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Shaw Neighborhood in Washington Modified for Urbanites


Across the country, it is common to see neighborhoods rise, fall, and rise again over time. The Shaw neighborhood located in an inner-city Washington neighborhood is a prime example. Named after an urban renewal district, Shaw has seen numerous programs fail to bring life back into the area over the years.

For an area devastated by the riots following the horrific assassination of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, things are changing decades later, especially in North End Shaw, where real estate is being rebranded. Currently, a new project is being marketed, which consists of four stylish condo and residential buildings complete with ground-level retail shops.

Changing Landscape

For years, the old Shaw neighborhood was predominantly African Americans living at low income levels. Because of this, U Street was commonly referred to as “Black Broadway.” Today, this same corridor is energized, which is appealing to white millennials who want a walkable, urban-type lifestyle.

Having two major metro substations nearby is drawing in an entirely new crowd. Additionally, several trendy shops have emerged as a means of attracting more millennials. These stores are strategically placed, meaning they consist of retailers that a different group of people want.

Thanks to careful planning and placement by a company called JBG, both privately and publically owned parcels were assembled five years ago. Now, these same tracts of land have been converted into a series of residential buildings that boast 708 condominium and residential units, along with retail stores.

Booming Businesses

There are also reputable businesses cropping up, such as Atlantic Plumbing. This company is enjoying low rents at the ground level for a number of enterprises like the graphic design firm, Cherry Blossom, and a cooperative space for Foundry Gallery.

As explained by Robin S. Mosle, executive vice president with JBG, the focus is more on the experience, as opposed to leasing space to the highest bidder. Therefore, other smaller stores will be added to the Shaw neighborhood—perhaps a fast, casual restaurant or another chain drugstore. Mosle also stated that it was not necessarily about finding tenants but more about putting the right design in place to benefit the neighborhood.

Kai Reynolds, a partner of JBG, stated that the Shaw neighborhood was reminiscent of New York’s meatpacking district. Therefore, the goal was to create something authentic. To come up with the concept for this neighborhood, executives from JBG also visited the Pearl District in Portland, Oregon and the Venice neighborhood in Los Angeles.

Construction for Washington’s Shaw neighborhood is slated to start in late 2016, and will begin with a 400-unit rental building. Financing will come from JBG, with the Ellis Development Group and MRP Realty being in charge of building. Of the residential and condo units, 30 percent will be low cost, geared at tenants that earn between $30,000 and $50,000 a year.

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