A brave new world: With rapid renewal comes mixed emotions in Shaw neighborhood
| By Ryan Oliver |
“Good morning my young brother. May God bless you.”
Richard Durham repeated this phrase to each and every person he passed on 9th Street Northwest at 6 o’clock that morning.
For 63-year-old Richard Durham, who refers to himself as an elder of the Shaw neighborhood, this morning greeting means more to him than it would typically mean to anyone else. For Durham, these simple morning pleasantries are a representation of how far the neighborhood has come since he first began living in the historic Shaw District of Washington, D.C., 43 years ago.
“The neighborhood is improving, the gun violence slowed down, the raping’s slowed down, the murders slowed down,” Durham said.
Nineteen years ago, the Shaw community was riddled with gun violence, homicides and an alarming crime rate. Shaw was pegged as a neighborhood with violent criminals and an area that desperately needed change. In 1994, the number of District-wide homicides soared to 399.
So far in 2013, a comparably low total of 94 District-wide homicides have been reported.
In addition to the drastic drop in neighborhood crimes and violence over the past 20 years, the demographics of Shaw have significantly changed as well.
“There is gentrification in the Shaw neighborhood, in the last 10 or 15 years now,” said 26-year-old Larry Brown, a lifelong Shaw resident.
According to The Washington Post, in 1990 Shaw was a predominately black neighborhood with 65 percent of the population being African-American. Whites and Hispanics were clearly the minority, with whites making up 22% and Hispanics making up 9 percent of the population.
As of 2010, the demographics of Shaw look much different.
Blacks, The former majority of the population, are now in the minority only making up 29 percent of the population. Whites are now the majority making up 48 percent of the population, with Hispanics rounding out the population at 15 percent.
Two-year resident David Jones, believes the community has embraced change and maintained its character while undergoing this significant overhaul.
“I think growth is always positive, I think diversity is positive, and building up old waste places is always positive. Shaw is one of the blackest areas in D.C. and they are definitely getting pushed out. It’s unfortunate, but at the same time it does bring up the area and personally I don’t think that’s a negative,” Jones said.
“You can’t lose character; I think the characters that it brings to the area, I think they’ll be for the better.”
Aside from the changes to the demographics in Shaw, the neighborhood is in the process of receiving a significant restoration. During this process, much of the neighborhood is consumed by the sounds of construction vehicles, construction workers, detoured roads and streets filled with clutter.
Among the construction hubbub, the potential gem for the neighborhood is City Market at O, a $260 million dollar development anchored by a 72,000 square-foot Giant Food supermarket, a 182-room Cambria Suites hotel and 645 residential units.
City Market at O General Manager, Joel Regignano, shared his excitement for the new city market.
“This market will serve as an anchor for the Shaw community. The Giant will be opening soon and the rest is coming. It’s a work in progress, but it’s coming and we’re excited about it,” Regignano said.
While the hotel and condominiums are aiming for a spring 2014 opening, the Giant Food supermarket held its grand opening on Nov. 21.
The Giant Food is the only major supermarket in the Shaw neighborhood and it provides residents with a massive grocery store they can access by foot.
Chris Smith, who has lived in Shaw for two years, sees the new supermarket as a needed addition to the neighborhood.
“If you lived right over there,” Smith said, as he pointed in the direction of the other side of the neighborhood, “it would be hard to get access to good grocery stores, and there is a pharmacy in there. We don’t even have a CVS around here, so the Giant definitely adds a lot for a lot of the people who live here.”
Shaw neighborhood elder, Richard Durham, believes the Giant will quickly become the most popular supermarket in the District.
“This Giant will be the most popular. It’s the largest Giant they have,” Durham said.
While new additions to the community such as bars, shops, restaurants and grocery stores appear to be welcomed additions to the Shaw neighborhood; the neighborhood makeover comes at a price for its residents.
According to The Washington Post, the average price of a two-story row house on a block in Shaw in 1994 was $75,000. For the same type of property in 2013, the price has skyrocketed to an astounding $660,000.
Shaw resident Larry Brown says that many longtime residents are moving out of the neighborhood because they can’t afford their rent.
“There is definitely a rent increase,” Brown said. “I’m married, but everything is fluctuating. The real estate market is going up. A lot of people left if they were renting and they didn’t own. We’ve got a couple people holding strong though, but it’s a very few. “
With changing demographics and the cost of living continuing to rise, Shaw is beginning to look like a new world. Neighborhood projects like City Market at O continue to be a work in progress, while the opening of the new Giant supermarket is a major piece of the puzzle.
The change in the neighborhood is felt by many; from those like Richard Durham who has lived in Shaw for 43 years, to a resident like David Jones who moved to Shaw just two years ago.
For many, it appears to be a breath of fresh air.
“Two year ago when I came here, walking the streets there wasn’t that many hi’s and good mornings and now I’m getting that. I don’t have a problem with that,” Jones said.
Richard Durham is happy that his daily morning greetings are finally being returned.
“The biggest change I noticed recently, people are acting much more friendly towards each other,” Durham said.
“That’s a big difference from back in 2012 and 2011.”
More demographic and other information about Shaw neighborhood in this parallax-scrolling site by Ryan Oliver (Recommended browser: Safari): Shaw Parallax