Seven years ago, Anne Stom moved into a house in DC’s Petworth that had been lived in by the same couple for 40 years. “Like many of the homes here, it was well built and had good bones,” Stom says. After making “600 million trips to Home Depot” while she renovated—and seeing many of her neighbors do the same—she decided the neighborhood was ripe for a hardware store. In February, she opened Annie’s Ace Hardware, one of many new businesses that have set up shop in an area undergoing tremendous change.
Built mostly in the early 1900s, Petworth was a thriving middle-class community for the first half of the 20th century. After the riots of 1968, the neighborhood declined dramatically. The opening of the Georgia Avenue-Petworth Metro station in 1999 sparked development that has been gaining momentum ever since. And more is on the horizon, including a Walmart and a streetcar line along Georgia Avenue.
Young professionals are drawn to the affordability, close-in location, and beautiful houses, including Wardman-style rowhouses and bungalows in a rainbow of colors. Although prices have risen—the median sale price went from $289,000 in 2010 to $320,000 in 2011—there are still bargains.
Despite the changes, many of the neighborhood’s longtime residents have stayed. Vivian and Paul Henderson have lived in their three-bedroom Colonial just north of Petworth for more than 50 years. “We went through a period where there were no children in the area,” says Vivian. “The neighborhood is coming back alive. We’re thrilled to see services that were here when we first moved in in 1959.”
A short commute to downtown DC, thriving nightlife and restaurants, and a wealth of condos and apartments draw many singles to Clarendon. “If you want to be in the best neighborhood in Arlington, you move to Clarendon,” says Jeff Grieco, who bought a two-bedroom, two-bath condo in the neighborhood last year.
City planners have long praised Arlington’s Wilson Boulevard corridor, which runs through Clarendon, as one of the nation’s most walkable and densely populated suburban communities. High-rise condos and apartments are filled with singles and couples. “It’s sort of like a halfway house between college and the real world,” says Grieco.
On weekend evenings, the neighborhood is packed with bar-hopping young professionals—they might stop at the live-music venue Iota Club & Café, the sports bar Spider Kelly’s, or the hipster favorite Galaxy Hut. Seven Clarendon restaurants made The Washingtonian’s list of 100 Very Best Restaurants this year.
From 2010 to 2011, median prices jumped by about 10 percent—from $449,000 to $495,000—and the average number of days on the market dropped from 51 to 46. In addition to condos and rowhouses close to the Metro, nearby neighborhoods are lined with Arts and Crafts bungalows, Colonials, and split-levels.
Two popular buildings for single buyers are Clarendon 1021 and the Phoenix, both of which have open kitchens with granite countertops and rooftop pools. According to Adam Gallegos of Arbour Realty, condos in the Phoenix sat on the market an average of only 21 days last year.
When real-estate broker Suzanne Des Marais first started selling in DC’s Bloomingdale in 2001, she described her properties as being in LeDroit Park because few people had heard of Bloomingdale. “Now people are calling Eckington and Truxton Circle Bloomingdale,” she says.
In the easternmost part of the District’s Northwest quadrant, Bloomingdale was long a settled, predominantly African-American community in the shadow of Howard University. But as development pushed east in the early 2000s—from Dupont Circle to Logan Circle to U Street and Shaw—Bloomingdale began to attract young buyers looking for affordable homes within walking distance of DC’s hottest neighborhoods.
“Everywhere you turn, there’s renovations,” says Gary Mendel, who moved to the neighborhood in 2009 and spent two years renovating his house on Rhode Island Avenue. Many of the homes are Victorians with bay windows, built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Thanks to primarily residential zoning, developers and builders have taken to fixing them up rather than tearing them down and building anew. “It’s a very attractive, cohesive neighborhood without a lot of infill lots,” says Des Marais.
Median prices in the 20001 Zip code have already seen a bump—from $410,000 in 2010 to $417,000 in 2011. Rowhouses range from about $350,000 for one in need of a major renovation to $800,000 for a home already redone. Condos—many of which are in converted rowhouses—start around $200,000 for a one-bedroom and top out around $500,000 for a three-bedroom.
Families have long flocked to this Maryland suburb for its affordable prices, good schools, and easy commute to DC. But as downtown Silver Spring has developed, the neighborhood has attracted single buyers as well. “I was looking for something affordable, convenient, and close to the Metro,” says Susan Pologruto, whose three-bedroom townhouse is on the edge of Sligo Creek Park and within walking distance of the Silver Spring Metro.
“It’d be very difficult to find a one-bedroom in Logan Circle for what you would pay for a two-bedroom, two-bath in Silver Spring,” says real-estate agent Melinda Estridge.
Downtown Silver Spring began its transformation in the late 1990s when the American Film Institute committed to refurbishing the Silver Theatre and Discovery decided to move its headquarters nearby. Recently, the Fillmore, a concert venue that opened last fall, has brought acts such as Mary J. Blige, Blondie, and Wale to town. Ethnic restaurants including Mandalay and Addis Ababa have flourished along with chains such as Lebanese Taverna and Copper Canyon Grill.
In the early and mid-2000s, a crop of luxury condos popped up in the 20910 Zip code, where most of the area’s attractions are located. Estridge recently sold a two-bedroom penthouse apartment in the Crescent, a 14-story condominium that opened in 2006 near the Metro, for $390,000.
Restaurateur Jackie Greenbaum capitalized on the influx of twenty- and thirtysomethings by opening a hip lounge called Sidebar two years ago. With vintage furniture, chandeliers, and a backlit bar, the speakeasy-style place would fit well on DC’s H Street, Northeast. Says Greenbaum of the bar: “It draws heavily from the younger population that’s moved into the nearby buildings.”