The Twilight Exit Enters The Heart Of The CD

At its former location at 22nd and Madison, the Twilight Exit was a pioneer in  the gentrifying Miller Park neighborhood on the northern fringes of the Central District.  But as often happens, the pioneer became a victim of the neighborhood evolution that it helped to bring about:  imminent redevelopment forced a move.

The Twilight’s new turf at 25th and Cherry is pure Central District.  And while housing prices have risen rapidly in the CD over the past decade or so, you wouldn’t know it judging by the struggling commercial blocks on Cherry Street between 23rd Ave and MLK Blvd.  In the eleven years that I’ve lived in the neighborhood, Cherry lost a BBQ joint, a cleaners, a small church, the Dilettante Chocolate store, and a car repair shop, while it gained a cafe and three Ethiopian restaurants (oddly, that’s in addition to two that were already there).

The Twilight Exit has taken over a space in which two soul food restaurants have tried and failed over the past seven years.  I suspect the Twilight will manage to avoid the same fate, but it is likely to be a challenge.  Compared to 22nd and Madison, the predominantly single-family neighborhood around Cherry provides a smaller local customer base, and it’s far enough away from Capitol Hill to discourage many a patron of the former location from making the trek.

A further challenge is the lack of street activation on Cherry, which makes for a desolate environment after dark.  The area has been troubled with street crime for many years, and on the Twilight’s opening weekend, that trouble reared its head in the ugliest way imaginable when 26-year old Tyrone Love was gunned down near 26th and Cherry.

The trajectory of change in the CD is a cultural minefield.  No doubt, there are those who view the Twilight as the latest wave of invasion, just as there are those who can’t wait for the culture represented by the Twilight to take over.  But most, I believe, are somewhere in the middle – they like the diversity in the CD and want to see it preserved, and hope for both a revitalized African American community, and a revitalized neighborhood center.

[ Memorial for Tyrone Love near 26th and Cherry ]