The formerly riot-scarred corridor has gone into gentrification overdrive, a boom fueled by investors looking for a safe place to park hundreds of millions of dollars, the relative ease of obtaining a liquor license, and the arrival of thousands of new residents longing to live downtown.
The result: more than 1,200 condos and apartments and 100,000 square feet of retail are being built or have hit the market in just the past nine months. At the same time, at least 25 bars and restaurants have opened or are under construction along 14th Street, adding more than 2,000 seats to the city’s dining scene at warp speed.
“This market from an investment perspective has exploded since the downturn,” said Aaron Jodka, manager of U.S. market research for CoStar Group, which tracks commercial real estate.
The pace of change has become dizzying even for the likes of Kai Reynolds, a principal with JBG Cos., which is co-developing the massive Louis condo and retail complex rising at 14th and U streets, site of a future Trader Joe’s that already has city foodies salivating.
Reynolds lived in the Logan Circle area a decade ago and watched the shift from streetwalkers and used car lots to luxury apartment dwellers and wine bars. But that still did not prepare him for a Tuesday night earlier this month when he found himself standing at 14th and Q, unable to get a seat at Le Diplomate, the huge French eatery built by Philadelphia restaurant mogul Stephen Starr on the former site of a decrepit dry cleaners.
“If you lived there in 2000, 2001, intuitively you knew things were moving in a certain direction,” Reynolds, 43, said. “But I never would have guessed there would be 50 restaurants, and that you couldn’t get into one on a Tuesday night.”
In terms of population, the neighborhood recently surpassed Columbia Heights as the densest area in the city, District officials said. Apartment rents are now averaging about $2,700 a month, according to real estate data firm Delta Associates, making it harder for longtime tenants with less lofty incomes to remain. And the price to buy in the neighborhood keeps rising, with some two-bedroom condos selling for more than $900,000.
“What is going on on 14th Street is fascinating, anomalous and wonderful for the city,” said Harriet Tregoning, director of the D.C. Office of Planning.
The community’s new identity as a glittering canyon of glass, steel and $16 cocktails has come to symbolize what some are calling the District’s Gilded Age, a milestone not lost on D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), who chose Le Diplomate as the backdrop for his mayoral campaign kickoff last month.