U Street: The Corridor Is Cool Again

SAUNTER down U Street in northwest Washington almost any night and you’ll hear the pulsing beat of urban nightlife: the tinny pop of a snare drum, the caustic sneering of an indie rocker, the smooth melodies of a lounge singer, the plaintive picking of a folkie and the driving chunk-a-chunk of hip-hop.

The U Street Corridor, the center of Washington’s African-American nightlife for much of the 20th century and the birthplace of Duke Ellington, is vibrant again and the newest and hottest place in town for getting out on weekends after dark. The transformation that began in the late 90’s, after three decades of decline and neglect, continues to gather speed, with boarded-up buildings reopened and transformed into galleries, shops, cafes and clubs, and nightlife seekers migrating over from Georgetown and Adams Morgan for a slightly older, less raucous scene where the patrons have a bit more money to spend.

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