| By Paul Abowd |
Sometimes a fresh coat of paint is all it takes. That’s the city’s idea in Petworth, where D.C.’s Office of Planning merged art and urban redevelopment in April, teaming with a local foundation and an out-of-town design firm to host an street art project at the intersection of Colorado and 14th Avenues Northwest.
At the event, organizers handed out copies of the city’s renovation plan (PDF), called the Central 14th Street Vision Plan and Revitalization Strategy, for this historically black, middle-class neighborhood. In the plan, Petworth is described as a gritty and hip, relatively low-rent “arts-based niche” neighborhood. With this brand in mind, city planners are banking on the arrival of industrious, young creative types — to help pound down a few nails.
People talk about gentrification in code: “changing” neighborhoods combine an influx of “artists,” (young, white, and educated) and “young professionals” (more tucked-in, well-heeled versions of the former), with “longtime residents,” (black residents, many in an older age bracket—who comprised 88 percent of Petworth’s community in 1990 but 57 percent by 2010, according to D.C.’s Urban Institute).