Something that I started to notice was the separation between the newly renovated houses and the old houses. They were either on the opposite side of the street or a group of them would be on one street section before the crosswalk. It was almost as if the groups of houses were being renovated by sections of the streets. Which makes you think, 10 years from now how will 5th & O look like?
Walking through the main streets, you can see the diversity of Shaw residence. The white groups of people are eating brunch with their families and friends and you see black individuals riding their blasting music and for the most part greeting individuals that look like them. Two groups of people living in the same are but they barely intermingle with one another.
On my way to 5th & O St. I stumbled on Pastor Jim’s New Community Church, a church that was set in Ruben Castaneda’s book S Street Rising. This church seems to bring a sense of community for the nearby intersecting streets. From talking to residents living around the surrounding area New Community Church has hosted their kids in events and holiday dinners that have greatly helped a lot of the families around. The purpose that Pastor Jim set for this church still rings true today based on the statements of the neighbors.
When I first got out of the metro on my way to 5th & O the first thing I saw was a tall (very nice) building advertising new homes for sale or rent. The sign states “Shaw Streets, New Beats” in efforts to show off the new community that is being built throughout the “shaw streets.” To deliberately put such a nice building and then a big sign in front of the metro stop shows that they hope to bring in tourist and other individuals that have the means to come and create the “new beats” they are looking for.
When I saw this sign I saw it as a political statement from the Mayor’s office. Shaw is one of the most profitable neighborhoods in the D.C. area, there are dozens of houses either being built or on the market that go for at a minimum around 1.2 million dollars. The individuals that are moving into 5th & O among other streets in the Shaw Area are looking for a certain modern, clean feel. The Government of District of Columbia knows good and well that there needs the only way to attract such “prospective residents” is to upkeep the New Shaw.
After such narratives and ideologies being written about the Shaw area for me, I decided to visit 5th & O and see if these same stories would fit what 5th and O is now. When I got here I was presented the opposite, the first word that comes to me to describe Shaw is – Gentrified. Here are some of the things that I observed when I walked into the interior of some of the buildings that allowed me to do so…
5. When I was walking back to go home, I saw what I believe was a recreation center with the word “Grow” on the front. There was a bunch playground equipment which showed a sense of community that has a commonplace to come and spend time and connect in some way.
4. One of the beautifully, fully renovated houses that I wanted to go into but was not going to be able to was a white row home that was up for sale on the far end of 5th St. After some research I found the house on a upscale real estate website names Dc Condo Boutique. The house is going for $1,495,000
for 4 bedroom and 31/2 bath (a far different price than the co-op homes on the same street). The inside did not reflect whatsoever what the outside and nearby look like. Its very ironic how the exterior of the home has been here and established for decades if not century, but for the interior it seems to change ever so often depending on who is there.
3. As I was walking on my to 5th & O I stumbled across one of the family owned mom and pop restaurants by the name of Half Smoke. After walking around and researching 5th & O I had gone over there for lunch. It seemed like new restaurants that had just opened, when I walked in there were a few customers and the general manager was sitting at the bar and helped me navigate what to order from the menu. As I ordered I asked him a couple of questions about the restaurants itself and the Shaw area “make over” over the past couple of years. It so happened that the general manager and the owner of Half Smoke who I later found out were named Andre McCain had opened the as he states “casual sausage joint” back in October. The manager stated that McCain wanted to have at least one black owned business around an area that was having this gentrification makeover. He wanted to have a commonplace for folks of all ages to come and enjoy themselves and not worry what is going on in the neighborhood that surrounds them which I found very noble of him to do.
2. Despite all the new mom and pop businesses, there are still corner stores that remain in their place since opening up in the 1980s. One of the customers that I spoke to from the Liquor stated that that particular liquor was there since the late 70s. Though the store hasn’t gone anywhere, everything else around them seems to be changing. As I walked in, it was just any liquor store housing hundreds of bottles all across the wall. There was a sweet older man who I am assuming was the owner of the store asked me to not take any picture but I happened to find pictures on google. As I interviewed the old man he states that he has been working here for more than 35 years. He states that inside of the liquor store nothing has changed but the people that come in buy and what they buy, had changed severely. He states that the family that he has seen grow up and has their own kids are no longer there because they can no longer afford to be here.