From Luis Gomez and Matty Rhoades
View the slide show of photos of development projects planned or underway in the 14th Street corridor. Each photo has a caption explaining the development project; click on Show Info to see the captions.
Washington’s 14th Street NW corridor was a big redevelopment project waiting to happen. As inner city and downtown living became popular again in the 1990s it now seems impossible that valuable chunks of land in the heart of D.C. would remain unused or underutilized.
The 1.5-mile strip of 14th Street from Thomas Circle to Columbia Heights had a relatively large number of empty or underutilized lots that were ideal for residential and commercial projects. Even now there are still empty lots or properties with small one-story structures that are suitable for new buildings.
Many of these properties had been vacant for decades — since riots and fires swept the area following the April 1968 assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In some locations, small one-story buildings went up in the years after 1968, but others remained empty or became used car lots.
As the city went into decline in the 1970s and 1980s there was neither the will nor the money to develop them. However, a little more than a decade ago this changed. Along with a renewed interest in downtown urban living came more people, and the money began to flow into the Logan Circle and U Street neighborhoods.
As a result, the 14th and U corridor is once again a thriving shopping and entertainment district. This time, though, the area is much wealthier. It also has a different racial mix than it had several decades ago when it was a middle class shopping district and entertainment hub for African Americans.
The 2010 U.S. Census showed a population gain for D.C. for the first time since 1950, with the city breaking the 600,000 population mark. A closer look at the local Census numbers shows that a large portion of the city’s population growth occurred near the 14th Street corridor — with young people making up the primary growth demographic.
Walk the 14th Street corridor and take the time to ponder the number of new buildings along the way: a new city has been dropped into the middle of the old one, a block here and a block there. For someone who has lived in the area for a decade or more, the effect is astonishing.