Look, I'm not negating how important it is to discuss issues like gentrification in this city, where the demographics are undergoing radical change. In fact, that's a discussion that should happen more. But the topic shouldn't be automatically invoked just whenever something new is developed in a neighborhood outside of the NW quadrant. I'm certain some of that is going on here. One $5 soda, does not a whole neighborhood displace.
On the other side of this gentrification topic, though, is a valid point worth further exploration. Pointed out by WeLoveDC, a popular about-town blog, "The rebuilt marketplace building houses a number of vendors hawking upscale goods, and only one of two [sic] of the old vendors were able to come back [after an October 2011 fire]. Before [the fire], this was a local neighborhood marketplace with family-run stalls. Now, it’s (lots) more upscale."
The question remains, were the old vendors not welcomed back or did they choose not to come back? If one's to believe Union Market's website, it would seem like the latter. When talking about the history of the market, the site reads, "When the aging industrial spaces began to show signs of wear and tear and many of the original merchants left the area for modern distribution centers and supermarkets in the suburbs."
Best case scenario is that as the market begins to fill more of its stalls (right now, only about half are occupied), more of the older neighborhood vendors will be attracted to the new atmosphere. Time will tell, but by no means should speculation keep anyone away. If anything's gonna unite people from all backgrounds, it's an A. Litteri sammie packed to it's bread gills with Italian meats piled high. Whether you opt to wash it down with an artisanal blood orange soda or a BYO-Squirt® is up to you.—MP