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In Defense of Columbia Heights, the Real Columbia Heights

Room 11 wine bar, 11th and Lamont St, NW

Lately some Twitter users and especially Washington City Paper contributor @jasoncherkis have been kicking around Columbia Heights. Cherkis tweets:

“Columbia Heights has got to be the ugliest gentrified neighborhood in D.C.”

“What’s the difference between Columbia Heights and Silver Spring? Silver Spring has two movie theaters. CH just has the chain stores.”

“w/ Panera, IHOP, and Panda Express, Columbia Heights is turning into a food court or an airport.”

While I don’t even live in Columbia Heights I will not deny the fact that I love it – warts and all. I found the above tweets emblematic of how some people misjudge Columbia Heights.

At the risk of being oversensitive and since it’s Friday, please indulge me and allow me to address a few of the above claims.

Number 1: Columbia Heights is not DC USA. It is commonly accepted that Columbia Heights’ boundaries are 16th Street to the west; Spring Road to the north; Georgia Avenue to the east; and Florida Avenue to the south. DC USA is the mall that is located on 14th St, NW between Irving and Park Rd. And the fact that a mall has chain stores – I know is shocking and appalling to some – but it is a freaking mall. Stunning, stunning revelation.

Number 2: Mr. Cherkis – if you actually walk around Columbia Heights you will find some beautiful architecture, sculptures, parks and even independent shops, bars and restaurants (particularly on 11th St, NW). Looks are of course in the eye of the beholder but to call the neighborhood ugly, well as Bob Marley sang – “in the abundance of water the fool is thirsty.”

Number 3: Columbia Heights is not filled with only chain stores and the chain stores it does have are not evil. Oh all you super cool guys and girls who scoff at IHOP and Chipotle… You who purport to be advocates of the disenfranchised, well, the fact that you can’t see how a Chipotle and IHOP serve the residents of Columbia Heights is obnoxious and condescending to say the least. I dare you to walk by either space and not see the most diverse of clienteles representing the entire neighborhood.

IHOP on 1400 block of Irving St, NW in photo from left to right – white, hispanic and black patrons

Number 4: In the last 10-15 years Columbia Heights (like many of DC’s neighborhoods) has become a more beautiful and perhaps more importantly a much safer place to live and visit.

Number 5: I like Silver Spring.

Number 6: DC USA and its shops have made Columbia Heights a more convenient and livable neighborhood.

Number 7: Of course many who live in and visit Columbia Heights would like an independent bookstore and movie theater. But since those stores are failing all over the city, unless a philanthropic angel who doesn’t care about profit – comes to Columbia Heights it ain’t gonna happen.

Number 8: Columbia Heights is still defining itself and getting better and better. Like all neighborhoods it will continue to evolve over the coming years. I already alluded to the many great businesses of 11th St, NW. Well many many more are en route. For just one example – the new endeavor from the folks behind Tryst and the Diner chose Columbia Heights for a reason – because they were looking for a real community. And it didn’t take them long to realize that had found just that in Columbia Heights.

So my friends – for the Friday Question of the Day – Do you think Columbia Heights is defined entirely by DC USA and 14th St, NW between Irving and Park Rd – or is there more to the neighborhood?

Greater First Baptist Church, 2701 13th Street, NW

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