Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

1300 block 9th Street NW, west side

Yesterday I blogged about what I think of as deliberate churchly contribution to neighborhood destabilization, in the context of the church across the street challenging the license of a hoping-to-open "gay" bar on the 1300 block of 9th Street NW.

It happens that last week I rode down 9th Street NW on my way to a meeting on U Street NW (at Mocha Hut as a matter of fact).

I was struck by how decrepit it was(is), although I didn't have time to take photos, since I was running late...

As I said yesterday, I think that having the Convention Center focus on opening retail in its spaces is misdirected, that I'd guess about $5 million is required to rehabilitate the historic commercial buildings between M and Q Streets, as well as to develop a fund and program to develop and nurture independent businesses to fill these spaces.

So since I wrote that entry, on my way to the Wall presentation, I hurridly took photos of the 1200-1600 blocks of 9th Street NW. I've posted most of them to my flickr account, with the tag 9thstreet.

This photo is of the proposed Be-Bar, with vacant buildings on either side. The church across the street is one of the contesting entities.

I didn't do a formal inventory, but there appear to be less than 10 viable businesses in that stretch of 9th Street NW:

-- two sit-down places (Azi's Cafe and Queen of Sheba)
-- two liquor stores
-- the Giant although its back is to 9th Street
and probably some other stuff that didn't really register.

The protest against the license for Be-Bar is clearly a case of deliberate effort to maintain and enhance squalor.

I have been thinking about something. I don't read The Blade because I don't fit the demographic. But if you believe the Richard Florida "Creative Class" thesis that the creative economy is measurable in part by the hospitability of communities to the gay community, then it's true that the Washington region, or at least particular segments of it, have a long way to go in terms of welcoming creativity.

And from a monitoring indicators standpoint, I'm gonna start reading The Blade because the stories they're writing on the gay-arts-culture-displacement from now in-demand real estate connection have a "canary in a mine" relevance.

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