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Back in December, I blogged about the Allegro Apartments, a new building going up on 14th Street in Columbia Heights, a few short blocks away from the Giant. Well, the building is now complete, and earlier this week, the developer held its opening night party, apparently sponsored by On Tap Magazine and Grey Goose vodka. I don’t know how bountifully the liquor was flowing, but Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham looks a little loopy in a video recorded at the event (click on the following link for access).
With local blog The Heights Life’s camera rolling, Graham got into some serious discussion about the neighborhood’s growth, and what he views to be the area’s real strengths. It has been over a year since Target opened. I think it’s an appropriate time to evaluate. Here’s what Graham had to say:
We have broad vitality in what were once vacant lots with chained link fences. That’s what Columbia Heights had been known for, for a number of decades. But at the same time we’ve broadened that vitality—-Target and apartments and restaurants and all sorts of interesting things to do, subway functioning—-we have also preserved the low-income housing, the whole length of 14th Street, and so we’ve held onto all the good things in the neighborhood, and supplemented with wonderful, new things. And I think that’s a success story. Because this neighborhood could have easily been the subject of like a clearance, and the whole thing would be condo—-building after building after building. But if you go and look at the major buildings…from U Street to Spring Road, one after another, those low income buildings have not only been preserved, but they’ve been rehabilitated.
I’m not sure if I understand his point about condos. After all, roughly a month and a half ago, Graham helped some troubled 14th Street condo builders obtain a tax break. The Allegro also was once a condo project. Really, how many more condo buildings could this neighborhood support? Columbia Heights still has a long way to go, in my mind—-which is not to say the neighborhood doesn’t have definite assets. But until it builds a larger stock of small, independent, prosperous businesses, it will always feel like a suburban strip mall mashed into a city block. It’s getting there though, even with that whole crippling recession thing.