Our article explores the cultural politics of public space and the placemaking politics of urban redevelopment in the Atlas District of Washington, DC, a popular commercial district undergoing rapid gentrification. The major questions we address are, how do race and class impact the ways public space is controlled and/or managed in the context of rapid changes in the built, economic and social environments of the neighborhood? What role do those narratives play in justifying changes in and management of public space? We focus on uses of public space and describe how various forms of power are linked to the control of space in the context of gentrification. Our analysis focuses on designated public space in the Atlas District the Starburst Plaza. By analyzing everyday practices around community control at the Starburst Plaza, this case study focuses on the discrete methods by which the symbolic and material inequities promulgated by the neoliberal state are reconfigured through struggles to define and manage contested public spaces.