Before the Nats game last night I met a friend on "The Hill" for a drink at a well known bar across the street from Eastern Market. My journey through the hood got me to thinking about how far the area had come since my first journey there in 2001. The answer was simple - it has possibly gone backwards.
Tunnicliff's now has ahi tuna on the menu and sleek downtown-ish feel inside, but is an outlier when it comes the neighborhood as a whole. It's like the part of DC that time forgot. Better yet, it's the part of DC the city forgot to update, maintain or care about.
I've never been all that enamored with Easter Market - it's mostly people selling shit other people threw away the day before and the market smells like an open sewer. The overall feel of the place is bathroom in Mexico-ish.
I'm one of the few people not blinded by the faux visceral experience of shopping at a market like Easter Market. Privileged white people think its neat to pretend to go to the market like billions of poor people around the world who are forced to do so due to severe poverty, lack of a strong centralized government and a general absence of the sophisticated distribution of foodstuffs we enjoy in America. It's a wonder people have not grown wise to the place, but then again there's a pride inside people for things I'll never understand (think Starbucks people over-paying for coffee and being happy about it to the point of incessant bragging).
My walk through the area was as it was in 2001 - a little scary, but mostly just dirty, dingy and out of date. Every other house was tended to while all the others looked rundown and uncared for. Nothing screamed "people here love this neighborhood." It's almost 12 years later and nothing much has changed on Capitol Hill while many other neighborhoods in DC have completely reinvented themselves (U Street corridor, H Street etc et al). Why?
I'm guessing it has something to do with the transient nature of hill staff and others who choose to live there. They don't buy, they rent for a bit and then move on. Landlords collect rent checks, refuse to reinvest in their properties and feel no pain as places to lay your head near the Capitol are in high demand. General infrastructure such as sidewalks, curb and gutter are the city's problem and only fixed when some kind of political or property value pressure is applied. I don't think Capitol Hill can bring either of those.
Where's the investment in real estate you see everywhere else? Big mixed use buildings so plentiful everywhere else have evaded the one area they'd be most likely to flourish - a place where people need to rent, not buy. I know that the process is slow, but is it decades slow? Other neighborhoods have proved it doesn't take that long.
Now I know why when my Capitol Hill friends come visit me in Clarendon they practically race home to start packing. What's convenience matter when you have to sacrifice any hint of quality?