Amanda Sevier Miller's June 13 Close to Home article expressed sadness about the changes on U Street NW and wondered what Duke Ellington would have thought about them.

I think he would be glad to see vacant lots, once surrounded by chain-link fence, being turned into great living spaces.

Longtime businesses -- such as Industrial Bank, Ben's Chili Bowl, Lee's Flower and Card Shop, and Duke's Shoe Repair -- are thriving. Other African American institutions -- the True Reformer Building, the old Anthony Bowen YMCA on 12th Street (where now stands the Thurgood Marshall Center for Service and Heritage), Florida Avenue Baptist Church, the Lincoln Theatre, Bohemian Caverns and the Masons' M.W. Prince Hall Grand Lodge, among others -- have been revitalized. Not one historic structure in the neighborhood has been lost since 1999.

In the new "Ellington" apartments Ms. Miller mentioned, 73 percent of the retail space is minority- or community-owned, and the project is 30 percent African American-owned.

A new center for mental health services for poor people has been built atop Metro, and in the 1400 block of W Street, just a short distance from the Duke Ellington mural, three apartment buildings have been preserved as affordable, tenant-owned housing. Also of note is the new P.N. Hoffman residential development at 14th and V streets, where $1 million has been set aside for affordable housing.

I am concerned about small minority businesses, such as Sisterspace and Books [Metro, June 27], that are threatened by high rents, but the merchants, residents and patrons of U Street welcome fresh energy while working hard to maintain all that is good and worthy of the former U.


Member (D-Ward 1)

D.C. Council