Gentrification In Buzzard Point
Buzzard Point, a peninsula formed by the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers in the southwest quadrant of Washington, DC, is undergoing change quite rapidly. Buzzard point is currently under construction, making room for the new D.C United stadium. The new stadium is just one of the planned projects for Buzzard Point that will add to the gentrification of the Southwest Waterfront. While most people believe gentrification only involves relocating residents with low income, my research shows that gentrification in Buzzard Point has begun to break the area out of its isolated shell: reducing violent crime, rising its economic status, and bringing the community together.
Between 1984 and the 1990’s, this area, along with the rest of D.C., was hit with the “crack epidemic,” which came along with violent crime. 64 violent deaths occurred between S Capital S SE and 8th Street alone between these years alone. To put it into relation of distance, that’s only about 10 blocks. Some neighborhoods in D.C. in the past were off limits to anyone not associated with gangs and drug violence because of the threat of danger. However, urban renewal has contributed to a dramatic fall in violent crime over the last twenty years. As these neighborhoods were inundated with luxury condo havens, new residents invaded the area. Between 1980 and 2010, residents with a high school diploma have doubled and poverty rate has decreased by 7 percent. Furthermore, average family income has increased by 31 percent. The area has also become a safer place to be. In the last 30 years, violent crimes per 1000 residents has decreased by 9 incidents. When comparing the statistics between how the residents have changed and crime in Buzzard point between 1980 and 2010, a correlation can be made. Because residency of the area has evolved into to middle-upper class households with a substantial income, crime rates have taken a turn for the better.
Housing renewal influenced a change in the residents of the area when redevelopment began in 2003. Architects set out to build more lavish living facilities, targeting wealthier residents. This is a prime example of how Sarah Schindler explains that architecture influences human behavior in her article. She states that “regulation through architecture is just as powerful as law, but it is less explicit, less identifiable, and less familiar to courts, legislators, and the general public,”(Schindler), meaning that there is no written law to who is allowed to rent an apartment in this area, but residents with a lower income are unable to afford it. Therefore, they are pushed out so that the neighborhood is more exclusive to upper class buyers. In the Southwest waterfront area, “depending on the building, co-op apartments and condos start around $150,000 to $250,000 and can go for up to $1 million or more,” (Southwest Waterfront). At prices like these, only successful white collar workers with a high income can afford to live in these spaces. However, with newly found residents who can afford these high taxes and renovation fees, it makes the area a prime candidate for new businesses and attractions. A new project, The Wharf, promises new restaurants, retail stores, and other new businesses. This will attract a plethora of tourists, making Buzzard Point and the Southwest Waterpark region a prime destination. These changes will have a domino affect on the area’s economy, and even the District as a whole.
The redevelopment of Ward 6, including the Buzzard Point, Waterfront, and L’Enfant Plaza Metro stations will “benefit to all the City, with increased tax revenue from new development, added housing, and better use of the waterfront for all of the community,”(Endorsements), meaning that higher taxes are a good thing. As property values increase due to gentrified neighborhoods, property taxes increase along with it. These property taxes can then be used to increase the “coverage of services like 911 Police and Fire [services].” This will ensure the safety of residential neighborhoods. Relating back to the diminishment of drug crime, our current D.C. Mayor, Muriel Bowser wants to use this tax money to “[create] one centralized, citywide drug unit under the Narcotics and Special Investigations Division, and [create] a Criminal Interdiction Unit to keep DC at the forefront of crime prevention and law enforcement,” (Baskin), meaning that a new method will be put into place to keep dangerous drugs off the streets. Even though gentrification will push out those who can’t afford the high taxes, this tax money is needed to help the city as a whole.
Along with urban renewal, gentrification targets improvements on transportation. As Sarah Schindler mentions in her essay, gentrification of transportation can become a bad thing when public bus stops are being removed or rerouted away from an area to keep minorities out. This directly discriminates the lower class population. However, in Buzzard Point, it’s quite the opposite. Currently, Buzzard Point’s public transportation is limited. There’s no public service that will take you directly into the area. Typically, one would have to exit out of the Waterfront Metro station and walk to your desired destination. This is what I had to do when I visited my site. Buzzard Point’s Urban Design Concept Plan entails that “Streetcar lines currently in the planning phases may terminate at Buzzard Point,” allowing those who take public transportation in the area without having a long walk ahead of them. This will provide easier access to attractions such as the new stadium.
When Google searching “Buzzard Point,” the first 5 headlines will have to do with the production of D.C United’s new stadium. The internet plays a large role in publicizing the benefits of the gentrification of Buzzard Point. Specifically, while researching additional renderings of the new stadium, I was linked to a PDF website by DC United. The website provides the researcher information on the project team, purpose for the stadium, and how the stadium will fit in relation to the existing neighborhood. The designers of the website created and added visual representations of what the proposed stadium will look like, and how it would fit alongside the already existing neighborhood. These images aid my research by proposing the following question: Why there? The site introduces an answer in their introduction: “the design team studied the Buzzard Point Framework Plan in an effort to ensure that the new stadium design supported its goals of developing a vibrant mixed use neighborhood, dynamic public open spaces and well connected pedestrian pathways,” meaning that research has gone into choosing this location, it wasn’t just chosen out of the blue.The stadium will contribute to economic revitalization and bring Buzzard Point out of isolation. It will create a new sense of community and bring residents together. Visuals on the website such as the image below create a conversation with the viewer. It reveals how this new stadium will relate to them. Residents of the area may to curious as to how a new stadium will affect them and this website will provide them with an answer.
In relation to the Shaw neighborhood, gentrification played out differently in the Southwest. The original plan of reconstruction in 1950 of the Shaw neighborhood was to fix the large population density per acre by “[tearing] down the old neighborhoods and [build new ones] in the “towers in the park” style”(Alpert) of design. However, this reconstruction never took place. As Josh points out in his analysis of Shaw, buildings such as the Howard theatre have been fixed and renovated as opposed to torn down and rebuilt. The “beautiful old row houses and some of DC’s best-preserved carriage homes”(Alpert) are still standing in Shaw today. Southwest Waterfront faced a different fate. In 1950, under the District of Columbia Redevelopment Act, 5,900 new buildings were built, contributing to alley removal and the destruction of buildings that were thought to be unsafe, (Urban Renewal). I found it interesting to compare the redevelopment plans for Southwest in 1950 and the plans for Southwest today. In 1950, their main concern revolved around the health and welfare of D.C residents. Overcrowded “slums” and buildings that didn’t meet regulations threatened this. Therefore, a plan was put into place to rebuild and rehabilitate the land with the use of “zoning or guidance through subdivision control can be applied to achieve land use, circulation, and housing goals,”(A general Summary). In other words, low income families were to be displaced while the deconstruction took place. Because the reconstruction became too expensive for private capital, private builders had to take over, (A General Summary). Those private companies have made what Southwest Waterfront is now. Today, the design framework of the area deals primarily with the community, environment, and transportation. As more attention presently focuses on the degradation of our environment, things are planned to be put into place such as “stormwater drains [to] catch water runoff from streets and other paved surfaces, and [planting trees] to mitigate the heat island effect and improve air quality,”(Bowser). As time has passed, concerns and conversations have changed, along with the way they were written and published. The design alone of both official documents are different in so many ways. In 1950, the plan was printed and distributed because back then, the average person read a newspaper or some sort of printed material to stay informed. Today, it’s very rare to find anyone under the age of 50 holding a newspaper as opposed to their handheld smartphone. Why is this? Websites and applications make news readily available to view on a cellphone.
The gentrification of Buzzard Point, as opposed to popular belief, will continue to improve the area and it’s society. New, lavish residential homes have attracted buyers who can afford the pricey taxes. The money gained from tax revenue will benefit the whole city and it’s residents. More law enforcement may be hired to keep crime off the streets. Additionally, the installment of a new stadium and “The Warf” are just the beginnings of how Buzzard Point’s citizens will come together as a community.
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