Going Upscale on U St.
Wave of High-Priced Housing Developments Brings Praise, Concern for Once-Blighted Neighborhood
By Daniela Deane Washington Post Staff Writer
Workers are busy painting the brick facades at the new Harrison Square town houses at 13th and W streets NW, where the first owners are due to move in next month. Across the street at the Lincoln Condominiums, new residents sit on their balconies as the weather warms up; the last of 156 condos there is set to go to settlement in a couple of weeks.
These are new places and new people - many young, many gay, many white - for the District's U Street corridor, once the heart of middle-class black Washington, but devastated by the 1968 riots. Change has come slowly to the area. The Reeves Municipal Center, an attempt by the District to spark redevelopment, opened in 1986. The U Street-Cardozo Metro station followed in 1991. Then came a handful of trendy bars and restaurants.
This is the next step: Once-empty lots are being filled by expensive new houses and condos, the first in decades to be built on a large scale in the neighborhood. More new residences are planned as the area becomes the latest in the District touched by the ongoing housing boom.
More than at any time in the past, these changes could alter the neighborhood where Duke Ellington, Pearl Bailey and Ella Fitzgerald used to perform. But as the wave of gentrification washes over the area, there also is concern about whether older, poorer residents could get pushed out.
Large and small developers, private individuals and the D.C. government are investing millions of dollars in the neighborhood, which stretches a few blocks on either side of U Street, from about 9th to 15th streets....
...District developer Abdo Development recently contracted to buy a dilapidated 82-year-old warehouse at 9 1/2 and U streets for about $1 million; the company has plans to develop and sell upscale loft-offices. And other large and small developers are also considering sites in the area for offices and condo projects.
Behind the developers come individuals who have invested in the area. Some have bought houses, town houses and condos. Others have opened up-market shops and restaurants over the past year, joining those that opened in the last wave of the neighborhood's revival after the opening of the Metro stop....
Excerpts from "Going Upscale on U St. Wave of High-Priced Housing Developments Brings Praise, Concern for Once-Blighted Neighborhood" in The Washington Post, March 2001