Shaw consists of gridded streets lined mainly with small Victorian row houses, but also north of the convention center by urban-renewal-era low-rise apartment complexes and the late 2010s mixed-use development City Market at O. The original commercial hub of the area prior to the redevelopment in the wake of the 1968 riots and Green Line Metrorail construction was along 7th and 9th streets NW, and especially 7th street is still lined by small businesses housed in rowhouse-sized buildings—though with trendy shops and restaurants rather than neighborhood-oriented businesses. Tucked away into the alleys here are former light industrial buildings that now constitute the Blagden Alley-Naylor Court Historic District, home to restaurants, cafés and other small businesses. The Shaw Main Streets association is centered along 7th and 9th Streets between K and W streets.
Shaw neighborhood is served by the Green and Yellow lines of the Washington Metro with stops at Shaw-Howard University Station, U Street Station and Mount Vernon Square Station. There is a bus service within Shaw, which has several routes that connects the area with the Waterfront and Silver Spring via 7th Street. Also, the G2 bus connects Georgetown University and Howard University. Freeway access allows cars to maneuver through the streets of Shaw. Since the 1980s, Ethiopian-born business owners have been purchasing property in the neighbourhood of Shaw, specifically Thirteenth and Ninth Streets. The area has since gained distinctive popularity in Washington even outside of the Ethiopian community. The food has become a main attraction and reason for locals and tourists to commute to Shaw and experience the many local Ethiopian restaurants.