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What Makes U Street, U Street

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As one emerges from the dark depths of the metro and receives a quick breath of fresh city air they are quickly overwhelmed with the sights and sounds of U Street. Depending on where you are, you may smell coffee and an overwhelming aroma of chili and cheese from Ben’s Chili Bowl as cars whiz by. As you are facing Ben’s Chili Bowl and look to your left it is clear that the urban renewal, that began in the mid 1990s, has been effective with many nice new buildings and luxury condominiums. However, as you look to your right, the drastic changes that U Street has experienced become evident. Depending on who you ask U Street could be a great club scene, an African American cultural epicenter, a historic neighborhood, or a very “shady” area. The fact of the matter is that U Street is all of these things, throughout its history many different niches have been created and there is now something for everyone on the U Street Corridor whether you are a history buff, interested in the theatrical arts, appreciative of culture and food, or unfortunately a drug addict. However U Street was not always what it is today, it has experienced many drastic changes over its existence. The demographics, culture, perception, and establishments of U Street have changed and been affected by three specific instances; the 1968 riots, the 1980 metro rail construction, and gentrification circa 1990.

Many people have glorified views of change. Barrack Obama was elected president with the help of his campaign calling for change. People believe that change is good and is always for the better. There will always be a debate of whether change is good or bad, but there is no escaping the necessary fact that change will inevitably occur. C.S. Lewis believes that “...

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