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Residents Forced Out of Washington, D.C.'s Chinatown

Can a neighborhood still call itself Chinatown when everyone living there is wealthy and white? Beset by rapid gentrification, longtime residents of D.C.'s Chinatown fight to keep their homes.
August 3, 2015, 6am PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Desiree Kane

Expensive new condos loom over Chinatown's Friendship Archway in Washington D.C. Amid such vigorous gentrification, residents worry as "an ethnic enclave of mom-and-pop storefronts [will] be transformed into a kitschy block where Chipotle is written in Chinese characters — and luxury condos and glittering nightspots."

For the Washington Post, Yanan Wang writes about ongoing displacement. "It was about a year ago that residents of [Jenny] Tang's apartment complex, Museum Square, received demolition notices. The building houses roughly half of Chinatown's remaining Chinese community, and although many could not read what was written in the English-language letters from the building's owner, their African American neighbors helped them to understand: the building's Section 8 contract was due to expire, and the owner planned to demolish their tawny home to make way for a new development."

"'Rich people would never have lived here before, but we've set down our roots,” [resident Jianhong Wang] says. 'Now that circumstances are better, they're trying to buy everything.'" [...] Resident Tie-Sheng Dai writes, "'Our vision of the country has been disrupted by a greedy owner who hasn't lived here a single day.'"

There are some willing to defend the beleaguered residents. "The D.C. Council passed emergency legislation in March to protect residents from Bush's high asking price." Non-Chinese community leaders have also come forward. Bush Companies is asking $800,000 per apartment.

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Published on Saturday, July 18, 2015 in The Washington Post
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