Will Columbia Heights inevitably subdivide?
Last week, Columbia Heights residents and the ANC objected to proposed banners that seemed to be rebranding a segment of 14th Street, from Irving to Shepherd, as "Tivoli North." Many argued that Columbia Heights is just beginning to develop a citywide reputation as a desirable place to go, and didn't like the impression that businesses were shying away from the name. That's all true, but I suspect Columbia Heights will eventually become more than one neighborhood whether local leaders like it or not.
Many maps show "Shaw" encompassing a wide swath from 16th and U to Georgia and Florida down to 14th and M and New Jersey and M. Today, most people call the northern portion of that area the "U Street" neighborhood and the southwestern portion "Logan Circle." Likewise, Sherman and Euclid is very far from 14th and Randolph. They're not in the same ward, and are each as close or closer to other Metro stations than the Columbia Heights station.
The neighborhoods to the east and west, like Adams Morgan, Mount Pleasant, Park View, and Pleasant Plains, are all smaller. Columbia Heights spans a much larger area than "Dupont Circle," which by some measures reaches the southwest corner of 14th and U due to the ANC boundaries. As the blocks in the area develop even more citywide appeal, people will naturally want to explain to their friends where they live, and "Columbia Heights" may simply not be specific enough.
Sure, Chevy Chase DC is even larger in area, but it's also relatively sparsely populated compared to Columbia Heights, has fewer stores, and is much more auto-dependent. When in a car, distances feel smaller, and Chevy Chase can feel like one neighborhood because the typical resident can cross it in five minutes. The typical person in Columbia Heights is on foot, and it takes a lot longer to get from Clifton to Shepherd. Also, there's less inside the boundaries of Chevy Chase to fit into one mental box than in Columbia Heights.
In general, fancier neighborhoods seem to have more names for areas than less affluent ones. The Benning-Minnesota crossroads is often termed "Downtown Ward 7," while only one resident of Georgetown ever calls the area "Ward 2." (Though people do talk about "Ward 3.") Some of this stems from realtors trying to shed the poorer connotations of areas. That's probably why we have "Kalorama Triangle" and "Lanier Heights." Still, there's also a natural desire to better identify one's area.
A friend lived for a short while on Spring Road, and was never sure what to call the area. Is it Petworth? (That's mostly east of Georgia). Sixteenth Street Heights? (The large, fancy houses on 16th are a world away from the row houses near 14th, and separated by a parkway). Does Columbia Heights extend up to Taylor Street, as some tax databases claim? What about people at 15th and Chapin? Is that "Meridian Hill"? "BUCo" (Between U and Columbia Heights)? Or just southern Columbia Heights?
Evenutally, some names are going to stick for the northern and southern portions of this neighborhood. It could be as simple as "Northern Columbia Heights" or (to follow San Francisco's model) "Upper Columbia Heights". Or, they could earn their own monikers. But as more people move to the area and even more people start to have friends in the area, nonresidents' collective mental picture of the area will become more nuanced. People will start to recognize the difference between the part between the area near Howard, the area near DC USA, and the area near Arkansas Avenue. And they'll naturally want language to describe those areas.
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