The Morning Measure: Balancing (re)development and equity in high-demand locations

Apr 6, 2011
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Yesterday we commented on the positive impact that the CenterCityDC development could have by bringing jobs housing and more vibrancy to one of the region’s core centers. In all fairness that redevelopment project is an easy one to endorse. The area has been vastly underutilized (a parking lot) for years so almost any development would be better than its current form. However realizing the site’s key location as a linking between the western and eastern ends of the city’s downtown district the plans go beyond simply putting “something” there and are aimed at creating a truly mixed-use urban walkable neighborhood. Our hats are off to that.

However other redevelopment projects are not so easy to judge namely those that are aimed at redeveloping existing established neighborhoods. In many cases the land in these neighborhoods might indeed be used much more efficiently if one had a clean slate to develop anew; however that’s not reality.

Determining whether proposed redevelopment will improve the quality of life for all residents (current and future) or whether it will make some better off at the expense of pricing many folks out of their former neighborhood is a very tough judgment to make – especially in a very expensive housing market like metro Washington. A recent article in the Examiner points out that the latter appears to be happening in many formerly lower-cost neighborhoods in D.C. such as Columbia Heights U Street and Shaw. What are your thoughts? Is this an inevitable side-effect of renewed demand in urban real estate in a city that has height limits?

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