For my final project in my Spring college writing class, I have chosen to reflect upon the cultural, demographic, and socio economic changes in Shaw. Through Le Diplomate, a French bistro located on 14th Street, I discover the true gentrification that is taking over the Shaw area and beyond. But is it for the worse or better?
My complex local system, CLS for short, is the building where the drugs were hidden in S Street Rising by Ruben Castaneda. My site is located at 1340 S Street NW, located in Shaw, Washington D.C. When I first travelled to Shaw, I was quite lost and unaware of my surroundings, as I only came for one job, to take pictures and videos of my site. But as I stepped out of the car and began to walk around, not only did I notice things, I realized them too. I realized I had been to Shaw before. I had come here multiple days and nights to eat at the fun restaurants and shop at the boutique stores. Little did I know that it was the same neighborhood I would spend all semester uncovering and discovering.
The gentrification of this neighborhood, in this case, is not necessarily a bad thing because of the new demographics it brought, the revenue, and beautiful construction.
One of my favorite places to eat in Shaw is a cafe called Le Diplomate, which is located a few blocks south of my site. 14th Street has really taken over and revitalized the Shaw area, and in my opinion, in a great way. 14th street has become popular for millennials to eat at new cafes sand shop at the chic furniture stores to the speciality stores. The new stores and restaurants are placed in areas in which the owners believe their store will thrive. The places that have recently come about in the Shaw area show the extreme gentrification of the neighborhood. Besides restaurants, shopping such as West Elm, a higher end furniture store, Lulu Lemon, an elite workout clothing store, grocery stores such as Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, and various trendy bars prove that Shaw’s demographics are changing. However, there is tension between the young higher class citizens moving into this area and the older, lower class residents who want to keep their ground, and not have the area change.
Le Diplomate is a french cafe serving brunch, mid-day, dinner, and drinks. The European design and quality food attract elite people to this restaurant. From what I’ve observed the times I have been there, the place was flooded with millennials. The aesthetic of the food made the diners eager to take pictures of everything they ordered. Not only does this restaurant have very “instagram worthy”, artistic food but the experience of dining here is what brings the customers back. The authentic french cuisine, the tasteful decoration, refined music, and the professional waiters make customers forget they’re in D.C., and escape from reality. The elegant appearance of the restaurant and fresh, warm loaves of bread at the entry way satisfies every customer who walks in.
However, Le Diplomate is not the only bistro in Shaw that has mastered this skill. Up and down 14th Street lies individual, unique, and creative restaurants. Le Diplomate is a great success story, only opening about 4 years ago, it attract millennials, hipsters, and socialists, as well as Michelle Obama and other politicians.
(Above is an interesting article about Stephen Starr, from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the creator of Le Diplomate bistro.)
While Shaw is being gentrified, my site remains untouched. It’s a very private house, even with intensive internet search, I couldn’t find all the details of my site. The last time it was sold was 15 years ago and now, it is worth over a million dollars, because of it’s location. Shaw is drawing in a newer crowd because of its demolition and reconstruction and it is now home to higher income residents who are demanding more from this neighborhood and in return, getting exactly what they want. 1401 S Street is a 5 star apartment building located directly diagonal from my site.
Jack Evans, now mayor of D.C., launched his campaign in front of the Bistro in June 2013. Evan says, “’what better place to showcase the change on 14th Street and the city than with the transformation from a vacant laundry to a fancy restaurant?’ he says. ‘It represented everything I was running for.’” Although not everyone, mostly the residents who have been living in Shaw for decades now, agree with the gentrification of their neighborhood, it seems that everyone else is for it. Gentrification in the Shaw area is growing their economy. With Le Diplomate opening only 4 years ago, Starr admits that his restaurant isn’t what made 14th Street “hot”, as it was already booming with restaurants and stores before his. However, he has deeply contributed to the changed perception of Shaw.