U Street Ranks Amongst "Great Places in America"
Photo by NCinDC.
What does U Street have in common with Berkeley, California and the Milwaukee Riverwalk? It has a place on the American Planning Association's Great Places in America list, which tallies up the 30 best neighborhoods, streets and public spaces in the U.S.
Listed alongside the likes of L.A.'s Santa Monica Boulevard, St. Louis' Washington Avenue and Alexandria's King Street, U Street received accolades from the association for coming back to life after decades of neglect that followed the 1968 riots:
Recovery from the damage and subsequent disinvestment because of the riots did not take hold until the mid-1980s and early 1990s, with construction of the Reeves city government building, the U Street-Cardoza Metrorail station, and new housing as well as the opening of new businesses. Today the street's vibrancy has returned. New and restored venues host a variety of musical styles. Restaurants and bars teem with crowds of all ages and backgrounds, and new and long-time residents mix at the farmers market or among striking historic buildings. Observes Jane Freundel Levey, director of heritage programs at Cultural Tourism DC: "14th and U ... [are] absolutely right now the epitome of the new multicultural America."Of course, U Street is also a flashpoint in the ongoing discussion about gentrification, and even historic buildings like the Lincoln Theater are having a tough time surviving the changing times. (For a good historical read on U Street, take in Blair Ruble's Washington's U Street: A Biography.) In 2007, the planning association included Eastern Market on its list of Great Neighborhoods; in 2008, Union Station was deemed a Great Public Space. (That same year, Clarendon and Wilson Boulevards in Arlington made the Great Street list.)