I lived in Washington, D.C. for a decade, coming here in 1986 just after college to pursue a career in international trade. I rented a room in a small row house in the Glover Park neighborhood of NW D.C. It was a wonderful place to be introduced to the city. I took the bus down to my job at Farragut Square and some spring and summer days would actually make the 30 min. walk across town from the office to home. After four years in Glover Park (or as some aggressive marketers used to call it, “Upper Georgetown”), I bought my first place: a 1 bed + den condo in a rehabbed rowhouse on U Street, N.W. This was a little before the great U Street Corridor renaissance so I was able to take my small salary and together with a little help from my parents, become a homeowner for the first time. The amount and speed of change to that area – on the border between Dupont Circle and Adams Morgan – was amazing.
After I moved to Virginia in 1997, the amount and speed of change in the District super-accelerated to where we are today: a rapidly gentrifying city where the cost of housing almost everywhere continues to go up as the size of housing is often shrinking. The services the city offers have greatly improved (including some of its public schools as well as now having charter school options), transportation is better with the extension of metro and the addition of bike sharing and scooter sharing ventures, and an explosion of the retail options available. Most of the change has been concentrated west of the Anacostia River, but neighborhoods east of the Anacostia have also seen changes with more housing options for some and displacement for others. It’s a complicated picture, but the city is an exciting place to live. I wouldn’t change my time living there for anything and it may be what you’re looking for, too!
It's important to understand that Washington, D.C. is divided into four geographic quadrants which all meet/converge at the Capitol. When you look at a map you’ll see the Capitol is off-center in the city which is why NW is the largest quadrant and SW is the smallest because of the location of the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers. NE and SE span neighborhoods on both sides of the Anacostia River.
Northwest is the largest, wealthiest, and arguably most familiar part of the city. The National Mall is here, the K Street business corridor, and Rock Creek Park. In “Upper NW,” you’ll find gracious homes in established neighborhoods like Kent, the Palisades, and Spring Valley along Massachusetts Avenue. Along the Wisconsin Avenue corridor, you’ll find Tenleytown coming south from Maryland, as well as AU Park; many of the homes in these neighborhoods are considered “walkable” to the Red Line metro stations. Farther south you’ll run into neighborhoods like Glover Park and Burleith with their small townhouses just north of Georgetown, which contains some of the most expensive real estate in the city. For a more “urban” experience, cosmopolitan Dupont Circle and Logan Circle might be your spot with many retail and commercial options within a few blocks of condos and townhouses. If you’re looking for a quieter life, you may want to explore neighborhoods along the Georgia Avenue corridor like Petworth, Brightwood, or Shepherd Park. If you want to try a gentrifying area, maybe Truxton Circle or Mt. Vernon Square is for you. Other NW neighborhoods include Adams Morgan, Bloomingdale, Cleveland Park, Colonial Village, Kalorama, Shaw, and Woodley Park among others. I’ve shown or sold homes in most of these neighborhoods, especially Petworth and Dupont Circle.
It’s the tiniest quadrant in the city and has some of the most varied housing options. This is where the big Wharf development is located with its luxury condos and apartments along with restaurants and entertainment venues and D.C.’s famous fish market. There are also a number of co-ops – arguably the greatest concentration in the city – built in the 1970’s in the Brutal architecture style of the time which is heavy on bulky, concrete construction. For many years SW looked like a forgotten area, but that has really changed. With the redevelopment of the SW Waterfront, new housing, and expanded and better retail, many people are finding SW more livable than it was considered in the past. They also are coming to appreciate its convenience to Capitol Hill and the National Mall which some of my clients tell me they consider an easy bike ride away. SW is also where Ft. McNair is located, the new stadium for DC United (our professional soccer team), and is just across from the baseball stadium in SE D.C. SW’s residents have included members of the Supreme Court and the D.C. chief of police. I’ve shown and sold both condos and co-ops in SW. With such a small footprint, inventory is incredibly limited.
Northeast spans both sides of the Anacostia River. On the eastern side are neighborhoods that historically have been some of the city’s least economically developed and least served. However, that is changing with commercial and residential development at metro stations like Minnesota Avenue and Benning Road. Developers are seeking opportunities here to remodel and flip homes, especially in neighborhoods like Deanwood and Ft. Dupont Park. On the western side of the Anacostia, there is also a lot choice. Those seeking a more “urban” experience might want to explore the neighborhoods along the H Street corridor like Trinidad, Rosedale, and Kingman Park. In the past 10-15 years this area has seen a seismic shift in the amount and quality of housing available as well as commercial establishments. Close to H Street is the NOMA area (North of Massachusetts Avenue) and while to the northwest you’ll find Eckington; north of that is Brentwood and Brookland near Catholic University. Farther north and east along South Dakota Avenue are the neighborhoods of Woodridge, Michigan Park, and Riggs Park, among others. Many neighborhoods in NE are being “discovered” by developers who have been remodeling and flipping homes at an increased rate. I’ve shown and sold all over NE, especially in Trinidad and Woodridge.
Like NE, Southeast spans both sides of the Anacostia River, but it’s noticeably smaller. Many people don’t realize that a significant portion of Capitol Hill is in SE, with one of the largest stocks of Victorian-era rowhouses on the Eastern Seaboard. Buyers who are looking for a strong historic neighborhood feel may love the Hill, given its numerous small parks, architecture, and brick-paved sidewalks. There is where you’ll find Eastern Market, Barrack’s Row, the U.S. Capitol, U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, and U.S. Supreme Court as well as Union Station. Outside of Pennsylvania Avenue, retail occurs in small pockets. SE also covers the rapidly developing areas of the Navy Yard and around Nationals Stadium. East across the Anacostia River, SE has historically been one of the least economically parts of the city; however, that is changing with more money going into retail and services in places like historic Anacostia and Congress Heights. This is spurring new rowhouse construction and renovations/flips in the area. As the transfer of the Dept. of Homeland Security to the old St. Elizabeth’s Hospital campus heats up, change is expected to accelerate. I’ve shown and sold homes on both sides of the Anacostia for investors and owner-occupants alike.