Georgia Avenue on My Mind

Petworth and Park View lure renters with low prices and a homey vibe


New apartment buildings dot Georgia Avenue both north and south of the Georgia Ave-Petworth Metro station. Above are The Residences at Georgia Avenue.

As housing costs inch — or leap — upward in many parts of the District, comparatively lower rents around the Georgia Ave-Petworth Metro station have attracted development — and a new crop of tenants — to the low-key Petworth and Park View areas.

While many of these new residents have ventured north to escape the heat of the rental market elsewhere, they often wind up staying for the vibrant community life and an off-the-beaten-path vibe.

“We knew that we liked Columbia Heights and U Street, but they were really expensive,” says Danielle Lipsman, 22, who moved to Petworth last summer after graduating from American University. With just two weeks to find a place, she and a roommate settled on Griffin Apartments (3801 Georgia Ave. NW, 888-810-5256). This new addition to the neighborhood opened across the street from the Metro in 2012, and Lipsman and her roommate were offered a good deal on a one-bedroom apartment. These days, rent in the building runs from $1,355 for a studio to $2,400 or more for a two-bedroom.

“At first we were kind of like, ‘We’re here because it’s affordable,’ ” Lipsman says. But after nearly a year of finding Petworth a fun, accessible place to live, she decided to stay in the area. She recently signed a lease on a four-bedroom apartment in a converted rowhouse just a block away. It’s walking distance to the neighborhood-y bars DC Reynolds and The Looking Glass Lounge, she notes, and not far from nightlife hubs U Street and Adams Morgan.

Georgetown medical student Megan Dunning, 27, moved to Petworth’s Park Place Apartments (850 Quincy St. NW, 877-614-4210), located directly above the Metro station, last year. She says the rent was comparable to her place near Meridian Hill Park, but Park Place had “much nicer amenities” and easy access to transportation.

According to Andrew Singer, the property manager for both Griffin and Park Place, the buildings have attracted a “really good mix” of residents, including government employees, young families, people affiliated with nearby Catholic and Howard universities and a handful of retirees. For most residents, access to the Metro is “a big selling point and incentive,” he says.

A handful of developers have capitalized on the Metro in recent years, and six new rental buildings — including Griffin and Park Place— have cropped up within half a mile of the station since 2009.

These high-rises are something new in the rowhouse-heavy neighborhood. Many offer amenities such as rooftop patios, concierges and on-site gyms at lower rents than similar buildings elsewhere in the District. And nearly all have some portion reserved for affordable-housing units.

Another change in the neighborhood: There’s a major project in the works to replace a shabby Safeway with a modern 62,400-square-foot supermarket — replete with deli, pharmacy and a Starbucks — and 218 rental units above (of which 18 will be below market rate). It is expected to open next spring.

“The fabric is there, the Metro is there, Georgia Avenue is there, the housing stock is there, and there is a vibrant community, with the farmers market, Boys and Girls Club and the [Park View] rec center,” says Mark Dubick, president of Duball LLC, which is developing the Petworth Safeway & Residences project.

Indeed, residents tout the quirkier, homier feel of Petworth, spurred by locally owned businesses including Qualia Coffee and Slavic/Scandinavian restaurant Domku, free yoga at the Petworth library, a weekly farmers market and free monthly summer jazz concerts.

And the area has a large stock of 1920s- and ’30s-era rowhouses, which appeal to community-minded group houses. Rooms in those houses usually cost from $700 to $900 a month, and sometimes even less.

When looking to rent a house with five bedrooms, Aries Indenbaum, 26, found few available in the District that she deemed both “affordable and livable.” But she found one at Newton Place and Georgia Avenue and moved in about two years ago. Living in Park View (just south of the Metro), there is “a greater sense of freedom, people are less judgmental,” she says.

“You can have loud parties, everyone is very relaxed,” she says. “At the same time, there is a high value on the community caring for each other.”

Despite the influx of new residents, a close-knit community remains.

“The reception has been very warm from the people who have lived there for a very long time … and folks tend to look out for one another,” Indenbaum says.

John Fink, 25, who moved into a group house in the area in 2010, similarly found that the neighborhood fabric, including a “flourishing group-house scene,” provides “fertile ground for building a network of friends and neighbors,” he says. How homey.

Rachel Sadon is the local news editor for Express
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Jennifer Barger | June 21, 2013