The continued influx of new, affluent homeowners and the conversion of apartment houses into family homes seem to have diminished the numbers of late-night loiterers, residents say. Laura Lee Garrett, president of the West Grace Street Association, says that unlike a decade ago, she hardly ever sees prostitutes outside her home in the 2500 block.
One Realtor says when he began his career in 1969, houses were selling for $6,000 to $7,000 (anywhere from $29,000 to $35,000 in today's dollars, using rough cost-of-living estimates). Now, he says, typical prices for a single-family home in good condition range from $265,000 to $325,000. Even a gutted house in need of renovation can sell for $300,000.
It's widely believed that nowhere else in America do transvestite streetwalkers stand outside luxury homes, according to some residents. "We will laugh about it and shrug it off," says 22-year resident Roy E. Burgess II. "But it's an embarrassment."
The juxtaposition can't continue forever, Garrett says. "I think that improvement of the neighborhood, and increases in property value, and more owner-occupants of the houses is what's going to have more effect than anything else, even police enforcement. It has to be just a neighborhood where it's not comfortable for that activity."
The biggest problem is not the business itself, but what comes along with it, Burgess says: "The traffic, and the drugs. And the noise, because at three o'clock in the morning they're outside your window and they're yelling at a car. 'Hey honey! Whatcha' doing?' You live on the corner, you hear high heels clicking at two o'clock in the morning." More gravely, he says, female residents of the area have been accosted by men in cars.
Residents have tried everything. They tip off the police, patrol the neighborhood, even chase the streetwalkers with brooms, says one. It's not hard to chase the prostitutes away, residents say, but the law can't solve the problem. "If the police do a sting in our area, it'll move up in Chamberlayne, Jeff Davis Highway," Burgess says. "And then when they hit 'em over there, they move back. I mean, these people aren't going out of business. We just want them out of our neighborhood, as do other neighborhoods."
MELISSA SCOTT SINCLAIR