I thank you for your District Line articles on the ruin of the Peoples Drug Store warehouse (“Up in the Old Hotel,” 1/8) and the Carter Woodson House (“Failing Black Studies,” 1/22). My neighbors and I have wondered why such important edifices have been allowed to deteriorate and become strongholds of the elusive but flourishing Plutonian underworld of drugs, prostitution, fencing, and the like. Our only conclusion has been that the Barry government has wanted to keep Shaw an alternative Dark Side enterprise zone.
Warehouses and other commercial structures (including the now demolished Stuart Ford Building and Yale Laundry) in progressive cities like Minneapolis, Seattle, and, yes, even Baltimore have been turned into mixed-use lofts, in enormously high demand among the young and trendy professional set. D.C., on the other hand, allows them to rot in the hands of mixed-use scavengers until a Barry-supporting developer tears them down for speculative nonresidential land-use schemes that never seem to materialize in Shaw.
The tricking, drug shooting and sales, and vehicular chop-shopping that have gone on behind the Carter Woodson House and adjacent vacant row houses owned by the Shiloh Baptist Churchdirectly across from Seaton Elementary Schoolare blatant enough to cause one to suspect D.C. government complicity. (Calling the police always warrants either no response or sufficient getaway time for the perps.) Despite decades of promises to turn the properties into senior housing (what old person can walk up three flights?), the buildings rot, taxes become delinquent, and the city turns a blind eye, as Shiloh figures out how to grab the Carter Woodson House and a couple of other buildings on the block, tear down the whole row, and turn the site into tax-free church parkingthe bottom line of all neighborhood churches, particularly when the new convention center goes in. Those who pour libations and pound drums to call upon the ancestors each year in front of the Carter Woodson House can just move elsewhere to make room for the Mercy-Ds and Beamers of the Maryland bourgies.
We can only hope that: (1) the control board will stick around long enough to provide Mayor Williams the lumbar support and understanding to deal effectively with the city’s and particularly Shaw/NOMA’s vacant and abandoned properties, and (2) the $750,000 to be spent on the convention center will supplant illicit enterprises with legitimate ones.
Keep up the good reporting.