While Ward 8 has endured a culturally rich past and troubled present, the “east of the river” community is currently home to a revival of sorts – and, according to some of its residents, plenty of misperceptions as well.
By Kate Musselwhite
Gentrification: exploring the “G-word”
Gentrification. From news reports to documentaries, the term has come to encompass many of the problems and changes that affect residents in the city’s southernmost and poorest ward.
Gentrification means something to everybody — so we asked.
A community activist
According to Ward 8 resident, entrepreneur and blogger, Nikki Peele, there is a “Renaissance” going on east of the river.
Peele has a public relations company, which unveiled a new Eat.Shop.Live Anacostia campaign. She also has a new business venture, The Hive, which has an office space in historic Anacostia, and she also blogs about her experience in the Ward 8. Peele said her experience in Ward 8 has been more collaborative than divisive — though she said most media coverage tends to focus on the latter.
In regard to gentrification, Peele said she thinks the apprehension generated by the loaded term keeps some hesitant to change.
There is still much work ahead for Ward 8, according to Peele, who said that the ward of about 70,000 people is about to get only its third sit-down restaurant.
She said, however, that the change and improvement is taking place gradually and naturally.
As Peele said earlier this year in a student-made film about the area, “Anacostia doesn’t need to be the next U Street — it just needs to be the next Anacostia.”
A local business owner
As president and CEO of ARCH Development Corporation, a nonprofit that concentrates its economic development support in Ward 8, Duane Gautier is banking on the power of creativity to help revitalize the greater Anacostia area. There are now three art galleries in the area, with the potential for more.
Gautier lived in Anacostia in 1961 while interning for a congressman, and said that back then, the self-sufficient area had a very “small town” feel.
He also predicted that the new Department of Homeland Security headquarters, under way in southeast, will likely spark more development in the area over the next few years.
Gautier said he gentrification is an “incendiary” and overly used word in Ward 8.
“What it is, is neighborhoods in transition,” he said.
A Ward 8 resident
The Ward 8 Farmers Market came about in the late ’90s when the area lost what was then their last supermarket, leaving 70,000 residents without a convenient place to shop.
“This market was actually spawned from the community as opposed to being placed into the community,” said John Gloster, president and co-founder of the market, who said he hopes to see Ward 8 revitalized, but with a mixture of old and new residents.
The market sets up Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. from June through November in the United Medical Center parking lot on Southern Avenue.
A former Ward 8 resident
Angela Rice, a former Ward 8 resident and Ward 8 Farmers Market regular, said she was forced to leave the area and move uptown. She said rent spiked when the building she lived in was bought and renovated. She still returns to Ward 8 to attend the farmers market, and for her daughter to attend activities at THEARC.
Rice said gentrification forces some residents to leave their homes.
“I wanted to stay there, but I couldn’t,” she said.