26 November 2012
These signs, advertising the Flats at Atlas apartments, have been up for months in tree boxes in the blocks surrounding the building at 1600 Maryland Avenue NE.
A minute looking at the pictures of the faces on their website quickly tells you the people who these apartments are being marketed toward - twentysomething, single, well-to-do folks looking to live where there are a lot of bars and restaurants nearby.
While the building is located in the Carver Langston neighborhood, across the street from Trinidad, the advertising team chooses to claim the building is in the "H Street NE" neighborhood (and the name of the development obviously evokes the Atlas District).
Can you blame them? Their target demographic has certainly heard of H Street as a place where they can drink, eat, and have fun. The other two neighborhood names, if anyone has any clue about them, don't necessarily engender the same feelings. The fact, though, is that the building is on the periphery of the H Street commercial district, not right in the heart of it all, as they might like you to believe.
What bugs me most is the first two words at the top of the sign.
The term "pioneer" is defined as a person who is among those who first enter or settle a region, thus opening it for occupation and development by others.
From a simple reading, one could infer that this apartment building has been built in an empty place, and that's true, from a very narrow point of view. The lot was vacant for years before the Flats went up, though imagine if the very solid Sears and Roebuck building (seen here) was still there.
From a broader point-of-view, the area is nowhere near empty. The "pioneers" of this area arrived in the first half of the last century. Most of the buildings on the surrounding blocks were built sometime in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. Some of those "pioneers" still live in the area, while many have been replaced by generations of new arrivals, coming in changing waves of class, color, and creed.
The "Urban Pioneers" branding that the Flats at Atlas has chosen essentially says "Hey, nothing was here before you. This place has no history, there was nothing of importance before YOU moved in." That's myopic, shallow, and simplistic.
What's not too late, though, is for those who live in the new apartments and their neighbors on the surrounding blocks to get to know each other, despite the marketing team's willful ignorance of the latter.