Just One Mile: Gentrification in Congress Heights, DC

If You Build It…

Just across Wheeler Road, still on Mississippi is the baseball field. It always reminded me of that movie, Field of Dreams – you know, “if you build it, they will come.” I had no idea that children in Congress Heights had an interest in baseball. The field sat seemingly unused after the ribbon cutting in 2011, but recently I’ve seen a few teams playing on it. I always asked myself, “who is this for, exactly,” each time I passed the field on my way home. I guess the argument could be made that not many black children were going to be playing tennis either, but eventually, they did. Venus and Serena Williams have been supporters of the tennis center since it opened in 2001, and were present for the ribbon cutting ceremony on the $18 million expansion in 2014.

Those beautiful high rise apartments you see in the distance? The ones that have been looming in the background of many of these photos (it is just one mile in Congress Heights that I am covering – a 20 minute walk, 10 minute run if you are in shape.) Those are the apartments formerly known as Parkside Terrace that were “plagued by drugs, criminals and violent attacks.” The residents were given vouchers to find other housing, and only around 60 of the former tenants were able to move back in once the renovations were complete. Now, it is senior and low income housing, but not public housing. You have to complete an instant credit check, and many local applicants who were excited about the prospect of moving into the new high tech, high security, amenity-rich apartments have been denied.

“‘This is a miracle,’ said the Rev. Everett Hackney, 76, one of Parkside Terrace’s first residents when it opened in 1968. ‘We had people getting shot, robbings in the halls. A lot of us were hoping and praying for this a long time. Now God has made that hope a reality. For me, this building — this is God.'” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/04/AR2009100403064.html