20 March 2008

Empty Units

In the past two or three years, there has been a lot of real estate developed in the area of 12th and Republic. One block east, at 12thand Vine, there are a dozen 19th century buildings that have been turned into condos andapartments. One block west of 12th and Republic, in the area of Washington Park, there is a new high school for the performing arts being built. Homeless people, unemployed people (which are not necessarily the same thing) and aimless young people mill and loiter in the park, and on the corner of 12th and Race. To the northwest of the park is the magnificent Music Hall. The development in the area raised concerns about the displacement of the poor. For example, when the old Fort Washington hotel was finally cleared out, several displaced residents showed up at the Drop Inn shelter over the next couple of nights. In the current real estate market, or lack thereof, such concerns might temporarily be put aside. Look at the so called "Gateway Quarter," a group of rehabbed buildings along Vine between Central Parkway and 13th. Many of the windows remain vacant, many of the ground floor retail spaces are unrented, or are occupied by new businesses that attempt to attract the predominately white, affluent clientele that has yet to dominate the neigborhood as the developers hope. Nobody has money to buy condos they can't afford to pay market value for. After record numbers of foreclosures last year nationwide, much of the redeveloped space is in limbo, along with the money that funded the redevelopment. It is deucedly difficult to predict where all this will lead. But for now, the poor and the homeless will not be chased from the neighborhood. Or as a woman who stood up and spoke at a city council meeting said recently, "Listen, I'm sorry, but these people can be poor anywhere. We need development now!"

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All original text (C) 2007, 2008 David J. Carney. All rights reserved.

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