept of gentrification, like many concepts, may be interpreted differently by different people. What I admire about this book is that it heavily relies on interviews with a plethora of people. I have been used to the concept of gentrification being a indirectly violent phenomenon, but as an interviewee states in Chapter 4 titled, “Making Sense of Gentrification,” “I think gentrification is good in certain respects in that it brings things to a neighborhood what it really never had. Like an all-black neighborhood never had as much police protection as their white counterpart. So it brings that. Plus it brings investment” (98). That’s a view not many of my previous sources are willing to explain.
To use such a source would allow me to truly map the complexity of urban development and its relationship to gentrification. No matter how false or true a claim may be, it must be supported. Although I wholeheartedly believe that “urban development” is a gilded term for gentrification, this source allows me to expand on what people may think if they view the opposite. It allows me to further my credibility because I will have a balance of opinion.
Huning, Sandra, and Nina Schuster. “‘Social Mixing’ or ‘Gentrification’? Contradictory Perspectives on Urban Change in the Berlin District of Neukölln.” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, vol. 39, no. 4, July 2015, pp. 738–755.
In Sandra Huning’s and Nina Schuster’s ‘Social Mixing’ or ‘Gentrification’? Contradictory Perspectives on Urban Change in the Berlin District of Neukölln, the central argument suggests that terms like “social mixing” and “gentrification” not only describe the transformation of a place, but are embedded in its transformation. The argument is developed by viewing the Berlin district of Neukölln as a lense to explore this phenomenon. As Huning and Schuster state, social mixing refers to “the ideal of social mixing refers to hegemonic middle-class values of individual achievement, capacity and lifestyle and thereby stabilizes existing power relations.” They suggest that the term gentrification describes the same phenomenon, but from a different perspective. Huning and Schuster describe gentrifications as a means to “protest against the loss of affordable housing and the displacement of poor residents.” Both views have weight to them and both are equally valid.
To use this source in conversation with my other sources is to surface complexity in the issue regarding gentrification. Development, social mixing, and gentrification are all connected, yet unique in their way of describing the same phenomenon. After reviewing this source, I plan to further the argument presented by understanding how it relates to Neukölln and applying it to the Howard Theatre. Shaw has transformed into a mixed community, which allows me greater agency to truly explore the diversity of perspectives it holds.
Ley, David, and Cory Dobson. “Are There Limits to Gentrification? The Contexts of Impeded Gentrification in Vancouver.” Urban Studies, vol. 45, no. 12, Nov. 2008, pp. 2471–2498.
In their Are There Limits to Gentrification? The Contexts of Impeded Gentrification in Vancouver,David Ley and Cory Dobson analyze the positive and negative consequences of gentrification. They acknowledge both sides to how one may approach gentrification. On one hand they acknowledge that with gentrification comes development and investment. Yet, Ley and Dobson both understand that, “Districts with impeded gentrification would have a minimal stock of older or newer residential properties with architectural character; they would have limited access to environmental amenities or desirable cultural institutions, but could well be near working industrial sites; and generally they would be lower-income and often immigrant neighbourhoods, including districts of deep poverty, some distance from existing élite areas” (2475). Because of the intensity of such a phenomenon, they also suggest that activism is bound to occur to reverse these trends. Ley and Dobson elaborate, “Sustained neighbourhood mobilisation has led to a distinctive local moral culture that accepts the right to the city for poor people” (2494). By making such a statement, Ley’s and Dobson’s publication ultimately suggests that there will always be pushback by local residents against the forces of gentrification disguised as urban development, and that this is a trend worth exploring.
Initially, I viewed the process of gentrification as one with an endgame. The endgame was to pretend to preserve an area’s culture, but ultimately substitute it for another. A complete takeover. However, Ley and Dobson offer a convincing argument. As long as there is perceived injustice, there will be some resistance. This makes me curious as to how Shaw is reacting to “development” in the area. It makes me want to explore the ways in which Shaw has resisted, how it has resisted, and how effective was it. The publication has offered me a new platform to explore my built environment.
In her article “The Politics of the Urban Comeback: Gentrification and Culture in D.C.,” Garance Franke-Ruta adds nuance to the process of gentrification of U Street. She begins by restating trends that have been communicated by the DC census and articles in prominent news outlets like the Washington post stating that the black population in Shaw is declining at an alarming rate. However, her article shifts gears to talk about the slowing of gentrification. She enumerates, “A close look at the Census data shows that black population loss in the neighborhood actually slowed as gentrification picked up, dropping almost in half from the previous decade’s rate as whites and Asians flocked to the neighborhood in the first years of the new century, and as new amenities moved in” (Franke-Ruta). What I especially admire about Franke-Ruta’s analysis is that she doesn’t minimize the issue of gentrification. Although she highlights that the process is slowing, she does acknowledge that it’s an important issue to address. Towards the end of her article, Franke-Ruta enumerates that while the change is slowing down, it isn’t improving race relations in Washington. In her words, “D.C. has enough statues of white men and venues and buildings named in their honor. Lord knows it has a boatload of statues of white men on horses. It does not, in the grand scheme of things, have many statues of major figures in African-American history.”
This article would be very interesting to include in my broader analysis of the neighborhood of the Howard Theatre, Shaw, because it offers the perspective of someone who experienced the change firsthand. Many times throughout her article, Franke-Ruta writes in anecdotes about her personal encounters with a changing Washington and what it really means to be a resident of a gentrifying community. This is exactly the perspective I wish to include in my broader analysis because it allows me to understand the demographic changes in Shaw through a qualitative lens.
In this post, an organization called “Shaw Main Streets” lists the several development projects underway in Shaw. It’s important to note that this isn’t a post that offers an argument or some deep insight. The list the publication provides of the myriad of development projects are supplemented with hyperlinks and pictures so people can learn more about the changes they will soon come across.
The picture above, for example, illustrates the end result of a current project. This source, in concert with my other sources, may provide valuable insight into what changes exactly are occurring in Shaw. Sure, I have mentioned before that there are many developers with interests in Shaw to transform it in various ways, but this source will provide context for that. This source will provide background as to what changes are occurring, who is vouching for these changes, and what these changes will contribute to Shaw at large.
Will Sommer, in his article titled, “White People Flocking to Shaw, Nearby Neighborhoods,” provides a quantitative analysis on the demographics of Shaw. This article, like the one I mentioned previously, does not offer a substantive argument. The argument it does present, however, is that the zipcodes in Shaw are some of the fastest growing zipcodes in Washington. Sommer also sarcastically comments on the nature of the changes in Shaw by saying, “If you’re looking for white people, you should head to the D.C. ZIP code that includes Shaw, Bloomingdale, and LeDroit Park.” While some may believe this comment is in poor taste, it does provide a name to what may otherwise seem as arbitrary numbers. Furthermore, Sommer’s publication compares the current demographics of certain Shaw zipcodes to what they previously were. In doing so, he paints an interesting picture of how Shaw is forever changing.
This source opened my eyes to start thinking about the importance of zipcodes. Throughout my life, I never really paid attention to them. To me, zipcodes were just an arbitrary collection of numbers that simply aided in locating a building. This source, however, uses zipcodes not only as a grouping, but describes it as an entity with characteristics. The characteristics can then be used to describe the changes in Washington. I think it would make my own work interesting if I incorporated the demographics of certain zipcodes of Shaw in my writing.