“Realist” posted a well-thought comment in response to my, evidently, glowingly optimistic view of our neighborhood. I am not attempting to dismiss his/her perspective to the masses, but rather to offer a glimmer of hope to those who may share such views of their neighborhood–it is troubling to hear anyone view their home negatively.
The first “reality” that Realist present is crime–evidenced by the highly visual episodes in the past year. Any transitional neighborhood has its share of crime. What is more important is the effect of this crime on its inhabitants. Except for one or two innocents, this violence was “bad” on “bad,” and while it certainly did not do wonders for the image of the neighborhood, it had limited to no effect on “good” Eckingtonians. One killing is always too many, but “crime” is not the first issue that comes to my mind when I look for problems or obstacles to growth in our neighborhood (though I have no stats to back up this, perhaps unfounded, nonchalance).
The second concern is something I will call “turnover”–the departure of residents who are, we’ll just label as, “unhelpful” (note: this is neither a demographic nor “old guard” categorization) to be replaced by newcomers who will immerse themselves in the neighborhood. I hesitate to use the word “gentrification” not because of fear of the term, but due to its confinement as an asset-appreciation term–my “turnover” term eoncompasses the appreciation increase from the former resident to the new resident.
Realist offers skepticism that the neighborhood’s “poverty, ignorance, violence, poor physical and mental health, and many other aspects of human nature” can change due to a entry bar he/she sets as $500,000. But I feel this is much too high. The great thing about Eckington right now is that there are plenty of single-family homes that, when they appear on the market, can be obtained for less than $400k or even $300k in liveable condition. I should know–we bought one in January 2007. We have Capitol Hill friends who are floored by the amount of space they could obtain for the buck in our neighborhood.
The market slowdown could not have come at a better time for the neighborhood. Perhaps on the verge of having many of our rowhouses converted into multi-unit condos (which would have most likely turned into rentals in this market), we have maintained, for the most part, the same stock of single-family rowhouses that are sure to interest the next wave of homeowners (many who will purchase before the end of the year due to the $8,000 tax credit in the stimulus bill). We are also not limited to NoMa employees, in terms of filling our coffers. The prices are still affordable to Federal employees and white-collar workers near the Red Line stations of Chinatown, Metro Center, Farragut North and Dupont Circle should take a close look at our Red Line neighborhood (if they have good information–BRANDING–or unbiased Realtors).
As for the overall housing market picture, interest rates will have to increase, but a factor that has kept inflation low in the previous year–oil prices–will be one of many factors (along with recent suburban housing collapse (which could scare some buyers); financial stresses on local governments; demographic changes in suburbs; generational persuasion-shifts, etc.) that increases the attractiveness of the urban city. And not everyone wants to live in condos in Chinatown/Penn Quarter or lofts in Dupont/Adams Morgan.
Realist also offers pessimism over the Metropolitan Branch Trail–worrying that it will become a mugger’s paradise or an after-school hangout for McKinley High students.
I understand there have been some incidents between students and residents in the past, but the school is new, and the selectivity is increasing. The Class of 2008 was the first graduating class with students who has attended the school for all 4 years–98% of these students applied and were accepted to college, including Stanford, MIT, Columbia, Cornell and Duke. I find the current crop to be quite respectful and communicative with us “adults.” If they do find the MBT to be a nice location to hangout after school, I sense, but could be wrong, they will be more more helpful as a set of eyes on the Trail rather than a nuisance.
As for muggings, the size of this problem will inversely correlate with the amount of traffic on the Trail. If my rosy predictions of residents switching en masse to the Trail for their daily route to the Metro (or, soon-to-be, regular Harris Teeter shopping), Catholic University students commuting to campus from thier Eckington homes, nonresident bikers using the Trail as part of their communte to the City, dog owners from Eckington and Capitol Hill North (“Old City”) using the Trail as their primary dog-exercise routine, etc. do not materialize, then this may become a large problem. It depends on us.
I plan on writing a series of posts on the MBT as the countdown to its completion nears. I am also going to continue the practice of only posting items relevant to the neighborhood. The entire purpose of this blog/website was to serve the void in the internet of Eckington information and I tried, save for one or two slips, to refrain from posting non-relevant items–which keeps this number of postings down. If you use an RSS reader, then you are alerted when there are updates, and I am attempting to use Twitter to keep those who are interested even more up-to-date.
I always welcome comments, and anticipate those who will poke holes in my assertions or chide me for failing to include more positives.