(WJLA) - Amid all the cranes and construction in D.C.'s Shaw neighborhood, Mayor Gray cut ribbons up and down 7th and 9th Streets to showcase the development here. There are eateries where longtime residents remember there was once nothing at all.
"This was boarded up since 1980, a couple little stores," describes Leola Smith.
Even the name of this neighborhood, Shaw, used to be a synonym for urban blight, but not anymore. At 9th and O, attendees of the event packed into the lower lobby of the new Camria hotel, where the mayor couldn't help but recall the bad old days:
"Frankly, if somebody had told me there would be a hotel at 9th and O Streets a few years ago, I would have said, 'What kind of business are they in?'" laughed Gray.
The mayor also posed with the owners of a new Italian restaurant, West African. And Donnie Simpson Jr., flanked by his parents, has opened up a muffin and coffee shop:
'We actually opened April 11 so we're really happy to have the mayor stop by today, it's a great day."
His radio personality father says he loves the location:
"All kinds of people from all walks of life, all colors, styles -- it's just beautiful," says Donnie.
As for the local ANC Commissioner, this is heaven:
"Shaw is blowing up in terms of restaurant and bars and other kinds of businesses," says Alexander Padro.
However, some lament the change and the loss of friends here:
"A lot of the old-timers who do own their property, they was like forced out," says Napoleon Staples.
But when it comes to revitalization, it seems that times have never been better in Shaw.