Aurora McLellan and Lily Yamashita-Kenny

The Demographics of Gentrification

The Historic District of Hyattsville is a place of prominent gentrification in the city of Hyattsville. Gentrification is most commonly understood as the renewal and restoration of run down areas via the influx of upper and middle class residents resulting in the displacement of the previous and poorer residents. Below are three graphs discussing race, age, and income--only a few factors that are related to the phenomenon of gentrification. In order to look at the demographics specifically in the Historic District of Hyattsville we looked at data according to the zip code of the district from the Census Bureau. We also compared the population’s data overtime from the Census Bureau in 2000 and the American Community Survey (the five year estimate) from 2014.

Figure 1 is a population pyramid which shows the population of the Historic District of Hyattsville by Age and Race. The pyramid is separated into five categories of race: white alone, black alone, American Indian/ Alaska Native combined with some other race alone and two or more races, Asian alone combined with Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander, and Hispanic/Latino Many residents lie between the ages of 35 and 54 years. Most residents in the Historic District of Hyattsville are White alone, Black alone, and Hispanic or Latino.

Figure 2 looks at race in the Historic District of Hyattsville in 2000 vs. in 2014. The majority of residents are either white alone or black alone. It is clear that from 2000 to 2014 there was a significant increase in white residents and decrease in black residents. While gentrification is not always defined by white residents pushing minority residents out it is a common side effect. Earlier HPA’s expansion, which occurred in the early 2000s, was noted--it is interesting that once more resources were dedicated to the restoration of the historic district that there was a sudden increase in the white population.

Figure 3 compares household income in the overall city of Hyattsville and the Historic District of Hyattsville. While there is not a distinct pattern in this comparison of incomes it is interesting to note that in the second highest income margin there is a much larger percent of people from the Historic District of Hyattsville.


The table below shows the year some businesses opened in the Historic District. These 6 restaurants and stores are ones that we personally visited and were able to find out the opening dates of. It is clear, however, that the majority of the stores in the Historic District are very new and each place has a very specific aesthetic. All of the stores have a very youthful vibe or a vintage aesthetic.

Business Year Opened
Franklins Restaurant Brewery/ General Store 1992
Yes! Organic Foods 2007
Elevation Burger 2008
Arrow Bicycles 2008
Busboys and Poets 2011
Vigilante Coffee 2012

Downtown historic Hyattsville is clustered around Baltimore Avenue (Route 1) and runs parallel to the train tracks. Driving north on Baltimore Avenue, you’ll see small clusters of newly built shopping and business centers that include restaurants like Busboys and Poets, and chipotle and jimmy johns. Behind these businesses are newly built apartments and condo developments. On the left side of route one there are four or five square blocks of new built row houses with a synthetic cozy neighborhood feel. South of these developments there are older historic buildings including banks, auto body shops, general stores, and old movie theaters. The further right and left you go away from route 1, the more older craftsman style and victorian era houses you’ll find.There are small parks at each end of the main strip of Route 1.

Hyattsville has a lively downtown district. The historic area has a sense of new life and regeneration. Every direction you look there are new businesses and housing. The sidewalks are not crowded but definitely full of life. Small young families, young adult couples, and teenagers come in and out of cafes, organic groceries stores, and bookstores. The housing developments and neighborhoods surrounding this cluster of shopping are just as lively. If you drive through these neighborhoods, you’ll see families with kids riding bikes, people jogging, walking dogs, and kids walking home from school. The families I observed were almost equally white, black and Hispanic. Even the developments had a sense of life, and community. Although the neighborhood felt synthetic and and a little fake, they were well inhabited and flourishing. Once you move past the development neighborhoods, just a couple streets over, the houses turn to quiet beautiful suburbs. Craftsman and victorian style houses line the streets. Most of the houses look very well kept. Drive a little further south on Baltimore Ave, and there is remanence of older Hyattsville. A general store, an old tire store and a lot of dilapidated buildings including what looks like an abandoned auto body shop and a bank.The entire town had a lot of murals and community art spaces. Older abandoned buildings seemed to have a fresh coat of white paint and then murals painted across the walls. Small sculpture gardens occupied what looked like previously abandoned lots. Hyattsville also seems to be a central hub in PG County especially around the courthouse area. People in this area were dressed in more business professional attire. Hispanic culture is strongly shown by various Dominican and Puerto Rican hair salons as well as multiple Latinx restaurants. There seemed to be multiple dilapidated larger buildings that looked like they could have previously been government buildings but also many run down religious centers.

Busboys and Poets

One of the newer restaurants in the Historic District is Busboys and Poets which opened in 2011. Busboys and Poets is an extremely hip location to have breakfast, lunch, or dinner it also hosts many events for the community and has a bookstore connected to it. Busboys and Poets has a very cozy feel, while there are formal tables and bars to sit at there are also many comfy chairs to sit and eat in as well. It is a very well lit space and feels very open. The walls are covered in pictures of many important historical figures like Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Langston Hughes to name a few. Busboys and Poets does not just acknowledge political activists but also extremely influential writers and artists. It is clear that Busboys and Poets is very supportive of the active and artistic community in Hyattsville. Busboys and Poets’ “Tribal Statement” is as follows: “Busboys and Poets is a community where racial and cultural connections are consciously uplifted...a place to take a deliberate pause and feed your mind, body and soul...a space for art, culture and politics to intentionally collide...we believe that by creating such a space we can inspire social change and begin to transform our community and the world”. Busboys and Poets statement relates very closely to the changes occurring in the Historic District of Hyattsville since a lot of art installations have recently been incorporated into the area like murals and sculptures.

Busboys and Poets definitely has an artsy aesthetic most would associate with millennials and hipsters--this also goes along with the aesthetic that gentrification is associated with. During two separate trips to Busboys and Poets we experienced very different crowds; however, the staff was the same both times--mostly black and minorities were working there. One Saturday morning the restaurant was filled with middle aged white people and families while on a Wednesday afternoon it was filled with a youthful and multicultural crowd to match the staff. We think that the Wednesday afternoon crowd is more representative of the Historic District of Hyattsville since it was similar to the staff and it is possible many families ventured out to the Historic District on a Saturday morning. However, both observations hint toward the gentrification that is taking place in the Historic District. This area of Hyattsville is an up and coming area that is receiving a lot of attention in the form of: resources, millennials, and upper/middle class predominantly white residents.

While exploring the Historic District we spoke to a couple people in the community about it’s history and how they view the community currently. A 27 year old woman who’s a waitress at Busboys and poets said that over the past 5-7 years, the neighborhood has seen a huge increase in younger families and post college young adults. She said she moved to the area just as most of the shops opened in downtown and with the shops, brought a lot of business and customers. She says that the downtown area of Hyattsville values artist as contributing members of the community and has becoming a space to come together as a community and share ideas. We also spoke to a woman who worked at Franklin's general store. She was telling me about the owner of the store, and how he bought that building in 1991 to preserve the history of the place. He wanted to keep intact the feeling of a small community and bring back small businesses in the area.