Rhode Island Avenue Gentrification Project

Courtesy of Claire Prudhomme

By Claire Prudhomme

The Rhode Island Avenue project is continuing to add two more projects that will add an additional 350 apartments and condos to the area. The units will be added on a 2-acre plot with the project being a $100M dollar investment. There is also another building under the same developer that has 47 new units being built as well. 

These are just a couple of projects being produced nearby the neighborhood of Brookland, a movement seeming to gentrify and renew the area. Brookland has such a deep history but this is often overshadowed by recent years of crime within the neighborhood. Before Brookland was subdivided, it was an area mostly focused on rural farm working. 

In the 1870s, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad had a western branch that ran through this area, this rail line helped evolve the area. The line was also beside the Brooks mansion, a local farmhouse that inspired the future name of Brookland. Catholic University was established in 1887, which created a sense of urgency for local developers. 

In the 1930s, Brookland was an area that was not restricted to whites only; this attracted a great deal of African-Americans and a more racially mixed population. Brookland has a history of a revolutionary, racially mixed neighborhood and a high level of civic activism.

New developments in the twenty-first century, especially in areas like D.C. put an emphasis on gentrification. Gentrification, rapid re-development and economic growth of an area draws in higher-income families and drives out the lower-income families. Unfortunately, this means the whole history of Brookland and its emphasis on diversity and civic duty seems to be undermined by the growth in development in the area.

In a modern view Brookland and its curbside appeal as a “hipster” area, brings in families or young professionals who receive a high income that competes with the low-income families that live in the area. This drives out locals and families who have been here for decades, families who have established this area as their living space. 

For CUA this means a couple of things: Off-campus living, with an increase in development in the area, especially with gentrification, will cause an increase in rent. Affordable apartments and condos, may now increase in rent and cause swell in housing prices around the area. On the other hand, the increase in housing on Rhode Island Avenue and around the area may bring more attention to CatholicU and the Brookland area, which means more shops and attractions in the immediate area. 

The impending growth brought by the new units on Rhode Island Ave and in other locations around CUA’s campus may change the entire vibe of the area. We cannot predict if Brookland’s original history and depth will be secured with the growth of a newer and more youthful hipster area.

1 thought on “Rhode Island Avenue Gentrification Project”

  1. Thank you, Claire, for reporting on life outside the campus boundaries. It’s important to recognize the pros and cons of “gentrification.” As you’ve indicated, it often means that families who have been the backbone of a particular neighborhood get priced out. In a city like DC, it tends to mean that Black residents are replaced by white ones.

    One indication worth investigating: is ANY of the new housing in the Rhode Island Avenue area designated “affordable,” ‘subsidized,” or “middle income?” Or is it more high-end condos starting at $$ half a million? Often times, developers do this because it’s in city law, or it has been negotiated, not out of the goodness of their hearts.

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