When Jill Diskan’s car died in 1998, she didn’t panic.
Diskan lives in Friendship Heights, where it’s easy to travel almost anywhere using mass transit. Dozens of restaurants and shops lie within the boundaries of the Northwest Washington neighborhood, as does a Red Line Metro station and multiple bus stops.
So Diskan, 71, a retired city planner and former Advisory Neighborhood Commission representative, didn’t replace her car for months, relying instead on public transportation and her feet to get around.
“I got by quite well,” Diskan said. “I can walk to restaurants, grocery stores, movie theaters, bus stops, a Metro station, department stores, hardware stores and whatever else I could want. I can walk out my front door and be at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York within five hours, using all public transportation. I can get to all the airports using public transportation, too. Really and truly, I have the world at my fingertips.”
Architectural variety: Diskan moved to Friendship Heights in 1993, into a house less than 2,000 square feet, located less than three blocks from Metro.
She was attracted to the location first but said she was also drawn to the varied architecture and the “people-sized houses.”
“I love Cleveland Park’s houses, but they’re huge,” Diskan said. “Our houses aren’t, and I love that.”
Diskan said she was also drawn to the variety of architectural styles represented in the neighborhood. There are detached brick Colonials from the 1930s, farmhouse-style homes from the early 1900s, classic brick rowhouses and recently built condos.
Living there: The boundaries of Friendship Heights vary greatly depending on whom you ask. Generally, though, the neighborhood is bordered by Western Avenue to the northwest, 41st Street NW and Fort Reno to the east, Chesapeake Street to the south, and River Road to the southwest.
Kimberly A. Cestari, a Long & Foster real estate agent who lives in nearby Chevy Chase, said the architectural variety makes the neighborhood appealing to a wide variety of buyers, from young families to professionals to retirees.
Cestari said high demand for walkable neighborhoods with easy access to Metro and other mass transit has made Friendship Heights “a highly desirable location” in recent years.
Cestari said inventory in Friendship Heights has been low for the past several months, driving that demand even higher.
Between October 2012 and October 2013, she said, 33 houses sold, at prices ranging from $639,000 to $1.2 million, as did 12 condominium units ($300,000 to $1.795 million). No homes are currently on the market. Five houses are under contract, with prices from $789,000 to $1.235 million.
The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $2,125.
From renters to owners: The high demand for homes in Friendship Heights is a relatively new phenomenon, Diskan said.
“When I moved in, I was one of only three owner-occupants on my street,” Diskan said. “Every other house on the street was a rental. Last year, the last rental house was sold, and now, everyone on my block owns the home they live in.”
Diskan said the increase in owner-occupied houses has helped the neighborhood jell, with multiple happy-hour meetups and other informal social events throughout the community.
“We have a happy hour once a month, and that’s made all the difference in getting to know people,” Diskan said.
Crime: Over the past 12 months, there were two robberies, one assault and 11 burglaries in Friendship Heights, according to the D.C. police department.
Diskan said the neighborhood sees an occasional car theft or other crime, but vigilant, engaged residents help create a safe atmosphere.
“When I walk home from Metro at night, I don’t feel unsafe,” she said.
Schools: Janney Elementary, Deal Middle and Wilson High.
Not for everyone: Diskan is quick to note that the neighborhood isn’t for everyone.
Folks who want large, new houses with big yards, for example, will likely be unhappy in Friendship Heights.
“The rooms are small, and you’re not going to get a modern floor plan unless you buy a house and gut it,” Diskan said. “If you want a huge yard and no cars on your street, this is not the place for you to live. You’re going to have traffic, and you’re going to have parking problems.”
But if you’re an urban dweller looking for a place where you can ditch your car and stretch your legs, Diskan said, “this is a great place to live.”
Amy Reinink is a freelance writer.