Tuesday, October 14, 2008

a Cabbie's perspective

I recently took a cab into Anacostia, and upon entering from the 11th Street Bridge asked the driver if he came to the neighborhood much and what his perceptions of it were. He hadn't driven there in about two years, so I remarked at changes that I could point to: Anacostia Gateway, refurbished commercial buildings, cleaner streets, etc.

His response, although not a revalation, was interesting. He told me that in order for people to really recognize the changes in Anacostia, its gateways sorely needed to be addressed, especially at its most visible approach - the southwest corner of MLK and Good Hope:

He also said that although Anacostia Gateway was great, it is in the visual periphery (from this direction, at least), and therefore doesn't have the same effect on first impressions.

I'm sure that the corner will eventually change, but its "I look like a deserted failure" appearance only serves to scare people, retailers, and investment away. The AEDC's Welcome to Historic Anacostia sign would better serve the neighborhood on a symbol of its emergent success than on one of misrepresentative blight.


Anonymous said...

Good point on the "Gateway" phenomenon. The gateway to my slice of SE DC, Hillcrest, has the same problem. At the best of times, Pennsylvania Avenue east of the Sousa Bridge looks dingy and uninviting. The base of the bridge is an ugly hodgepodge of gas stations, poorly maintained commercial buildings, and freeway overpasses.

This is really unfortunate, because the majority of the traffic passing through here either turns onto 295 or into Anacostia Park. Those who stay on PA Ave. past L'Enfant Square are treated to the stately homes and leafy hills of Ward 7. However, most folks who don't live here think that everything east of the river is a blighted mess. Addressing the gateway is the first step toward addressing the perception problem.

On a related note, some work has been done recently in this section of PA Ave. A row of buildings was torn down to presumably build a new commercial building. I'm a bit disappointed that these buildings couldn't have been preserved, but at least *something* is being done about this area. If the new shopping center doesn't have parking out front I'll be happy, but I'm not holding my breath. Personally, I would have started fixing this area by tearing down one of the four gas stations, but I'm not the one with the money or the backhoe.

Anonymous said...

This is such an excellent point. All entry ways to Anacostia signal gloom and dilapidation. So no matter where you take someone after they have entered, their first impression coming off of the 11th Street Bridge or 395 looks really down and out. Anacostia needs green space, colorful buildings, less boarded up buildings, a little modern flair and more visible signs. Really just scraping off the grime to see the gem underneath.

Anonymous said...

I remember when the entrance to Anacostia used to be a mural of all the kids killed. Whatever, they have now is leaps and bounds ahead of that depressing mural.

Anonymous said...

Anacostia wants fine "quality of life" establishments in a community that is mostly struggling to have any kind of life - by DC standards.

Anacostia needs an "Extreme Makeover" or a "Game Changer" to change the dynamics and what people see coming off the bridge.

Otherwise, we will keep having enterprises that do little to improve the quality of life and empty storefronts.

I like my Anacostia, but the place is a straight up "ghost town" at night.....

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anacostique. The community needs to pace itself and create opportunities for existing residents to upgrade their lifestyles. While a few of us young pioneers may see this as a new opportunity for DC, we must also "spread the wealth around" -B.O., so everyone can enjoy any potential development.