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.
What that I found interesting is that 5th & O have an “Adopt-A-Block” sponsorship. A strategy that in the 1990s would have never been thought of as the people living there at the time. Back then, making sure that the block stayed clean and green was the not the first priority for the neighborhood. What could have been important is making sure the 5th and 7th crew stood out of each other’s way, drugs were being sold, and strawberries were being picked up from the way Castaneda explained Shaw during that time. Especially with Baldie just two streets over what was important to the notorious “neighborhood leader” was not having the blocks like 5th & O adopted by the Minor Football League to enforce cleanliness.
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 talked to the man who I didn’t get a name from there was construction happening behind the corner store building for new luxury apartments. It seemed to me the more young professionals and families looking to not be in the rustle and bustle of downtown come to live in Shaw, the less natives of Shaw that were once labeled as “gang members” there are. The more apartments and new restaurants being built, the less able natives of Shaw like that man I talked to outside the liquor store are able to afford living there.
Another kind of house that I saw that does not fit the criteria listed in the previous post was cooperative homes. As I was walking farther down 5th street I found a cooperative homes complex. After researching what cooperative housing was I discovered that the purpose of these homes is to give families the ability to own their homes and set a leasing agreement signed by the family and the company that owns the home. This way they are able to afford to own their own space without the threat of eviction. This cooperative home was just a couple of feet down the street from the same black and brick luxury row homes. The people that lived in the cooperative homes looked very different from the those living in the newly renovated row homes surrounding it. As I stood there observing the street I saw little kids coming out of the cooperative housing complex playing among themselves and not even 15 feet away little kids whose parents/guardians owned the renovated homes playing among themselves as well – not acknowledging each other whatsoever.
When I finally got to the 5th & O intersection I saw three types of houses. Houses that have been there for decades, that had little to no renovations to them, the ones that were under construction to become renovated, or luxurious homes such as the one attached here. After doing more research, I discovered that a house like this would go for about 1.5 million dollars because of this renovation. It is very ironic that not even 10 years ago in 2007, people were being killed, and there was gang tension between 5th & O and 7th & O crews. But now, row homes go up to the millions and more of them are being constructed.
(Click link above for video)
Walking the main street on my way to 5th & O I saw a bunch of small owned businesses mostly restaurants with a bunch of young professionals or couples with young children eating brunch. Most of these individuals were caucasian with a few of Hispanic and black among other minority groups sitting in the same area as them enjoying their early Saturday afternoon. Though there was music in the cars passing, it was quiet and peaceful walking around the area. As I made my way to 5th and O almost every other car would stop and wave to the person walking the sidewalk – a gesture that represented a sort of acquaintance or friendship between those groups of people. Something I realized with those interactions with the people in the car and those walking greeting each other was that they were mostly African American individuals. Though 5th & O (as I later found out) is now filled with newly renovated apartments and row homes the group of individuals that continued to live after such changes, were friendly and had a sort of family-based community.