Today, #HstreetDC is recognized as one of our city’s most exciting economic success stories. The corridor is home to thriving small businesses, new apartment buildings, a future Whole Foods, and falling crime rates. Soon, H Street’s tagline of “up and coming” will be outdated; it’ll simply be: up.
But H Street is also at a fork in the road. Despite a rich history as a hub of culture and a place where residents fought against segregated housing, police targeting, unequal access to education, and where they demanded economic opportunity, today, longtime H Street residents risk being forced out of their community due to rising property taxes and rents. And despite the surge of new businesses in the area, many H Street residents continue to lack jobs, adequate education, and the quality housing needed to thrive.
In this context, the challenge to new small businesses on H Street is clear: Will this be a place where new small business owners build with those who have long been there to ensure the area’s development benefits all, or will they crowd out longtime residents, ignore the best elements of the area’s proud history, and simply engage in a sprint to take over local commerce?
The right answer is also clear. On#smallbizsaturday, let’s not forget H Street’s proud history. Let’s encourage local businesses to act as agents of change by hiring, training, and supporting local residents and those facing all-too-common workforce barriers. H Street’s growth must be leveraged as an opportunity to build inclusive community, and local businesses are the catalyst.