One reason for the healthy population of older Cleveland Park residents is that the neighborhood appeals to a wide variety of age groups and so residents don’t feel that they need to move. “You can stay here and age,” said Susie Taylor, president of the local citizens association, who moved to the neighborhood 32 years ago and raised two children there. “As my needs have changed over my adult life, everything I need I can find here in Cleveland Park,” she said.
The neighborhood’s housing stock is diverse. Within the boundaries set by the citizens association in the mid-1960s, Cleveland Park consists of about 2,500 to 3,000 single-family homes, duplexes, and condominium and rental apartments, Taylor said. “Other boundaries set since then — for example, the new aging-in-place village — are broader,” she said.
Aging residents who begin to find living alone a challenge will soon be able to find support from the neighborhood-created Cleveland Park Village. The Village, already classified as a nonprofit in the District, is now applying for a 501(c)(3) status and is also working on its Web site, scheduled for launch in the fall.
The goal of the Village is to aid people who don’t need assisted living but may need a little help to remain in their homes as they age. Volunteers will provide rides to the grocery store or doctor’s office, organize occasional dinners and social outings, and screen vendors for an approved-vendor list. Members will pay a small annual fee for the service.
Identifying a need and then working toward a solution is nothing new for Cleveland Park residents. “Cleveland Park has a long history of citizen activism,” Taylor said. For example, in 1953 the Citizens Association’s initiatives and fundraising effort led to the establishment of the Cleveland Park branch of the D.C. Public Library.
Community residents were also the force behind the creation of two large public green spaces: the Tregaron Conservancy and the Rosedale Conservancy. The Tregaron Conservancy includes a dog park that neighbors pay a small fee to join.
Rosedale Conservancy, a three-acre park two blocks long and half a block wide on Newark Street, was part of a six-acre property at risk of being purchased by a developer in 2001. Neighbors came together to raise a total of $12 million to match the bid and create the park — which is protected from future development by a conservation easement — in 2002.
Jonathan Abram and Eleni Constantine, owners of the adjacent Rosedale Farmhouse, which is believed to be the oldest residence in the city, were instrumental in organizing the effort.
“This was a true neighborhood effort. More than 100 families contributed to save the lawns as open space and create the Conservancy,” Abram said.
Besides the land itself, the Conservancy, known as Cleveland Park’s “village green,” also consists of a nonprofit board, which maintains the park in the style of the original terraced gardens of the Rosedale Farmhouse. “We wanted to preserve the grounds as close to the original as possible,” Constantine said.
Cleveland Park has a rich history and a large historic district. “The housing stock is very diverse, ranging from Queen Anne Victorians, traditional foursquares, Georgians, Wardman townhouses, charming cottages and the very modern. One of only three houses in the world designed by I.M. Pei is in Cleveland Park,” said real estate agent Anne Hatfield Weir of Washington Fine Properties.
Most recently, the Citizens Association has been active in helping implement a $1.5 million streetscape and pedestrian improvement plan. The work, which is funded by money allocated by the D.C. Council, started in 2010 and is currently in progress. When complete, the neighborhood will have new streetlights, traffic lights, mid-block crosswalk, tree boxes and additional landscaping.
While grocery shopping is now available only at Brookville Market, residents look forward to the day when the new Giant Food store on Wisconsin Avenue at Newark Street is completed. The construction on the site of the outdated and recently shuttered supermarket, expected to start any day, is scheduled to last two years. Until then, the developer is running a shuttle several times a week to the nearest Giant, said Taylor.
There are two e-mail discussion groups in Cleveland Park. The larger one is free and has more than 12,000 subscribers and is owned and managed by neighborhood residents Peggy Robin and her husband Bill Adler. The citizens association has its own Internet mailing list, open to members and associate members who pay an annual membership fee of $15 for individuals and $25 for households.
Social opportunities in the neighborhood include informal encounters with neighbors at the Brookville Market as well as events such as Cleveland Park Day, held on the first Sunday in October. This year will mark the third annual Cleveland Park Day, “a giant celebration of our village in the city,” Taylor said.
Another social gathering place for 150 families of the community is the Cleveland Park Club, located in an old house donated by Agnes Miller, sister of major Washington developers W.C. and A.N. Miller, in 1921. The club runs a summer camp, has a swimming pool open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and hosts year-round classes and other events.
With large green parks, two Metro stations within walking distance and plenty of nightlife, “this area has such a great blend and balance of all of the best D.C. has to offer,” Taylor said.
Susan Straight is a freelance writer.