I spent a sleepless night thinking about progress in Ward 8 and I worried.
The Advoc8te is a night owl and an early riser. I never sleep late and I am always catching a few hours here and there. But last night I couldn’t sleep at all, I kept thinking about my early months in Ward 8 when I bought a cute one-bedroom condo in Congress Heights in the fall of 2007. I remember being shocked there wasn’t a grocery store in the entire ward and I remember being shocked that an entire ward of 72,000 people — DC residents — couldn’t as much as buy a loaf of bread or a carton of milk in their own zip code. How was that possible? How was that okay?
So when I learned there was a Giant coming to the Parklands Shopping Center on Alabama Avenue I was excited! Not just at the idea of that I could drive to a grocery store, only 7 minutes from my house, but that this must have been the beginning of the revitalization to come to Ward 8. A new grocery store (the first in 20 years) along with promises of development of the Saint Elizabeths West and East campuses must be proof that my home purchase in Congress Heights was a “good investment” and sound.
That was 2008.
Fast forward a decade, I no longer shop at that Giant off of Alabama Avenue. I stopped making the commute probably five or six years ago. I had long ago been disappointed by the long check-out lines, dulled floors and windows and the food options that were somewhat limited, my quest for frozen edamame always ending in defeat.
Now I do 99.5% of my grocery shopping at the Trader Joe’s in Capitol Hill or the Harris Teeter in Navy Yard and I am sure soon at the new Whole Foods just blocks away. Also a seven minute commute, this one takes me down MLK, past the fenced off and inaccessible Gateway DC and R.I.S.E. Center to turn on Malcolm X to observe the same sadness and tragedy of the “park,” it’s occupants vacant-eyed and defeated. The park’s floor, hard packed earth, devoid of grass but littered with the sparkle of discarded liquor bottles and trash.
And I continue my drive down Malcolm X Avenue and enter 295 and head westward, over the river once again to purchase food stuffs, surrounded by the restaurants, gyms and coffee shops that still remain, 10 years later, out of our Ward 8 reach.