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Neighborhood In A Nutshell: Shaw

The Bisnow Neighborhood Guide series is back for 2017 and improved, with new neighborhood breakdowns, new segments and new developer interviews. This year, we start in Shaw, one of the region's fastest-growing neighborhoods, and one that has changed significantly since we covered it last year.


Shaw’s diminutive size, at just three-quarters of a square mile, is deceptive — it’s been a locus of pleasure and pain for the DC area, with the strife and racial tension that reached an apex in 1968 tempered by its wonderfully rich musical and cultural history that’s exemplified in its theaters today.

Like a star that burns too bright, or poor Icarus who flew too close to the sun, the pre-Harlem nexus of African-American intellectualism and culture was literally engulfed in flames after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

Now, ambitious development projects aim to simultaneously gentrify it and preserve the area’s rich heritage, a difficult balancing act.

The JBG Cos has redeveloped and rebranded a sizable portion of the nabe, which it's dubbed “North End Shaw,” with shops and over 700 residential units. The development has made Shaw more appealing but less affordable, causing a demographic shift in favor of the whiter, richer and younger inhabitants of the nation’s capital.

Affluent Millennials are drawn by the cool factor Shaw retains, a bevy of boutique shops (a product of JBG’s placemaking efforts), its nightlife and walkability.