A Project for Better Journalism chapter

A broken foundation

The population of Prince George’s County is now suffering from gentrification. In Hyattsville, Maryland there has been an increase in home values, with a differentiating racial demographics and higher incomes.

For one student, senior Samuel Obasi, gentrification is a circumstance that has come to change the lives of PG’s community.

“Gentrification has played a role in my life and it’s definitely taken a toll on my pockets,” said Obasi. “I went to get a haircut the other day and to my surprise, I was being taxed more than usual.”

Gentrification, something that is very popular in D.C.,  has now made its way to Prince George’s County. According to Capital News Service, subdivisions including Chillum, Bladensburg, Riverdale and Hyattsville have become wealthier and whiter, causing their home values to increase faster than the rest of PG County since 2009. This mirrors changes happening in nearby Northeast Washington, D.C.

During this same time period, the population of black residents decreased in these areas and increased in the county’s outer suburbs. This indicated that the inner suburbs are gentrifying.  For example, in Riverdale the population of black residents decreased by about 26 percent from 2009 to 2014.

Gentrification has not gone by unnoticed. It is so noticeable, in fact, that senior Jennifer Perea, who resides in Riverdale, has been conducting research on gentrified neighborhoods for her extended essay in the IB program.

On Riverdale Rd, there were many homes that had to be torn down and many families had to look for other places to live. This was done in order for the new Purple Line on the metro to pass through.

“How can they begin constructing the Purple line in Riverdale when there hasn’t been a safe pedestrian walk implemented down the street near the Megamart?” Perea asked. “I have so many questions in regards to this construction because the community is not aware of how many more homes will have to be torn down or even where these people are going. In addition to all of that, Riverdale doesn’t even have a town hall so that these questions can be answered for the community.”

Gentrification, however, has very little to do with currently-residing inhabitants of an area and more so to do with development and well, money.

“When developers can’t build in D.C. anymore they’re going to start looking elsewhere,” said Dr. Carolyn Gallaher, political geographer and associate professor in the School of International Service at American University in Washington, D.C. “Poor neighborhoods with high crime rates and little new development eventually become prime targets for companies and real estate developers looking to build.”

When retailers that cater to a wealthier income group begin to open, gentrification is often not far behind, hence the Purple line and increase in home prices.

“I used to visit the bakery after making transactions at the Bank of America, but now I can’t because they were forced to relocate due to the construction of the Purple line,” said Perea. “It’s gentrification, that’s what it is.”

The Purple line is scheduled to be up and running in 2023, at the latest. Until then, communities across PG County will watch as their neighborhoods transcend into something totally different from what they first met.