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O Street Market: Symbol of violence becomes a marker for D.C.’s resurgence
Left: The exterior of the O Street Market as seen on Aug. 31, 1978, at the intersection of 7th and O Streets NW. (Ken Feil/The Washington Post) Right: The City Market development as seen on Nov. 13, 2013. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)
By Marc Fisher ,
E-mail the writer
watches In the chill of a light rain, James Simmons, out for a smoke break from his job at Beauty Town, started at the sound: rat-a-tat, rat-a-tat.
Not firecrackers, Simmons thought. It was just before 7 p.m. on March 31, 1994, and the meaning of the sounds suddenly hit him: They’re shooting inside the O Street Market. And then outside, too.

At O Street Market shooting site, an area’s resurgence: The District’s largest supermarket opens Thursday at the site of a notorious mass shooting in 1994, and a luxury development is going up.
watches “Everybody was running,” Simmons recalls, standing in that same spot in Shaw 19 years later. “One guy came out, ran over to the church and collapsed.” Then he heard the shouts: “Little Duwan got shot! Duwan is shot!”watches The market, where city residents stopped to grab some wings for dinner or paused to look at watches so cheap people said they had to be hot, cleared out. Duwan — Duwan A’Vant, 15, only child of Karen A’Vant — was dead. Eight other people were shot. A toddler. Two security guards from FBI headquarters. Two elderly women. watches
In a city where gun violence had become so widespread that the police had a special unit called ­Redrum devoted just to drug dealers killing drug dealers, the O Street Market shootings hit hard.
watches “There were just bodies falling everywhere,” a man at the deli counter said afterward.For the next two decades, the market in Northwest Washington was a symbol of urban decay and dysfunction. The vendors bailed out. The roof collapsed. The shell of the historic structure, built in 1881, was vandalized. And then, in 2001, three developers who believed that Shaw would find its way back bought the symbol of the drug wars and waited for the right moment, which they believe begins this week.
‘All new, for new people’
You can see the gleaming, restored roof of the O Street Market from the top of the new City Market at O , a 645-unit apartment complex with a 182-room hotel and 86,000 square feet of retail. The development unveils its first phase Thursday with the opening of a new Giant, the city’s biggest supermarket, “the perfect homage to the O Street Market,” as the ad from Roadside Development puts it. A rooftop dog run — “We have daughters,” developer Richard Lake explains, “so we liked the idea that if you don’t want to go out late at night, you could walk the dog on the roof” — is adjacent to a dog wash, which is around the corner from the infinity lap pool and the dance floor and the poker tables and the den where book clubs can meet and the demonstration kitchen where top chefs will stage cooking classes. (You’ll have to go downstairs for the yoga room, cardio room, weight room and massage therapy room.) A 550-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment rents for about $2,700 a month. City Market has already rented 75, sight unseen.“It looks great,” Simmons says, looking across the street from Beauty Town, where he still works. “All new, for new people, people with money. All our customers are gone. Can’t get mad at the people who are gonna live there — they worked hard for it and now they get to spend it.”The developers are not alien to this place. Lake’s grandparents owned corner grocery stores a few blocks away, and his uncle worked in the stalls at O Street Market. Roadside’s three partners have heard the complaints from some longtime black residents who say they are being systematically pushed out of Shaw, or at least priced out.
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