Shaw residents got a chance last week to review a just completed 60-day study of their neighborhood's opportunity zones -- parcels of land that city planners say are ripe for development.
Urban planners from the D.C. Department of Housing and Community to help shape, rather than just accept, urban renewal plans in their neglected neighborhood.
"We're here to get opinions; we want it to be more of a community meeting than a presentation," planner Nancy Zivitz told the audience.
Many of the approximately 60 residents, property owners and development-leery retirees who attended the two-hour meeting at the Harrison Elementary School were there to show their concern that the predicted wave of development might pushthem out of their homes and businesses. p
Formerly a commercial hub, northwest 14th Street in the 1920s through '50s was lined with shops, and U Street, known then as the Black Broadway, lured pleasure seekers with nightclubs and bars in the days, say the oldtimers, "when WE didn't go downtown." But desegregation in the '50s opened up other neighborhoods to the fashionable black clientele, and the riots, a decade later, gutted business up and down 14th and 7th streets.
The inverted teacup of the notrhwest Shaw area, bounded up Florida Avenue with Barry Place at the northernmost point, then down Georgia Avenue to 7th Street on the east and along S Street on the south, has not been the subject of a comprehensive planning study since the Shaw Urban Package in 1969, planners said. That post-riot study is so outlined community planner Larry Press said, it still includes plans for Federal City College, now the University of the District of Columbia.
Though area politicians have continually discussed the need for renewal efforts since the riots, progress has been slow. Until recently developers seemed to have little interest in land projects assembled by the
Now, however, the Shaw area has seen the construction of the O Street market to the east and the birth of condominiums south of U Street and west of 14th Street. That, coupled with the city's efforts to hasten construction of the Green Line subway, lead many Shaw residents to believe the time has come for intensive redevelopment of their neighborhood.
Last Wednesday's audience came well-prepared with questions and seemed satisfied with assurances that renewal plans would include their views, although the speakers were vague about when the rejuvenation of Shaw would actually begin.
"(Redevelopment) which is city-sponsored will take forever and a day, that which isn't will be tomorrow," said City Council member David E. Clarke, explaining when development projects will begin because they are often dependent on awards of federal money.
Some projects, among them an apartment complex being funded with a combination of federal aid and private dollars and located between 11th and 12th, U and V streets NW, may be started within the year, Clarke said. Also slated to be built is a specialized hospital planned for the old Children's Hospital site across the street from Harrison School at 13th and V streets.
Clarke, whose ward encompasses some of the opportunity zones, did not attend the meeting because he said he was not notified. Residents themselves complained of having only three days notice of the meeting, the result of a community liaison person's negligence, several speakers said privately. Local Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners and membersof the 14th and U Street Coalition worked frantically to notify neighbors by phone and notes slipped under doors.
"It was a good meeting," said John Snipes, president of the Shaw Business and Professional Association, "because any time the government brings you in from the ground floor, you've got a chance . . . Usually when they call a meeting you can already hear the rumblings of the bulldozers." w
The walls of the makeshift auditorium were pasted with maps showing the results of the study, which described how the land is presently used, its condtion and who owns it. About 80 percent of the buildings are in good condition, according to Zvitz; the best-kept houses are owner occupied, south of U Street.
Concerns of the integrated audiences were as familiar as the faces of the many Shaw Community activists attending: "I am here to ask where I can call to check of the developments with the small businesses," said one woman wearing a high-crowned red hat and rouge to match. "I want to stay in this area. I was here before the riots and suffered all the consequences of that and I want to stay."
"Are there going to be any recreation centers? There's a lot of children in this area and it seems like they could use a theater or some entertainment centers or something like that," said another woman.
Also on record from the meeting are requests for a new supermarket; for low income housing, especially for large families; pleas for protection against displacement, and help with small business capital formation. Some residents also voiced concern for the preservaton of "architecturally exciting structures."
The biggest land owners in the area are: Howard University, which might use some of its approximately 207,000 square feet for more student housing; the District Redevelopment Land Agency, a city office that clears and resells deteriorated property for development which owns an unused parcel on the northeast corner of 14th and U streets, NW, and realtor Jeffery Cohen, a developer of office buildings and condominiums, who owns the tract of the former Children's Hospital.
Housing officials plan another meeting in about a month to continue the discussion.