The number of hard-hatted construction workers operating Bobcats and slinging cement along the 14th Street corridor these days rivals the number of pedestrians. It’s a reflection of a neighborhood that’s rapidly morphing into an upscale residential district with a bevy of nightlife and dining options.
A significant portion of the new developments are luxury apartment buildings. In fact, in between Rhode Island Avenue and Euclid Street, it’s hard to walk more than a block on 14th Street Northwest without stumbling across one that just opened or promises to be available within the next year.
By the time the cranes are gone, the number of class A apartments (those with lots of amenities and built after 1990) will have more than doubled in the area, from 1,534 units today to 3,379, according to Greg Leisch, CEO of Delta Associates, a commercial real estate and research firm.
No extravagances have been spared in the design of these new top-of-the-line rentals.
Capitol View on 14th (2420 14th St. NW; 877-275-5357), situated between Belmont and Chapin streets, boasts something called a “Zen water garden” in addition to a rooftop pool. Just two blocks south is 14W (1315 W St. NW; 866-671-6117), which is scheduled to open in May and features a club room with a chef kitchen.
A stone’s throw from there, Louis at 14th and U (1920 14th St. NW), a 268-apartment property, is under construction.
We tried to “maximize natural light in to the units,” said Kai Reynolds, a partner at JBG, the real-estate company behind the development. In addition to sun-drenched living rooms, future residents of Louis will have an outdoor rooftop movie theater.
If you want to live in one of these flashy new pads, be prepared to open up your wallet.
The price of entry for the most modest units currently available at Capitol View on 14th is $2,071 per month, and that’s for a studio that’s a little more than 500 square feet. The two-bedrooms range from about $3,700 to $5,800.
Down the street at 14W, the prices are similar, ranging from $2,000 to $4,700, said Robbie Brooks, vice president of development at Jefferson Apartment Group, one of the firms behind the property.
But Brooks says you get a lot for that price. Homes at 14W have “European-inspired designs, open floor plans and quiet city living on W street, a residential street with less traffic and noise than 14th and U Street,” Brooks says.
Locals also say it’s worth the price tag.
“Above and beyond all of the other neighborhoods in D.C., this is most interesting,” says Ariel Freeman Sanett, a 30-year-old hotel industry executive who lives at View 14 with her husband, Paul. “I’ve lived in a lot of cities all over the world, and I have never witnessed such evolution and gentrification.”
Along with the influx of residential properties, the number of new restaurants and shops is about to double, with many of the new apartment buildings housing this new commerce.
New eateries and stores scheduled to open include the supermarket Trader Joe’s; Ted’s Bulletin, an American diner; two new restaurants by Mike Isabella of “Top Chef” fame; Le Diplomate, a new French restaurant; and Bar di Bari, a European-style cafe.
“It’s become an amazing destination,” says Reynolds of JBG, the company responsible for approximately 1,200 new rental units within a mile of the area.
To the casual observer, it may seem like the pace of construction recently hit fever pitch. But for those involved, this overhaul has been in the works for some time.
“Typically it takes four to six years to acquire a site and build it,” Reynolds says.
While the arrival of chic new abodes and sophisticated retail to match has generated a lot of buzz, it’s one of the old establishments that Sanett points to as a highlight of living in the area.
Spending time at Judy’s, a no-frills Salvadorian restaurant and bar located at 14th and Florida, is a favorite pastime for Sanett.
What goes on there late at night on the weekends is a completely different scene from what’s happening at the trendier bars, such as Policy or Masa 14, a few blocks away, Sanett says.
“It has local neighborhood character,” and “everyone is welcoming.”
A Neighborhood’s Transformation
Many Washingtonians now consider the 14th Street corridor a hot strip of real estate and the hippest spot to party and dine out, but it wasn’t always this way. “When we came here, this was the sin capital of Washington … there were prostitutes roaming the streets,” says David Treadwell, executive director of Central Union Mission, a homeless shelter at 14th and R streets. “We believe we helped clean all of that up.”
Treadwell and others say the transformation of the neighborhood began in earnest when Whole Foods moved onto P Street, between 13th and 14th streets, in December 2000.
The neighborhood’s seedy past made it an affordable place for real estate firms to rebuild.
“Developers didn’t have to pay as much for land in the year 2000 in this sub market,” says Greg Leisch, CEO of Delta Associates, a commercial real estate and research company.
But perhaps more important than that, Leisch argues, is the convenience that 14th Street NW offers. “It’s location, location, location,” Leisch says, noting that it’s close to public transportation and downtown.
Ultimately, it’s a reflection of a city that has become increasingly attractive for 20-somethings and 30-somethings. And that cohort doesn’t want to live in “Greenbelt, Md., or upper Northwest, they want to live where the hip action is,” Leisch says.
With all the new developments, some of the old fixtures, including the Mission, will be moving out.
The Mission sold its building for $7 million and will be moving downtown to 65 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Coupled with another $7 million in private funds, it is renovating its new home. Rising real-estate value “offered us an opportunity to get a new and better revised space,” Treadwell says. E.K.