ReNewShaw Twitter

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Five Years, One Thousand, and Counting…

This is my 1,000th post here on!!  And, somewhat incidentally, it falls on the fifth birthday of the blog!

When we bought our house in Shaw in November 2006, I decided I’d begin this blog as a way to force myself to learn more about the neighborhood and as a way to help promote the many good things going on in the area.

Looking back, lot has changed since I started writing back on that November 12th. And some things haven’t changed much at all. Below are a few ramblings on what’s better, what’s worse, and what’s pretty much untouched since yours truly became "Shaw Rez."

New Businesses Abound
A ton of new businesses have appeared since I started blogging, and I think I’ve discussed many of them here. Some of the notable ones to open up shop since 2006 include 1905 Restaurant, Beau Thai, Corduroy, Chatman’s D’vine Bakery, Civilian Art Projects, Dickson Wine Bar, The Eldon Condominium Hotel, Independence Federal Savings Bank, Lamont Bishop Gallery, Maruka, Nellie’s, Old City Green, Old Dominion Brewhouse, The Passenger, Rogue 24, Seasonal Pantry, SUNdeVICH, Touchstone Gallery, Town, and Veranda.  A pretty impressive roster, no?!

Public Amenities Everywhere
The improvement of the quality of life in Shaw in the past five years is undeniable. Among the recently added amenities are a new award-winning library on Eighth, a new dog park on Eleventh, a new park on Tenth, a renovated park on French Street, new iron treebox guards up and down Ninth, an overhauled skate park, a renovated Seaton Elementary, community gardens, and so on and so forth.  Others are in the pipeline, like a new Shaw Middle School and a new Dunbar High School.

Improved Storefronts Invite Patrons
Several businesses have dramatically improved their storefronts, thus making our commercial corridors a lot more attractive. Wagtime is an impressive example -- its building is so cute and inviting. Queen of Sheba is another (its improvement was facilitated by Shaw Main Streets).  The list could go on and on -- Long View Gallery’s new location is the result of an overhaul of a long-neglected vacant building’s storefront, and Axum Ethiopian Restaurant’s makeover completely transformed 1934 Ninth Street.

Corners Have Been Transformed
I know it’s a weird subject to call out, but corner properties really set the tone for a block, and an area can feel particularly depressing if several properties at an intersection are blighted. A handful of notable corner properties have been transformed since 2006. The closest to home and most dramatic change took place at Ninth and Q Streets, which sported a fenced off hole in the ground (evidencing a failed development attempt) on the southeast corner, a boarded up pizza place on the southwest corner, and vacant, muraled, deteriorating properties on the northeast corner in 2006. Today, the hole in the ground has been replaced by a four unit Christian Zapatka-designed condominium building, the pizza place is a fantastic single family home, and the formerly boarded up properties are being completely gutted and restored.

The intersection of Eighth and Q is another example of dramatic change. Two previously/notoriously blighted properties – 1543 and 1600 Eighth Street  – were sold in 2009 and are now under renovation into a single family home and a boutique condominium building respectively. The Exchange at Ninth and N was a stalled construction project when I began blogging, and now it’s occupied with residents and businesses.

The gorgeous building at the corner of Ninth and Naylor Court, 1314 Ninth Street went from being a diamond in the rough to being a true diamond, with the excited vision of its owner (who I’ve gotten to know over the years through the blog).

And countless other corner properties have been or are being fixed up and given new life, affecting the feel of the area.

Major Developments Are Indeed Moving Forward
Even before the economy tanked in 2008, people were bemoaning how long it was taking to see movement on the convention center hotel, the O Street Market redevelopment, Progression Place (formerly to be known as Broadcast Center One upon completion), the Howard Theatre project, City Center, and Kelsey Gardens. And while none of these are complete today as some optimistically hoped way back when, all are actually now, finally, seeing movement and will be completed before another five years pass.

Population Boom  
Many people have moved into new buildings over the past five years.  Eleventh Street has seen a number of new buildings come on line. The Whitman in the 900 block of M Street delivered soon after I began writing. And of course Mount Vernon Triangle’s growth is inspiring, with a handful of huge residential buildings, many with ground floor retail (and even a Safeway).

“Car Lots” Gone
Car lots -- many of which were not legal -- dotted the neighborhood in 2006, cluttering the landscape. And now they’re gone!

The site of Wings Motors at Ninth and P Streets is now under construction to house Mandalay Burmese Restaurant and a condominium above. Other former car lots are sure to see movement soon as well.

We Lost a Few
Sadly, we’ve lost some great assets as well. I loved Vegetate and still mourn its 2009 closing. Be Bar, which became EFN Lounge and Motley Bar, shuttered its doors taking away a unique draw to the neighborhood. Toucan Boutique was a great retail addition in the 1900 block of Ninth that ceased brick and mortar operations last month. Shaw’s Tavern had probably the quickest run of any establishment we’ve ever seen. And there are a host of other small, beloved businesses that sadly haven’t made it due to the economy, rent increases, consumer tastes, and management issues.

We also lost a few bloggers along the way.  Back in 2007, we were named one of the "bloggiest"  neighborhoods in the United States.   We're down a few bloggers since then, so I doubt we'd receive such a crown in 2011.  Of course Mari at inshaw, who predated us all, is blogging just as consistently and wonderfully as always.

Some Things Stay The Same
A few things haven’t really changed much. I can’t comprehend why the building at Ninth and O and the buildings at Seventh and Q remain vacant, as they have so much potential. The Flats at Blagden Alley parcels remain untouched. Many of the convention center retail spots have never been occupied (or really even marketed for lease). We’ve yet to see tangible movement on the smaller Marriott hotels planned along Ninth and L.  The Carter G. Woodson Park remains untouched.

Community Sense
I tend to cover brick and mortar and commercial topics involving Shaw, but one of the most significant changes over the past five years is how this community has become my home and a source of pride.   I've really come to know and love my Shaw friends and neighbors, and can't imagine any other place in D.C. I'd rather live.

Anyway, thanks for reading!


Clay said...

Congratulations on 1000! That's a huge accomplishment.

1314 said...

Great post. Your affection for Shaw is contagious. When I was googling odds and ends about Shaw 5 years and found you I couldn't believe it. Somebody who cared about what Shaw could become. I had given up long ago. You reignited our sense of place and community, and are doing so to this day. Ralph you're the cat's meow. Look forward to much more good news reported by you. :)

Rachelle Nigro said...

Your blog is fantastic always with excellent updates! Thank you for all you do for the community.

Lauren said...

Congrats on 1000 and 5 years! All of the blogging on Shaw was definitely a draw to the neighborhood when we snapped up 1543 8th. You and the other bloggers helped us understand both the history and the future of our great neighborhood. Work has obviously been slower than we had hoped transforming the house, but we will be real-live neighbors soon!

Mari said...

Yay, good job.