Why Spike Lee Is Wrong About Gentrification
We’ve yet to find a better alternative for urban revival.
BETH J. HARPAZ/AP/CORBIS
In the 1990s, decades after the riots that followed the 1968 murder of Martin Luther King, the Washington, D.C., neighborhoods of Logan Circle and Columbia Heights still showed scars of that terrible time. Through many of those years, the mostly black residents of those areas would be in luck if they were looking for a prostitute or a drug deal; they had a harder time tracking down fresh spinach or blood-pressure medication. Logan Circle’s elegant Civil War–era mansions were crumbling or boarded up; the turreted row houses of Columbia Heights were in even worse shape.
Still, the local D.C. government was growing aware of the potential of these two neighborhoods, near as they were to federal government offices and the swarm of lobbying and law firms and media and public-relations outfits near them. In 1999, a metro stop opened in Columbia Heights, right across the street from a spiffy new Target. A Whole Foods took up residence a year later in a former auto-parts store near Logan Circle. Fortuitously, the District was at the same moment beginning to catch the eye of a growing number of career-hungry recent college grads.
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