“For a long time, this was a forgotten part of D.C.,” said Guy T. Steuart III, senior vice president of Steuart Investment, whose family once ran a Ford dealership on New York Avenue between Fifth and Sixth streets and owns several parcels in the neighborhood.
But today, the triangle bounded by New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey avenues is experiencing a renaissance. Crime is down. Asphalt and parking lots are giving way to high-rises. Even the name of the neighborhood blog — The Triangle: Not Just Parking Lots Anymore — gives a hat tip to the neighborhood’s transition.
Nine new high-rises — apartments, condominiums and office buildings — have gone up since 2005, and at least a dozen more projects are under construction or in the pipeline.
A new 390-unit apartment building, a joint project of Steuart Investment and Paradigm, is to open this month at 425 L St. NW, and ground is to be broken this year on a second phase that will include more than 390 units. The Association of American Medical Colleges is planning to relocate from the West End to a new headquarters on a prominent parcel at New York Avenue and Seventh Street. Historic buildings on the lot are being moved to ready the space for construction.
Later this month, the Wilkes Co. and Quadrangle are set to begin construction on a project that will bring more retail to the area. A sign at Fourth and K streets advertising the development dubs the triangle area “the New Downtown.”
“This will be a case study for how you build a great urban neighborhood,” said Charles “Sandy” Wilkes, chairman of the Wilkes Co., which began acquiring property in the area in the 1980s.
A sudden surge
Those who have long lived and worked in the neighborhood marvel at the transformation. Between 2005 and 2011, 1,824 condo and apartment units were built; just 554 were in the area in 2004. Another 1,569 are planned or are under construction.
“Fifteen years ago, [you] wouldn’t have had any idea this area would have developed into the kind of urban center it is now,” said the Rev. James Terrell, pastor at Second Baptist Church of Washington, which has been on its Third Street site since 1856. “It’s wonderful to have people around again. I can stay late at the church and work in my study and not worry about what’s going on outside.”
On a recent tour, Bill McLeod, executive director of the neighborhood’s Community Improvement District (CID), said developers plan to break ground this year on at least four new projects.
Mount Vernon Triangle still has its rough edges, McLeod said, but the CID has worked to address the problems. On weekends, it hires off-duty D.C. police officers to patrol the community and has worked with the city and nonprofit groups to offer counseling and support services to prostitutes who work the area. Through a jobs program, the CID hires residents from the nearby Gospel Rescue Mission to keep the neighborhood clean.