Shaw Community Triumphs in Hard Times

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At the turn of the century, commercial activity in Shaw was largely limited to one grocery store and a number of liquor stores and used car lots. Since then, Shaw gradually built itself up to be a nationally and internationally renowned destination for drinking, dining and entertainment. However, the arrival of the novel Coronavirus in the District has threatened all of this commercial development. In order to protect the health of the public, Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) had to shutter schools, libraries and parks, prohibit sit down dining and congregating in bars. She then closed non-essential retail and eventually ordered everyone to stay at home. Two decades of progress in Shaw could be wiped away.

The Shaw community, though, has been able to deal with the emergency. The Mayor and DC Council passed an emergency law to aid small businesses through the crisis, allowing restaurants to still serve takeout meals. Not only were popular Shaw restaurants, such as All Purpose, Beau Thai, Convivial and Unconventional Diner able to stay partially open, but even the neighborhood’s Michelin-starred establishments, Kinship and the Dabney, offered high-end takeout. The law also allowed the sale of sealed containers of cocktails, allowing customers of the Columbia Room, Morris American Bar and Chaplin’s, establishments known more for their manipulation of spirits, to carry away old favorites. Shaw Main Streets maintains a list of restaurants and bars offering takeout during the emergency at www.shawmainstreets.org/news. This newspaper also publishes an online directory at www.midcitydcnews.com/2020/04/01/midcity-restaurants-offering-take-out-delivery/, a copy of which is printed in this month’s paper.

The mobilization of Shaw went beyond just food and drink. Compass Coffee retooled its equipment to make hand sanitizer, a difficult to obtain item, on short notice. Union Grocery Kitchen was able to supply the neighborhood with the spring water and household paper products that the major chain stores had run out of. The Parent Teacher Organization at Seaton Elementary School offered Giant and Walmart gift cards to the families of students in need. Cheryl Lofton devoted her time, while her tailoring business was closed during the emergency, to making CDC-standard facial masks for health centers that have run out of protective masks.

34 years with DC Fire
In a time when emergency workers have gotten a lot of attention, a member of the Shaw community recently reached a career milestone. Lieutenant George Robey just marked 34 years with the DC Fire Department, most of them spent with Truck 4, Engine Company 6 at 1300 New Jersey Avenue NW, protecting the Shaw neighborhood.

Shaw Main Streets Executive Director Alexander Padro, Maven Group developer Stuart Schooler, Matthew Mar-
kiewicz of Burke and Herbert Bank and Shaw Main Streets Vice Chair Ben Tesfaye break ground at 1547 Seventh Street NW. Photo by Pleasant Mann

Groundbreaking at 1547 Seventh Street
The morning of March 16 saw a groundbreaking offering a new life for 1547 Seventh Street NW, on the corner of Seventh and Q Streets. The troubles for this longtime neighborhood eyesore started when a Metro Bus ran into it nearly two decades ago. Loss of a retail tenant, fire and water damage, an abortive redevelopment attempt and finally receivership led to the ruined state of the structure that passersby see today. Now the building has been bought by the Maven Group and Greenhill Companies, who plan to restore it. The groundbreaking was an attempt to give notice to Shaw that the parcel was now on the road to recovery.

The groundbreaking started with a welcome from Alexander Padro, executive director of Shaw Main Streets, who announced that the tenant for the building would be a branch of Ivan Iricanin’s Ambar restaurants offering Balkan cuisine. Stuart Schooler of the Maven Group expressed his excitement for the project and noted that the restaurant planned to have a bar with a retractable roof on its upper floor. Financier Matthew Markiewicz from the Burke and Herbert Bank said that the project had the “characteristics to be a real winner.” The main construction on 1547 will take about seven months, with a later buildout for the tenant stretching to a year for completion.

The Department of Parks and Recreation closes
down Shaw Dog Park. Photo by Pleasant Mann

Shaw Dog Park Closes for a Year
Shaw residents were already reeling after learning that a previously unannounced one year closure of the Shaw Dog Park would be required in order to allow construction of Banneker Academic High School geothermal wells. Then a long promised meeting with the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) to discuss planning for the dog park, skate park and basketball courts was cancelled, with no new date announced.

In a meeting on Feb. 29 between the leaders of the Shaw Dog Park Association and DPR, the closing date of April 1 for the park was confirmed. Members of the association had three complaints:

  1. They were never warned that the dog park might have to be closed to support the construction of Banneker.
  2. No one had explained why the park has to be closed and why the closure had to last for a year.
  3. They were never given the opportunity to discuss the possibility of keeping part of the park open.

The Shaw Dog Park was the first established in the District and remains its largest dog park. The non-profit supporting the park has property on the site and made improvements to the space, adding trees. DPR was unable to address concerns about security and access to the equipment shed and maintenance of the trees during the closure.

DPR promised to hold meetings in the future with the Shaw community to discuss the future of the dog park and other Shaw Recreation Center facilities, but no timeline has been offered to provide answers about the dog park shutdown. A March 2 community meeting with DC Public Schools on the status of the Banneker construction project did at least explain that the Shaw Dog Park space was needed in order to meet environmental regulations during the installation of the geothermal wells for the high school.

DPR did not help matters when it suddenly decided to try to ameliorate the situation by quickly establishing an interim dog park. Without a meeting with the community, it fenced in a small, soggy area at the edge of the recreation site, with a fence lower than that needed to properly restrain large dogs. Shaw and the Shaw Dog Park community continue to wait to meet with DPR and DCPS to work on a future solution to its recreation needs.