Story Mapping Changing NEIGHBORHOODS in washington, D.C.

In recent years, Washington DC has served as a classic case study for what some call the back-to-the-city movement, or what Alan Ehrenhalt called “The Great Inversion” in American cities. Demographic trends show the city’s unprecedented popularity among young, largely white, middle-class professionals. Historically, however, Washington, DC was popularly known as the “Chocolate City.” Throughout most of the twentieth century, it was one of the few U.S. cities that not only had an African-American majority, but a thriving black middle-class who held long-standing political power.

This research provides a close look at what the loss of the “Chocolate City” means to diverse, long-term residents of the District. How do they view the changing demographics of the city and what do they believe they stand to benefit or lose from its transformation? 

Through in-depth interviews with residents, including many prominent political and community leaders, the project looks to document the city’s transformation and give voice to long-term residents’ memories and attachments to the city, its legacy, and their feelings and experiences of change. The project puts their stories literally on a map, layering residents’ stories with other contemporary and historical data about Washington, DC neighborhoods. In my class “Story Mapping Neighborhood Change in Washington, DC", students story mapped long-term residents’ perspectives on change in five gentrified or gentrifying DC neighborhoods, including ChinatownU StreetSouthwest,Mount Pleasant, and H Street, NE.

U Street - Shaw 

"Howard Theater was the only place where blacks (performers) came..."

Recognized as a monument to the creativity, struggle, and resiliency of African Americans in D.C., the U Street - Shaw area has experienced a period of intense revitalization and dramatic demographic shifts in the past 10-15 years, resulting in a current majority white population.


A historically Chinese immigrant neighborhood located in the heart of downtown D.C., the neighborhood has experienced the highest change of median income (more than 138%) in the city, and has gone from a majority Aisan population (66%) to a minority of 22% in 2010, with reports in 2015 of just 300 Chinese Americans remaining.

H Street

H Street, a historically Black neighborhood characterized by the H Street commercial corridor and residential neighborhoods surrounding it, bears a history challengedd by high crime and violence, and was a site of 1968 riots. Recently, the neighborhood has seen a turn of investment with the arrival of the Atlas Performing Arts Center and DC Streetcar.

Southwest Waterfront

Prior to the 1950s, Southwest Waterfront was home to a thriving African American community; however, in order to make room for downtown development, the neighborhood ended up becoming the center of an urban renewal project that leveled 99% of buildings in the Southwestern quadrant of the city, and displaced about 4,500 African American Families, forcing most to relocate to other areas - primarily Northeast and Southeast D.C.

Mount Pleasant

Known as a "Village in the City", this neighborhood is known for its abundant green open space and well-preserved structural diversity. It has also served as a gateway community for Latino immigrants arriving from the 1960s forward, and it is the site of the 1991 riots over police brutality committed against a Salvaron immigrant.