Friday, January 21, 2011

The New Southeast

It was time to go and visit the family again in the Washington/Baltimore part of the country. I had pledged that I would try and return home more frequently outside of the Christmas holidays as my niece and nephews were growing rapidly. Being from a large family there is rarely time to visit everyone I'd like while in the area but there is also the desire to be a simple tourist while in the nation's capital as well. Even for those who have lived in the area and moved away such as myself it is always good to stroll along the Mall or find some new part of town to discover, particularly if recent redevelopment has altered the area from what it once was.

Southeast DC is synonymous with the most dangerous quadrant of the city and a well earned reputation it was until now. Long associated with such no-go areas as Anacostia and Minnesota Avenue, everyone in Washington will tell you that the south end of the Green Line is for locals only. At the same time, The Southeast was infamous for having some of the best warehouse dance clubs in town including such venues as Nation and Tracks where it was all about the party and not always so much about the gender! The yuppies looking for a thrill, the gay underground and the urban all came together at one of these two haunts and usually one and all came away alive and in one piece.

All of that is gone now in the area along South Capitol Street. Though Anacostia is still just across the river along with the five other stations at the end of the Green Line the gentrification of Southeast DC has definitely begun. Washingtonians are quite accustomed to taking the Metro to the stadium to root for their favorite team only now instead of the Redskins at RFK it is the Nationals baseball team at Nationals Park, served by the Navy Yard Metro Station. Where once there were clubs even lower on the scale than Nation and Tracks there is a shining temple to America's favorite pastime. Where there were decaying factories, slums, taxi garages and rib shacks there are gleaming condominium towers and new shops along M Street SE and even a Five Guys outlet hardly a block from the new Department of Transportation facility.

The ballpark is not quite on the water in similar fashion to AT&T Park in San Francisco but there is a marina not too far away for those so inclined. With professional employers like the DOT in the area the Southeast is certainly being provided with every opportunity to improve beyond the facelift of a sports stadium and a few overpriced condos. It has every chance of coming, finally, in to its own if not necessarily rivaling Georgetown for cache and appeal. I truly enjoyed my couple of hours in the area.

Yes, only a couple of hours. There was a game on that afternoon but I didn't have tickets and I needed to get back north to my family in the Maryland suburbs. Plus, the Southeast is still a work in progress; like any other inner urban area there remain pockets where the lost are not often found again. The city is off to a good start but where the area once was no-go unless you're brave it has at least transformed in to an area where you and your family can travel safely but go with a purpose and leave with the rest of the crowd.

Gotta go.

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