Growth of H Street: Where people used to ‘run,’ now they stay

This aerial photo shows fire-gutted buildings, some still smouldering, along a block on H Street between 12th and 13th Streets in the northeast section of Washington, D.C. on April 5, 1968. Rioting broke out after the assassination of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Memphis, Tenn. on April 4. (AP Photo)
This aerial photo shows fire-gutted buildings, some still smoldering, along a block on H Street between 12th and 13th Streets in the northeast section of Washington, D.C. on April 5, 1968. Rioting broke out after the assassination of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Memphis, Tenn. on April 4. (AP Photo) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
A 2010 photo of buildings on H Street NE near intersection with 12th St., NE, Washington, D.C.  (The George F. Landegger Collection of District of Columbia Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith's America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)
A 2010 photo shows buildings on H Street NE near the intersection of 12th Street in Washington, D.C. In the last 15 years, H Street has transformed in an effort to restore the once abandoned corridor to its former glory. (The George F. Landegger Collection of District of Columbia Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division) (The George F. Landegger Collection of District of Columbia Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith's America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)
People's Drug Store at 8th & H Streets, NE, Washington, D.C.  National Photo Company Collection.(Library of Congress)
A photo of the People’s Drugstore at 8th and H streets NE in Washington, D.C. (National Photo Company Collection, Library of Congress) (Library of Congress)
In 2016, the D.C. apartment building The Apollo opened on the 600 block of H Street NE. It's anchored by a Whole Foods Market and We Work, a shared workspace company. (Courtesy Jeffrey Sauers)
In 2016, the D.C. apartment building The Apollo opened on the 600 block of H Street NE. It’s anchored by a Whole Foods Market and We Work, a shared workspace company. (Courtesy Jeffrey Sauers) (Jeffrey Sauers)
A 2010 photo of buildings on H Street NE between 7th and 8th streets, Washington, D.C. (he George F. Landegger Collection of District of Columbia Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith's America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)
A 2010 photo of buildings on H Street NE between 7th and 8th streets. Developments on H Street’s western and easternmost blocks have been underway for years. Now, the corridor’s center blocks are getting some attention. (The George F. Landegger Collection of District of Columbia Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division) (he George F. Landegger Collection of District of Columbia Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith's America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)
The Apollo Theater on H Street NE in Washington, D.C. (National Photo Company Collection, Library of Congress)
A photo of the Apollo Theater on H Street NE in Washington, D.C. The site of the former theater is now home to The Apollo, an apartment building with a number of retailers, including a Whole Foods Market. (National Photo Company Collection, Library of Congress) (National Photo Company Collection, Library of Congress)
DC Apartment building The Apollo interior design image by Jeffrey Sauers of Commercial Photographics, Architectural Photo Artistry in Washington DC, Virginia to Florida and PA to New England
Inside The Apollo: A game room and lounge area that opens to the rooftop pool at 600 H Street NE. (Courtesy Jeffrey Sauers) (Jeffrey Sauers)
d.c. streetcar
In 2016, a 2.2-mile streetcar system opened on H Street, connecting riders from Union Station to Benning Road. (WTOP/Sarah Beth Hensley) (WTOP/Sarah Beth Hensley)
 A 2010 photo of buildings on H Street NE, near the intersection with 12th Street. The George F. Landegger Collection of District of Columbia Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith's America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. 
A 2010 photo of buildings on H Street NE near the intersection of 12th Street. (The George F. Landegger Collection of District of Columbia Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division) (The George F. Landegger Collection of District of Columbia Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith's America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. )
A festivalgoer checks out an illustrated poster at one of the stalls on H Street. (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
For the past 12 years, H Street has been home to a fall festival that’s grown from 500 participants to more than 150,000. A festivalgoer checks out an illustrated poster at one of the stalls on H Street. (WTOP/Dana Gooley) (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
The 40,000-square-foot market is Whole Foods’ fifth D.C. location and its first in Northeast. It’s located on the ground floor of the luxury Apollo apartment building at 600 H St. NE. (WTOP/Rachel Nania) (WTOP/Rachel Nania)
Washington DC
Fare Well is a veggie-centric diner that opened in 2016 at 406 H Street NE. Owner Doron Petersan doesn’t like to give it a label, but if you must, “vegan” is accurate. (April Greer/Fare Well) (April Greer/April Greer)
The restaurant plans to limit enrollment to 20 people in the initial course. (WTOP/Andrew Mollenbeck)
Sally’s Middle Name is a popular H Street eatery on the 1300 block. (WTOP/Andrew Mollenbeck) (WTOP/Andrew Mollenbeck)
DC Apartment building The Apollo interior design image by Jeffrey Sauers of Commercial Photographics, Architectural Photo Artistry in Washington DC, Virginia to Florida and PA to New England
The Apollo’s rooftop conservatory offers city views and greenery. (Courtesy Jeffrey Sauers) (Jeffrey Sauers)
Chefs Erik Bruner-Yang (L) and Benoit Chargy prepare food during Taste of Waldorf Astoria at Waldorf Astoria Hotel on February 23, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts)
Chef Erik Bruner-Yang (L) opened his all-day eatery and retail concept Maketto at 1351 H Street NE in 2015. (Getty Images) (Getty Images for Waldorf Astoria/Bryan Bedder)
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This aerial photo shows fire-gutted buildings, some still smouldering, along a block on H Street between 12th and 13th Streets in the northeast section of Washington, D.C. on April 5, 1968. Rioting broke out after the assassination of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Memphis, Tenn. on April 4. (AP Photo)
A 2010 photo of buildings on H Street NE near intersection with 12th St., NE, Washington, D.C.  (The George F. Landegger Collection of District of Columbia Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith's America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)
People's Drug Store at 8th & H Streets, NE, Washington, D.C.  National Photo Company Collection.(Library of Congress)
In 2016, the D.C. apartment building The Apollo opened on the 600 block of H Street NE. It's anchored by a Whole Foods Market and We Work, a shared workspace company. (Courtesy Jeffrey Sauers)
A 2010 photo of buildings on H Street NE between 7th and 8th streets, Washington, D.C. (he George F. Landegger Collection of District of Columbia Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith's America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)
The Apollo Theater on H Street NE in Washington, D.C. (National Photo Company Collection, Library of Congress)
DC Apartment building The Apollo interior design image by Jeffrey Sauers of Commercial Photographics, Architectural Photo Artistry in Washington DC, Virginia to Florida and PA to New England
d.c. streetcar
 A 2010 photo of buildings on H Street NE, near the intersection with 12th Street. The George F. Landegger Collection of District of Columbia Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith's America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. 
A festivalgoer checks out an illustrated poster at one of the stalls on H Street. (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
Washington DC
The restaurant plans to limit enrollment to 20 people in the initial course. (WTOP/Andrew Mollenbeck)
DC Apartment building The Apollo interior design image by Jeffrey Sauers of Commercial Photographics, Architectural Photo Artistry in Washington DC, Virginia to Florida and PA to New England
Chefs Erik Bruner-Yang (L) and Benoit Chargy prepare food during Taste of Waldorf Astoria at Waldorf Astoria Hotel on February 23, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts)
'You can bring back any neighborhood in this country' (WTOP's Rachel Nania )

WASHINGTON Standing next to a colorful poolside cabana on the roof deck at H Street NE’s newest apartment building, The Apollo, one has views of a vegan diner to the right, a Starbucks to the left, and a sustainable chicken restaurant straight ahead.

Below is marble-countered coffee shop and a shiny new Whole Foods Market.

But 40 years ago, that view was much different.

“It got to a point where you didn’t walk through H Street, you ran through H Street,” said Anwar Saleem, executive director of the nonprofit H Street Main Street.

Once a bustling city corridor “probably the second-most vibrant district in the city when it comes to income,” Saleem said H Street fell victim to urban decay following suburbanization and the 1968 riots that took place after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“It was redlined by banks; it was basically a forgotten area,” Saleem said.

That is until H Street Main Street and the city, along with hundreds of community members, teamed up in 2002 to breathe new life into the neighborhood’s cracked sidewalks, boarded-up buildings and shuttered art spaces.

Now, H Street’s lost vibrancy is being restored.

The revitalization of H Street did not happen overnight.

Growth has been gradual — first with a wave of businesses catering to night life. But Washingtonians are no longer hopping back over the Hopscotch Bridge once they close out their bar tabs. A new influx of residences and daytime businesses are giving them a reason to stay.

Maury Stern, a partner at Insight Property Group, which owns The Apollo, sees the redevelopment of the 600 block of H Street formerly home to the historic Apollo Theater and a self-storage business as a turning point for the neighborhood.

“This block, before we redeveloped it, was really a problem on H Street,” said Stern, who added that blocks to the east and west were seeing activity, but the middle stayed mostly neglected.

“Everything in between has sort of taken a little bit longer.”

Now that The Apollo and its surrounding buildings are near completion, Stern hopes people not only come to the 600 block, but stay on the block, visiting its array of retailers, including Whole Foods, The Wydown, Solid State Books and a dining concept from the owners of Philadelphia’s acclaimed Vedge.

“You could work within the building, you could shop at Whole Foods, you could eat dinner or lunch at [Vedge], spend time hanging out in the bookshop,” Stern said.

H Street Main Street’s Saleem says the neighborhood’s reactivation has attracted more than 300 businesses and created more than 3,600 jobs. But restaurants and retail aren’t the strip’s only appeal.

For the past 12 years, H Street has been home to a fall festival that’s grown from 500 participants to more than 150,000. And in 2016, a 2.2-mile streetcar system opened on H Street, connecting riders from Union Station to Benning Road.

A once forgotten neighborhood gets a new look (WTOP's Rachel Nania )

“If you really put the residents and the businesses together, and you work together, it just shows that you can really bring back any neighborhood in this country. And H Street’s a good example of that,” Saleem said.

H Street is by no means done growing.

A new retail and residential center replacing the former H Street Connection shopping center between 8th and 10th streets NE is scheduled to open in 2019, The Washington Business Journal reports. Urban Turf details more than 10 other developments planned for the area.

However, next on Saleem’s list of projects is a focus on stretching H Street’s business boom to nearby Bladensburg and Benning roads “to really create a community where you can walk.”

“We want to be walkable, we want to be livable, we want to be enjoyable,” he said.

Redeveloping Hechinger Mall a strip mall that connects all three thoroughfares — would be a “game-changer,” Saleem added.


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