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As it does nearly every year, the New York Times discovered D.C. dining yesterday. The conceit of the story was the same as all the others: High-quality restaurants are—-magically, mysteriously—-materializing in heretofore wastelands like “once-dicey Adams Morgan,” “the emerging neighborhood of Bloomingdale just blocks from a public-housing project,” and “the once highly shady Logan Circle.” To spare you the trouble of continuing to read these Groundhog Day-like accounts of D.C.’s remarkable transformation, here’s an amalgamation of every such Times story, past and future.
The corner of 10th and F streets NW in Washington, D.C., is best known for a horrific murder that once occurred there, in which a crazed gunman opened fire inside Ford’s Theatre.
These days, the historically troubled intersection has begun to show signs of a rebirth. Two trendy European fashion boutiques, Zara and H&M, have set up shop at the northwest corner, enticing well-heeled young professionals with edgy music projected onto the street. So has Madame Tussaud’s, a popular tourist attraction that seeks to preserve in wax the former faces of a fast-changing city.
Welcome to the new Washington. The capital’s reputation for fusty steakhouses and musty suits and dusty lobby shops is going the way of the boaters who have recently drowned in the Potomac River, lured by the city’s newfound sense of adventure.
In Mount Pleasant, a neighborhood known for its legacy of racial strife and located just blocks from a massive public housing complex, mothers can sometimes be seen pushing strollers without any apparent sense of fear for their safety. In Anacostia, famous in earlier times for its bucolic rolling hills, people now live in houses and apartments and shop in stores. Exclusive Reston, long an isolated enclave of the fortunate, is now accessible to wide-eyed Washingtonians via the new Silver Line subway.
Where the sky above the notorious Shaw neighborhood, a mere mile from the White House, was once darkened by flying bullets and plumes of crack-cocaine smoke, residents are now greeted by the unfamiliar sight of cranes, the harbinger of a building boom that augurs the district’s transformation into the next 16th arrondissement. Rooftop dog spas atop new luxury buildings that tower over the low-slung skyline allow the neighborhood’s canine inhabitants to gaze down upon the once-mighty Washington Monument as if beholding a lowly fire hydrant.
But don’t mistake these manifestations of dizzying progress for a sign of Washingtonians’ industry or talent. Instead, they can be traced to the gushing torrents of government money flowing to Boeing and Lockheed Martin and other contractors directly from the teat of the federal taxpayer who’s getting sucked dry.
And in these times of austerity, with the stream of government contracts slowing to a trickle, there are incipient signs of urban decay. The modern streetcar line that once ran along 14th Street NW has ceased operation, replaced by unsightly buses that sometimes carry people with questionable hygiene. A new bar on the street, Red Light, caters to the prostitutes who have historically strolled its sidewalks, charging just $1.75 for beers during happy hour in what can only be a nod to the hard times faced by its streetwalking clientele these days.
Maybe 2014 doesn’t quite mark the apex of Washington’s ascent. But we hear big things may be on the way in 2015….