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Surviving the Future
Photo: Drouu
It takes a special eye to look at a weed-choked empty lot festooned with broken bottles and rusty metal objects—to look beyond the sour-smelling earth and rustling sounds of mice and rats to see a high-rise building that provides luxurious apartments, sleek offices, and chic retail shops.

On the other hand, some residents are opposed to such high density development projects. Even though the scary vermin-laden lot will be put to use, the neighborhood dynamics will be permanently adjusted. Not everyone will have a place in the sleek upscale setting.

When developers acquire land, the urban landscape changes like in the story printed July 24, 2006, in the Washington Post. Writers Dana Hedgpeth and Chris Kirkham penned the following report.

“A parcel that the District [of Columbia] got in a land swap with developer Kingdon Gould III this year was widely portrayed as the last real estate needed to build the District’s biggest hotel on the site of the old convention center.

“Not quite. There are still a few more sites, including the Central Safe and Locksmith Co. at Ninth and L streets NW.

Part of the Neighborhood

“It’s been a part of the neighborhood for more than 50 years, and Whit Conway doesn’t really want to move.

“I have no idea what’s going to happen,’ said Conway, 35, who bought the business seven years ago from the family that started it. He also leases the building form them. Conway had worked at the shop in the summer when he was a student at Gonzaga College High School.

“D.C. officials want hotel giant Marriott International of Bethesda and its partner Robert L. Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television, to build a 1,434-room hotel at Massachusetts Avenue and Ninth Street NW on land that includes what is now mostly a parking lot and the locksmith’s shop.

“The District approved legislation this summer for the $550 million hotel deal, which includes $135 million in tax-increment financing, and authorized the use of eminent domain if needed to acquire the site of Conway’s shop and two other small remaining parcels. Construction of the hotel is expected to start late next year, and it will probably open in 2010.

“For Conway, it means trying to keep his store open day to day.”

The article shared more of the history of the shop, including that it moved four times in the past decades because of other development projects. If the District negotiates for the property, it will do so only with the owner of the property—not owners of businesses who lease property.

Think about the independent businesses in your community. Consider how they contribute to the charm and character of your area. How can development take place for the future while preserving the best elements of the past? What is really in the best interests of the community?

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