My objective for week #6 was to learn about the prosperity of Chinatown residents, workers, and visitors.

CityLab's definition of "Inclusive Prosperity" in livable cities.

Economic Challenges in Chinatown

As Professor Thompson says, "A livable neighborhood is an affordable neighborhood." Chinatown has struggled with a mix of rising rents and gentrification, significant inequality, and high crime rates.

Chinatown's restaurant scene in particular is a tragic story of sudden closures over the past few years:

Once-Hot Happy Hour Spot Bar Louie Closes in Chinatown
The old school gastropub suddenly shuttered 38 U.S. locations
Chinatown Tapas Bar La Tasca Closes in a Rush Without Warning Employees
Plus, Navy Yard’s Italian-Asian cafe is almost here
Fado Irish Pub In Chinatown is Closing ... But Not Because Of Coronavirus
“We just could not renew our lease,” the owners wrote.

The list goes on. And it's not just restaurants that have gone out of business. In January 2023, Chinatown Regal Cinema was reportedly closing due to leasing issues. They fortunately managed to stay open under new management, but it was reportedly a close call.

The closures have made way for more chains like Poke Papa and Sharetea. We also see a larger contingent of yogis and lifters heading to CorePower studios and Equinox.

Yet the gentrification and influx of money has not stopped the high crime rate, which continues to pull down foot traffic of potential customers for both new and old businesses. Likewise, large numbers of homeless and drug dealers gather on H Street and are left undisturbed by social workers and law enforcement. As I walked along H Street last week, I overheard a woman tell her husband, "I always forget to avoid this area..."

Poor-quality Staff in Chinatown

As I've said many times in this blog, I love my Chinatown neighborhood. However, I do not enjoy interacting with local businesses.

This problem is not limited to one store. At the T-Mobile located on 7th Street, I was told to call customer service myself to switch over to their network. While doing so, I witnessed a male staff member scrolling through a customer's Instagram while pretending to help her. The local Walgreens staff frequently yells at each other. The local Cava staff ignores customers unless they ask if they're taking orders. The local UPS store regularly closes well before its closing hours. In short, there is a failing culture among workers in this neighborhood that cannot be attributed to low wages (other DC stores offer similar wages and are fine) or insufficient training (these are franchises) or my own unfounded grievances (I am happy with all other DC stores). I remain unsure why this culture exists, but I'm sure it's hurting the community's prosperity.