Editor’s note: Hey everybody, thanks for all of your support. We’re back to scheduled programming here at U Street Girl, trying to move on. Hello to all new readers, welcome.

Woolly Mammoth‘s current production, Clybourne Park, deals with gentrification in a Chicago neighborhood. When they graciously invited me to come see the show and share my thoughts on the issues the play raises, I was more than happy to.

Clybourne Park (written by Bruce Norris) brought up those seemingly age old questions that come along with gentrification. Is a neighborhood better after gentrification? Before? Who can come in and change things? What does race have to do with it (or what doesn’t it have to do with it)? The play showed how difficult having frank conversations about race in this age are, with everyone careful not to offend anyone, yet often coming to the table with preconceived notions and stereotypes.

image courtesy of Woolly Mammoth

Thinking about U street and gentrification, I first think about the history. U street was Black Broadway, it was where Dizzie Gillespie and Billie Holiday came to play. It’s where Duke Ellington grew up. It’s where Langston Hughes spent some of his formative years. This is a neighborhood rich with black history.

In the decades since the riots, where U street has seen gentrification – no one can claim that at least all the huge condo and apartment buildings aren’t a part of gentrification - it has tried to celebrate the past. What are the names of these condo buildings? Why, they’re the Ellington and the Langston. Is gentrification better if we celebrate the past?

Is the neighborhood better?

For more of my thoughts continue reading below the jump.

Readers of U Street Girl can see any performance of Clybourne Park for only $15. Use this numeric code 789 when arranging tickets. Reservations can be made online (woollymammoth.net), over the phone (202-393-3939), or in person (641 D Street NW, Washington, DC).  Clybourne Park runs March 15 – April 11, 2010.  Performances are Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm and 7pm.

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12th and U a year and half ago, approximately

12th and U a year and half ago, approximately

The other day I was looking at the Google street view for different intersections around U street (might have had some time to kill). While I’m not sure when the street view pictures were taken, they were announced about six months ago, and look to have been taken at least a year ago and a half ago (Pink November is still in its old location, Ulah Bistro isn’t open). It made me think about how much the ‘hood has changed just in the past year or so. When I moved here U street was a quieter, hipper alternative to other nightlife destinations. Now it seems to have become the nightlife destination.

12th and U now

12th and U now

It got me thinking. Just in the past two years U street area has seen the following places open: Chix, Nellie’s, Vinoteca, Italian Pizza Kitchen, Next Door, Ulah Bistro, Sushi U, U Street Cafe, Marvin, the Gibson, DC Noodles, Policy, Cork, Eatonville, Yes Organic Market, the CVSes at 14th and W and 10th and U, Georgetown Valet, Pure, Indulj, Almaz, Republic Gardens, Cafe Salsa, 1905, Station 9, Hamiltonian Gallery, Momo’s, Miss Pixies, and a little out of the neighborhood: Posto, Commissary, Pitango Gelato, ACKC… and I haven’t even touched Columbia Heights.

Meanwhile the following have closed: Cue Bar, Duke’s City, 14U, Pink November (relocated), George’s Shoe Repair (relocated), Bar Nun, Mocha Hut, Simply Home, Roha, Wild Women Wear Red, and I’m sure many more I’m currently forgetting. It’s at least nice that the places that have opened outweigh those that closed.

It’s one thing to think about how a neighborhood changes in the abstract, it’s another to see it in person. Share your thoughts in the comment section, if you please.

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