On the fast-gentrifying 14th Street strip north of Logan Circle, Ted Puntanen is a regular. Puntanen works the sales desk at housewares shop Go Mama Go!, displays his oil pastels on the shop’s walls, and stops in for treatments at the Whitman-Walker Clinic. One day in April 2009, Puntanen was making his rounds when he noticed a party on the 1400 block of R Street.
“I saw the mayor right up the street, celebrating the opening with all the councilmembers,” he says. The “opening” that Puntanen refers to was not another high-priced grocery store or a luxe condo building. Quite the contrary: Mayor Adrian Fenty and Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans had gathered with residents and developers to toast an anti-gentrification milestone. Residents of the R Street Apartments – a series of five four-story buildings on the south side of R Street – had banded together to secure affordable housing on the block for the next 40 years.
To make it happen, the D.C. government partnered with the National Housing Trust and the Hampstead Development Group to funnel $24.5 million into the project. The D.C. Housing Finance Agency called the effort “a testimony to the power of the human spirit.”