In 2000, I helped open a charter school at 14th & Irving Sts, in a brand new building, that had a CVS on its ground floor. At the time, that building was the only new thing in all of Columbia Heights. It was the only new development that the green line had managed to bring to that beleaguered neighborhood. The rest was pretty much a wasteland of boarded up row houses and rough-looking apartment buildings. Across the street, stood a massive, hulking concrete structure, abandoned to the elements for years – maybe since the riots. On our block, the only other sign of life was the S&M Market, in Trinity Apartments next door, which did a brisk business in junk food and drugs.
The Columbia Heights of that era has been almost eradicated – although hints persist on some of the side streets. I spent seven years working in Columbia Heights – seven years watching things change; and to some degree, being part of that change. I have really mixed feelings about the area’s transformation. It’s jarring to see it now when I drive through, which is pretty infrequently these days. Without a doubt, the neighborhood is safer – which is a good thing. Other than that, I’m not sure.
Irving St, NW