Changing Shaw Through Gentrification




A musky, lonely area is shown on the left and a lively, upbeat photo is displayed to the right. Improvements have been made in and around the 7th and O Street market in Shaw, Washington DC. Gentrification has been a common theme in the District of Columbia, it is clearly seen through the use of two photos. These photos compare and contrast two different dates, two different decades. On the left, we see what this corner looked like in 1973 and the right we see what has become, the present day proof of gentrification. Things, people, and places change overtime. The Shaw neighborhood has seen quite a lot of different life. Washington DC’s neighborhoods rise, fall, and rise again and the Shaw area is certainly plays a large role when it comes to change.

         Shaw was looking to be renewed and revived back in the mid 1900’s. Businesses and programs were doing well up until the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. Following the assassination, the once largely populated by low income and African Americans, the Shaw neighborhood was devastated with riots. “For a few days in 1968, Shaw looked like a war zone. It was the first weekend in April and the nation’s capital was burning, with more than 1000 fires across the city over the course of a few days. Those fires would leave scars that are still healing today” (Fenston). People should not look past these riots. Rebuilding a city that was in the process of already being rebuilt made things difficult.

         A link can be found here to see the devastation that occured throughout Washington DC: As the sad news of Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination struck the hearts of everyone, people took it upon themselves to ravage and destroy a city. On the “corner of 14th and U Street NW, then the heart of D.C’s black community, was already bustling on the unseasonably warm April evening. But as the news spread, the mood turned from shock and grief to anger” (Fenston). A neighborhood (and others) was torn to shreds as the days went on. As time went on, more people began to join together rippling into an area which is now blossomed.

         Since those riots, the city struggled to rebuild itself. It was not until the 2000 era that Shaw was finally looking to turn around. A case study showed “the percentage of households earning less than $40,000 ($20,000 for single people) dropped to 30 percents from 47 percent from 2002 to 2013” ( Though the average income started to increase, the number of childless single adults increased as well, increasing from 21 percent to 71 percent. What was once a very segregated populated with African Americans, Shaw is becoming increasingly home to white millennials looking to live a trendy, city lifestyle (

         Even in more recent years, the rent price of all homes in Shaw was seen at $2,419 dollars per month, $1,000 dollars more than the average price in American. Currently, the rent in Shaw has seen almost a $1,000 dollar spike sitting at $3,200 per month ( Not only is rent high, but the cost of living in Washington DC is much higher which puts the minimum wage much higher than other states in America.

         Though Shaw has gentrified over the years, a good question to ask is if it is only Shaw that has changed? Logan Circle, a neighborhood next to Shaw, has been seen to have changed over the years. During the 1980’s, Logan Circle was labeled as a haven for theaters, much like Shaw, which was considered as “Black Broadway, with clubs frequented by the likes of Duke Ellington, Pearl Bailey, and other top black performers in (what was then) segregated Washington” ( Back in 1980, Logan Circle was dominated by Victorian homes. Like Shaw, it was also heavily segregated with African Americans, encompassing areas north of U Street.

         Not only was segregation a problem some 30 years ago, many people deemed parts of Logan Circle as unsafe. Though there were beautiful Victorian homes, which have survived untouched riots, mainly from the Martin Luther King Jr. riots, issues of homelessness, drug use, and prostitution ravaged many parts of Logan Circle. This area was not very family oriented, it was rather known for the crime.

         Logan Circle follows the same path as Shaw. During the 2000s, the area quickly gentrified right around the time Shaw did as well. Houses and land costs quickly increased as the streets became cleaner and safer. This area has become an area for many white, young, trendy adults, much like Shaw. A more welcoming and inviting community has emerged as it is made up of a large percentage of LGBT population. Whole Food markets, art galleries, clubs, and nightlife has quickly sprung up as well, creating an amazing atmosphere and a fantastic place to live.

         Both areas show signs of promising change and will look to continue to climb up the ladder to becoming even more fantastic places to live. The Giant food market, located on 7th and O Street in Shaw, Washington DC is a perfect example of the neighborhood’s fall and rise through the years.

         On March 31, 1994 around 7 p.m., a deadly shooting occurred inside the O Street Market. According to the Washington Post, the criminal then opened fire outside the market as well. The article describes the story in the eyes of James Simmons, a grocery shopper who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  “ “Everybody was running,” Simmons recalls, standing in that same spot in Shaw 19 years later. “One guy came out, ran over to the church and collapsed.” Then he heard the shouts: “Little Duwan got shot! Duwan is shot!” ” (Washington Post).

         No one would expect a shooting wherever they are. However, 1994, which does not seem too long ago, truly was a different era especially in specific parts of Washington DC. “In a city where gun violence had become so widespread that the police had a special unit called Redrum devoted just to drug dealers killing drug dealers, the O Street Market shootings hit hard” (Washington Post).

         Since then, what kind of crime does Shaw currently face? Obviously no area is perfect and there is bound to be some sort of problem and illegal activity occurring throughout. Even though people are paying $2,500 a month for a tiny studio in Washington, DC, this does not make a fantasy lifestyle. On August 11th, 2015 another shooting occured in Shaw ( Not just anywhere, but it was “near Kennedy Recreation Center, a Giant grocery…” ( The Giant, again, has seen another man pull a trigger and this time, three people shot and wounded. A foodstore, which is supposed to fuel people’s life, has been apart of so much terror. To what extent is gentrification a good thing? What has it done for the people who received low income and paid for low income housing and what has it done for the millennials who moved into the recently refurbished neighborhood?

         Upon arriving at 7th and O Street NW, it seemed to not live up to its name. The dark red brick that surrounded the food seemed to be newly renovated, or at least looked pristine. The appearance of the food store has not changed dramatically since the 90’s, only the color of the brick and the roof appear to be different from aging. Stepping inside this food store, happiness surrounded me rather than a horrific murder. Colorful fruits lined up in bins, vegetables were in the open fridge as I saw the smoke of the cold air reveal itself. This was a place to get food, a place that keeps people alive, the opposite of what happened on March of 1994 and then the recurrence on August of 2015. But I guess this is what was meant to do, hide to past and show the brightness of the future; hopefully the future with be a group of more diverse, safe, law abiding people.

         In the 1900’s, Shaw was known for being one of the most segregated areas in Washington DC, and looking at the statistics, it looks like segregation is approaching again, obviously it is not on purpose. In a place where segregation is alive and well for approximately one hundred years, is there any hope in change? “If Shaw wants to keep its remaining longtime residents, affordable housing must come quickly. The Shaw and Logan Circle neighborhoods, according to data from the Urban Institution, were 25 percent white in 2000. In 2010, they were 48 percent white, a share of the population that has only increased in the past five years” (Stein).

         The photos at the top of the page is an accurate depiction of the timeline of Shaw. On the left, the market on 7th and O Street looks like an unlively place to be. A place that may make you feel like a shooting is out of the realm of possibilities.. On the right, the newly restored Giant food market looks different, in and around itself. The roof was completely renovated while a 182-room hotel and 86,000 square feet of retail stores and a 645 unit apartment complex sits behind the Giant ( The Giant can be seen as a metaphor for the history of Shaw. It began as a dark place where it seemed unsafe, and as time went on, a family friendly area emerged along with a brand new Giant with a rooftop dog park above the 645 unit apartment (yes, that sounds like heaven).

         Looks can be quite deceiving. Although gentrification has evolved the neighborhood of Shaw itself, who said it was a good thing? Segregation still lives quietly and untalked about while crime still occurs throughout the night. Shootings find their way to make a mark next to the Giant on 7th and O Street. A fun, family oriented neighborhood seems like a great place to be, but clearly judging a book by its cover stands quite true. According to Shaw has seen an 8 percent decrease in crime. However, crime rate is 71 percent higher than the national average, there is a 1 in 21 percent chance of becoming a victim at any time.

Work Cited

Fisher, Marc. “O Street Market: Symbol of Violence Becomes a Marker for D.C.’s Resurgence.”    The Washington Post. The Washington Post, 2013. Web. Nov. 2016.

Zillow, Inc. “Shaw Washington DC Home Prices & Home Values | Zillow.” Zillow. N.p., n.d. Web. Dec. 2016.

Meyer, Eugene L. “Washington’s Shaw Neighborhood Is Remade for Young Urbanites.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 2015. Web. Dec. 2016.

Fenston, Jacob. “How The 1968 Riots Shaped Shaw | WAMU.” WAMU. N.p., n.d. Web.  Dec. 2016.

“1968 Riots, Washington D.C.” YouTube. N.p., 2013. Web. 07 Dec. 2016.

“Three Men Shot in Shaw, Police Say.” NBC4 Washington. N.p., 11 Aug. 2015. Web. Dec. 2016.

Stein, Perry. “ Is Pricey Shaw a Model for Retaining Affordability amid Regentrification?” The Washington Post, 21 May 2016,

Areavibes. “Shaw, Washington, DC Crime.” Shaw, Washington, DC Crime Rates &Amp; Statistics,