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How U Street business owners preserve entertainment industry amid gentrification

During the height of segregation in D.C., the city’s U Street corridor came to be known as “Black Broadway ” because Black residents congregated there for business, poetry slams, open mic nights and jazz concerts. The neighborhood’s entertainment venues also led to the formation of go-go music, D.C.’s indigenous music derived from the District’s Black culture, in the mid-1970s.

But over the years, business owners have struggled to keep the neighborhood’s history of Black entertainment alive as large convention centers and Metro stations cropped up. The Black population in the neighborhood also shrunk from 80 to 30 percent by 2010, according to Washington City Paper.

The Hatchet sat down with U Street business owners, residents and entertainers to discuss how high rent prices and the influx of new residents into the neighborhood is pushing out its unique history.

Video by Dante Schulz

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How Dupont Circle evolved as a hub for LGBTQ+ life in the District

Dupont Circle emerged as a hub for LGBTQ+ life in the District in the mid 1960s and 70s. The neighborhood hosted several gay-owned businesses, including Lambda Rising Bookstore and numerous bars frequented by members of the LGBTQ+ community. The District’s first annual pride event was also held on 20th street to commemorate the neighborhood’s vibrant LGBTQ+ identity.

However, over the years the neighborhood’s unique LGBTQ+ identity has dwindled. Long-time residents and business owners have noticed a dip in LGBTQ+-owned establishments and have noted that LGBTQ+ people can now be found throughout D.C.

We sat down with long-time residents of Dupont Circle, community activists, and local leaders to discuss the history of the neighborhood as a hub for LGBTQ+ life in the District and the impact of gentrification and changing societal norms on the Dupont Circle’s unique identity.

Video by Dante Schulz

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Chinatown community leaders talk preserving cultural identity of neighborhood

Chinatown’s population boomed to more than 1,500 residents of Chinese heritage between 1930 and 1950, but that number dropped to just more than 300 residents this year.

The area has a long history – by the late 1800s, the Chinese population began to grow in the District. But it wasn’t until Federal Triangle was developed in the 1920s that Chinese residents were forced to move a few blocks north on H St. NW between 6th and 7th streets to what is now known as Chinatown.

The Hatchet sat down with Chinatown community activists, residents and local leaders to discuss challenges facing the neighborhood, including high rent prices, Chinese-run businesses flocking to the Maryland Virginia suburbs and the area’s struggle to retain its cultural identity.

Video by Dante Schulz and Thais Kolganov

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Maintaining Adams Morgan as a home for the District’s artistic crowd

Adams Morgan earned the reputation of the District’s “artsy” neighborhood in the 1970s when residents began congregating in the area to create street art, which included everything from plastering political posters throughout the neighborhood to painting large murals on building exteriors. The neighborhood continued to attract a politically progressive crowd into the 1980s when row house owners on 18th street chose to convert their properties into mom-and-pop businesses. The nightlife scene also exploded as bars and nightclubs appeared on the famous 18th street stretch.

Today, 18th Street in Adams Morgan remains the centerpiece of the neighborhood, retaining its hallmark artistic edge first established five decades ago. Tattoo parlors, palm readers, eclectic bars and alternative-style businesses line the street and after 10 p.m. you can find the sidewalks packed with people venturing out to enjoy them.

But a lack of affordable housing options in the neighborhood is forcing out many long-time residents who helped form the neighborhood’s identity. Additionally, businesses are struggling to resist chain retailers from moving into the neighborhood.

The Hatchet sat down with local business owners, community activists and long-time residents to discuss the history of Adams Morgan and strategies that could be employed to preserve the neighborhood’s creative energy.

Video by Dante Schulz

Mapping D.C. Neighborhoods

The District is composed of more than 100 neighborhoods, each home to its own unique cultural heritage and history.

The D.C. Office of Historic Preservation has designated more than 20 of D.C.’s neighborhoods as historic districts in an effort to prioritize the cultural identity of the District and support long-time residents and business owners found within its neighborhoods. But D.C. is experiencing some of the most intense gentrification in the country, according to a study released by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition. Rising rent prices, the influx of residents from outside the District and the pandemic have forced many long-time residents to relocate, threatening the cultural identities of each neighborhood.

The Hatchet sat down with elected officials, community activists, business owners and long-time residents of neighborhoods throughout D.C. to provide their expertise on how each neighborhood enriches the District’s culture and the need to acknowledge and preserve the history of neighborhood identities.

Mapping D.C. Neighborhoods

Click the pins to explore DC.

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