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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Why Development Hasn't and Isn’t Skipping Over Shaw

Last Thursday I was interviewed for an upcoming Post article about development (or the lack thereof) in the Shaw neighborhood. A lot of the interview focused on why I bought in Shaw and on what I’ve observed and what I forecast in terms of development. I tried to stress that I didn’t buy in Shaw just to make a buck--that I’m not just “waiting” for the area to change--but that I want to be an active player in and observer of our area's renewal. There are a lot of great things about the neighborhood as it is that drew me to Shaw. I love our diversity and rich history, I love the architecture in Shaw, and I find convenient Shaw’s proximity to a lot of things, including Logan Circle, 14th Street, U Street, and downtown. I also have a growing number of friends in or close to Shaw, which is a big draw.

There is, admittedly, a lot of yet-to-be realized potential. That's not to say that development has "skipped" over Shaw, however, as others posit. Rather, development has been ongoing. As for widespread infill and renewal of vacant structures, I think the timing just hasn't been right and the forces haven't aligned as they are aligning now. I believe we're going to see major changes in the next five to ten years, and here are some of the things I point to for believing so:

1. The Convention Center and the New Convention Center Hotel – the Convention Center already draws people to our neighborhood; the new hotel (which reportedly must open by 2010 or the convention center will start losing bookings) will keep convention foot traffic north of Massachusetts Avenue, thus helping our retail/galleries/restaurants. Based on my Internet research, it seems that construction *should* commence in 2008. We need to hold the Fenty administration accountable to getting this project on track and on time.

2. Proximity to Everything – our easy access to downtown (I mean, many of us can WALK to work--that's huge), the Capitol, the Metro (the green AND yellow lines run through our neighborhood), the interstate, museums, U Street, 14th Street, the Circulator, etc. make us a naturally appealing spot in which to reside. Indeed, it seems we might be the most convenient urban neighborhood in D.C. given our connectivity and proximity to everything.

3. Development Trends in D.C. – development is moving our way. From the west, Logan Circle (which technically used to be Shaw) is already a safe, beautiful, and desirable area in which to reside. Compare what Logan is now to what it was ten years ago, and the eastern movement of renewal is apparent. From the South, Chinatown and Gallery Place are booming, and growth to the north is natural, especially with the convention center and the metro aiding growth. To an extent, saturation of these hot real estate markets seems to be a necessary predicate to Shaw's development boom.

4. Big Projects Underway in Shaw – several large projects planned for Shaw, like the O Street Market and the Broadcast One Center, will be catalysts for growth and renewal. Although Shaw citizens are tiring of unfulfilled promises on the commencement of these projects, I truly think some of these large projects are going to move forward soon (e.g., the O Street Market sounds like a very viable project, anchored by Giant--a store busting at its current seems--and a senior living facility--a major market need). Once these projects are on line and brimming with residents and businesses, ancillary development will surely occur. The Exchange at 9th and N is another example of a catalyst project. It's well under construction and set to open in early 2008. It will likely do a lot for the 1300 block of 9th.

5. Change in the Local Political Environment - The political environment in Shaw has already changed considerably over the past few years. The wonderful (contrast in) leadership that Kevin Chapple has already brought to Leroy's former seat on the ANC and the increasing number of responsible, active, concerned, invested, and impassioned citizens create an environment that fosters development. The surge in Shaw blogs, and the increased accountability/information sharing produced by such, evidence the change in the political atmosphere.

6. More Accountability Regarding Vacant Structures - Related to point #5 above, historically bad stewards of vacant properties (like Shiloh Baptist Church) are being held accountable for their real estate holdings. I know of efforts underway to make sure that property taxes on vacant structures are collected and maximized, which will hopefully prompt these bad neighbors to action (sell or rehab).

That’s not to say that we don’t have our challenges. I’d say the biggest three things hurting us are 1) Crime, especially the recent surge in violent crime (check out this interesting piece on crime and urban renewal; I read it in USA Today while traveling for work last week); 2) The number of low income housing projects—-in contrast to mixed income housing, which is less conducive to crime and more socially responsible than traditional public housing--is a red flag to many developers; and 3) The reputation of the schools in our area discourages many families from setting down roots. Although slower than desired, these deterrents are slowly being addressed (e.g., various crime fighting efforts being implemented currently, the Kelsey Gardens complex goes off line soon, the Fenty administration has made the school system a priority focus).

Anyway, all to say, I love Shaw for what it was, is and will be, and am happy I moved here.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think you bring up a lot of great points...and although we can't ignore the serious issues that have been occurring in Shaw, this neighborhood has a lot of positive trends working for it...

We need to keep reminding our elected officials who their constituents are...taxpayers residing in Shaw - not churchgoers from MD...

Also, on a smaller scale, we need to stay on top of any and all graffiti (whether that's through the city or taking direct action ourselves), and pick up the trash that litters our streets...

Although there are no easy solutions to the crime we've been experiencing, we CAN have a direct impact on keeping the streets clean and the buildings free of graffiti...as friends and potential homebuyers visit us in Shaw, they need to see the streets and the buildings as clean as other parts of the city...

Shaw Rez said...

Very good calls, Anon. As soon as the weather warms, I'm going to commence my graffiti paint over efforts. Many thanks to long-timers who have been fighting Shaw's ghetto-fication, like Ray M., who continue to teach me that actions speak louder than words (blogged or not).

Anonymous said...

Great piece! I couldn't agree more with all of your points...also, it's nice to recall that several great additions to our neighborhood have been made within the last few years alone -- Azi's Cafe, Vegetate, BeBar, Long View Gallery, Old Dominion, the Space, etc...some very nice things are afoot! I think 9th Street already looks a whole lot different than it did just a few years ago...

I think another huge catalyst in the neighborhood will be the redevelopment of the Old Convention Center site ...that will bring a TON more people, shops, workers, etc. within a stone's throw of our area (as well as becoming a nice resource for the Shaw neighborhood)..

Last, I just want to say that the increased blogging is a great sign for our neighborhood -- so THANK YOU!! it's nice to know what's happening, and to know that there are others who really care about Shaw and its future.

Carrie Broadshoulders said...

I live in what I refer to as Logan though it's 10th street so it's sort of on the border between the two neighborhoods. 9th Street is far different than it was two years ago. And is only getting better. Rhode Island Ave needs some work if you ask me but it'll come. What kills me is that stretch of 11th Street between Mass and Rhode Island. It's like that street was completely skipped when redevelopment took place in Logan/Shaw.

Also, the convention center hotel will not open prior to 2011. The plan is that it will take nearly four years from when they break ground to complete it and the ground breaking is being hung up by typical DC bullshit politics. And you're right, the city is losing business because conventions are waiting for confirmation on the hotel before they are willing to consider coming to DC. And the new hotel will be a Marriott so you can start calling it the Marriott at the Convention Center.

Anonymous said...

Any word on the renovation of the Carter Woodson property? (i.e., will it ever happen??)

Anonymous said...

In the meantime, let's do everything we can to support the businesses that are trying to make a go of it on 9th Street...its not exactly a "destination" so the more (Shaw and non-Shaw) friends, colleagues, etc. we can push towards Vegetate, Be Bar, Dominion Brewery the better...

ralph knolls said...

Not to be picky but Logan was never ever part of Shaw.

Ray said...

Big pat on the back there, Ralph. I can only imagine the picture the Post will paint in its Pravda-like pre-fab stereotyped coverage of the neighborhood. I too was interviewed and got the impression I would be depicted as the whining gentrifier. I am nonetheless more frustrated than you looking out over 14 vacant properties from my front stoop for 21 years and seeing nothing positive emerging from either the Park Service for the Woodson properties or Shiloh, the local poverty pimps, only the same tired attitude. Hope you don't mind me calling you articulate, bright and clean. You are. Keep up the positive vibes.

To our friend, Mr. Knowles, Logan was included to be torn down in the great Shaw Urban Renewal Project in the early 1960s -- that the riots prevented from happening. The urban planners back then would have built another East Berlin in our midst like they did in Southwest. The Logan renovators bravely stepped in to rescue the circle and extricate it from the decayed east by establishing a strong sense of community identify, including a productive association to represent them. Logan was also able to secede from the permanently dysfunctional ANC 2C by forming its own ANC 2F. The Convention Center communities are doing much to divorce themselves from the old Shaw Slum mentality, but we have a long way to go to match the vitality of Logan Circle. With folks like Ralph and Drew, we will get there.

Anonymous said...

I wish I could be as optimistic as you are. Unfortunately, my recollection is that Logan and areas to the west never had the amount of public housing and entrenched (multi-generational) disfunction that Shaw has to contend with. Until the public and ultra-low income housing is cleared out of Shaw, what you see is what you get.

- Jeff

Jason said...

Great post.

I agree there are a lot of major structural issues that need to be addressed; schools, low-income housing, and attracting stable businesses to the area. As individuals though we can definitely be engaged in the smaller changes. I’m usually out picking up litter around 11th and 10th streets on the weekend. This is such an easy thing to do – a pair of gloves and a few trash bags and soon enough the streets start looking cleaner. This is especially important for new real estate prospects in the area, as no one wants to see a bunch of empty beer cans and cigarette packs on the sidewalk.

I’ve also found success using the DC.gov Service Request Center (src.doc.gov). I requested them to fix an alley light, and it was fixed in 2 days. So let’s take the city up on it and have them out here cleaning up our infrastructure. This goes for trash, lights, and graffiti.

And, I think development in surrounding areas needs to be continually supported for its indirect benefits. 14th/U is still graffiti ridden and mom & pop stores are getting broken into – so a long-term development strategy has to focus on the whole Logan/Shaw/U Street area.

OffSeventh said...

The best post I have read on this issue...BRAVO. Cute pooch by the way. I am linking to this NOW

si said...

truly exceptional post!

O st market is on the HPRB agenda feb 22nd:

O Street Market, 1400 7th Street, NW, HPA #07-103, concept/substantial demolition, subdivision and addition to landmark for new supermarket; concept/master plan for redevelopment of site for hotel, residential and retail

also as you pointed out, lake woodson:

1553 9th Street, NW, HPA #06-457, concept/new construction of row house

1555 9th Street, NW, HPA #06-456, concept/new construction of row house

final agenda should be out a week prior.