I love watching areas go from urban blight to prime real estate. 14th and U is a great example; when I was in high school, the very names of the streets carried horrible stigmas, but nowadays that corner is perhaps one of the most famous non-government areas of DC. Okay, maybe after Georgetown... but even parts Georgetown were very neglected while I was growing up.
Yes, in a perfect world, we'll all have our four story house in Kalorama right near a Metro station and some nice shops. But the fact of the matter is that the meat and potatoes of a city's population can't afford to live in such fancy digs, and it is unwise to over-gentrify a city for this reason. Plumbers, teachers, fire fighters, custodians, and other working class professionals demand more moderately priced housing.
Gentrification can be a good thing for some parts of a city. But recently I came across one very controversial blogger (warning: coarse language) from Brooklyn who is an extreme case of just howout of control gentrification can get. Gentrification causes tension between socio-economic classes, which often translates into racial tension. Even when it doesn't, it prices out workers who are vital to the day-to-day function of a city... the EMTs, bus drivers, carpenters, police officers, and mechanics. These (and countless others) are all noble professions vital to any community. It sends the very wrong kind of message when a city forces out its lower-wage residents.
But this is no reason to stop progress in working-class neighborhoods. There is a right way to fix these areas. It can be cost effective and productive for the city, and it doesn't have to include wholesale outpricing of the neighborhood's residents. One such project in Southeast (tip: River East Idealist) has shown that an area can be rehabilitated while keeping the people who brought the sense of community there. The investment in the Wheeler Terrace development was largely the product of the residents, who, faced with losing their homes to gentrification, fought to have their development refurbished instead of razed in favor of luxury condos.
Though this level of community activism is admirable, it shouldn't take this much effort for a struggling community (particularly one neglected by the city for so long) to keep their homes while the neighborhood recieves a makeover. Mixed use and mixed income ought to come with new developments, but older working-class residential developments should not be stomped out when a city gets refurbished. They ought to recieve the type of elbow grease that encourages their working class residents to want to live there, a sign that their city recognizes its need for a blue collar workforce