Sunday’s Washington Post has a feature article on the path from burned-out ghetto to high-priced condo in Columbia Heights, Shaw, H Street and other corridors destroyed in the 1968 riots. Suburbanization and desegregation pushed affluent people, black and white, to move out to suburbs, and the riots destroyed the remaining economic fabric. Federal and municipal disinvestment prolonged the depression until economic growth and lack of space to build downtown drove new development in these areas.
One major force in the rebirth of Shaw, U Street, and Columbia Heights was Metro, argues the article. WMATA finally finished the Green Line inside DC with the opening of Columbia Heights and Georgia Avenue-Petworth stations in 1999. Development followed swiftly, with the convenience of going downtown and the guarantee of ongoing service thanks to millions in permanent infrastructure. Hopefully the planned H Street streetcar will happen, and have enough permanence to lure the same kind of development (though the separated Blue Line would be even better).