By Morgan Minix, Howard University News Service
14th Street is one of the major hubs of business development in Washington D.C. The street is one of the most noteworthy in the city with a history of black strive, mass poverty and now- gentrification.
Today, 14th Street is home to a bevy of business both large and small. It serves as one of the most visible signs of D.C.’s progression towards modernity. Fifty-one years ago, however, 14th Street was on fire.
In April of 1968 riots broke out following the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. According to the Washington Post, 13 people died and over 900 business were damaged across the D.C. area. 14th Street was especially affected.
Once a core of black activity in the city, many important black-owned businesses like the People’s Drugstore were burned. Washington D.C. lawmakers failed to adequately respond to the need for rebuilding and the area fell into disarray.
14th Street became known as an unsafe area, somewhere you went if you were looking for trouble, drugs or girls. This reputation followed the street until Mayor Marion Barry decided to build the Frank D. Reeves Municipal Center. The construction of the center lead to an influx of government employees and the start of revitalization.
Years of upscale development followed, and the current iteration of 14th street features large-scale luxury condos, expensive brunch spots and boutique shops. What was once burning is now thriving; with a different clientele.
One such business that has found a home on 14th Street is Immortal Beloved, a progressive salon that services both men and woman. Kevin Carroll works as the social media and marketing head for the business.
As a Prince George’s County native, he reflected on his time as a teen when Carroll frequented 14th Street. “It was known as the dirty Times Square, if you weren’t doing something bad or into music or clubs, it was never where you wanted to go at night,” he said.
The location of Immortal Beloved was formerly Black Cat, a nightclub and Punk music venue. It was then briefly turned into a furniture store. Now, this location is home to $85 haircuts and a filming location of HBO’s “The Shop”, a show starring and executively produced by LeBron James and his business partner Maverick Carter in which athletes, actors and musicians discuss a variety of topics in a barbershop setting.
Most of the patrons of Immortal Beloved are affluent young people. Carroll attributed this fact to the Obama administration and its overall attraction to young people who wanted to work for the president. He viewed the change of the street over the years as a net positive.
Ana Aristiee, a D.C. native and hostess at Matchbox, also works on 14th street. She had a different opinion on the changing demographics, “White folks are moving black people out and housing is only getting more expensive.” Aristiee’s claim is backed up by the large-scale investment from developers of over $524 million since 2009. When asked if she viewed the change of the area as a negative or positive, she flatly objected to the idea, “I think it’s pretty clearly a negative.”
She did, however, admit that she has never seen more activity in the area than there currently is. Ben LaMaster, an employee at Georgetown Optician also remarked on the bustle of 14th street, “weekdays are a little slower, but weekends are always crazy.”
In looking at their time working on 14th Street, all three of these people were able to remark on the changes the area has undergone. The influx of youth and money, the decrease in crime and small business and the overall change in culture of the street.