Best Long-Running Neighborhood Feud

Shaw vs. Shiloh Baptist Church’s vacant properties
Photograph by Darrow Montgomery
Anyone priced out of Shaw in the past few years can tell you that the neighborhood is booming. Houses that sat derelict since the 1968 riots have been renovated into million-dollar homes. 7th Street NW is a din of construction noise as the Howard Theater, City Market at O Street, Progression Place, and Marriott Marquis foreshadow an influx of new businesses and residents to the area.

And yet, a row of prime commercial properties on 9th Street remains vacant and boarded up. For the past 10 years, the owner—Shiloh Baptist Church, a Shaw landmark that’s dominated 9th and P streets since 1924—has promised change was coming. It hasn’t, even as neighborhood annoyance with the eyesores has grown. The church was forgiven, somewhat, when it sold off a couple of the properties in 2009 to help finance the development of the others. But even after a “groundbreaking” in 2010, one project took another year to get started, and three addresses still sit dormant.

Shiloh is now trying to wait out a lone business plopped in the middle of the strip. And neighbors are hounding the city to tax the church at the highest possible rate as an added incentive to fix up its blighted block. Which is all just to say that, for all the change in Shaw, things on this strip of 9th street are as immovably acrimonious as ever.