Off the beaten path


Park View renter Josef Palermo's image is reflected in the window of District Modular, an artists' collective on Georgia Avenue known for its creative displays.
July 20, 2012

The bright lights and chic restaurants of Chinatown, Dupont Circle and Eastern Market aren’t right for every renter.

Instead of heading for the trendiest ’hood in the area, take some time to think about what you’re really looking for in an apartment and seek a spot that meets those needs.

Here are a few renters who have found exactly what they were looking for in some off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods.

If you want to save money

Eckington, Ledroit Park or Edgewood: If it’s a budget-conscious neighborhood you’re looking for, Amy Rose Dobson, editor of the real estate blog CurbedDC (Dc.curbed.com), recommends seeking out spots you’ve never heard of.

“One of the tricky things is that as soon as a neighborhood becomes hip, the rents go up immediately,” Dobson wrote in an email. Instead, she says, focus on “neighborhoods that are on the cusp,” such as Eckington or Edgewood, which lie just to the east of North Capitol Street.

Steer clear of the stretch of 14th Street NW a few blocks north of Rhode Island Ave., Dobson warns. That hot corridor, which runs between Logan Circle and U Street, is about to get even hotter, with at least six apartment or condo buildings opening in the next couple of months. “By the end of this year, that neighborhood will be teeming with new residents,” she says.

If you want space

Brightwood: If it’s space you want, it’s much easier to find it outside of the Hill or Adams Morgan.

That’s how A.C. Valdez, 28, ended up in Brightwood, a neighborhood north of Petworth. Valdez was living in Columbia Heights but wanted a cheaper space to share with his fiancee.

Valdez, a radio producer and musician, was also looking for a quieter space to work. “In Columbia Heights, I could never find any quiet time to record, even in the middle of the day,” he says. “People were always playing really loud music.”

Brightwood doesn’t have much in the way of commercial spaces, which means Valdez can work in his one-bedroom in peace.

“I kind of appreciate the residential quality,” he says.

Still, he misses the eateries and stores in Columbia Heights.

“It’s a trade-off,” he says. “The reason people were blasting music is the same reason I could walk down the street and see the people I know: People go there to hang out.”

If you want a great location

Southwest: It may be true that the three most important things in real estate are “location, location, location,” but that doesn’t mean you have to go with the usual places.

James Duncan-Welke moved to Washington to work at one of the bevy of federal agency buildings in the center of downtown, near the National Mall. Instead of heading north to pricey Penn Quarter or east to a Capitol Hill English basement, Duncan-Welke headed to Southwest. That’s where he lives now in a one-bedroom apartment with a balcony.

Friends recommended Southwest as a cheaper alternative to downtown neighborhoods.

“I can walk and in 20 minutes I’m in Chinatown,” says Duncan-Welke, who edits the Southwesterner, a neighborhood newspaper.

He’s also learned to love the neighborhood’s distinctive aesthetic — “there’s a good deal of iconic ’60s architecture,” he gushes — its green space, and its proximity to the river.

“I think it is under the radar,” says Duncan-Welke, who says some D.C. newbies haven’t even heard of the neighborhood. “I often have to clarify where it is.”

If you want a sense of community

Park View: Josef Palermo, 27, knows a thing or two about the local arts scene. He works with the Pinkline Project to promote arts in D.C.

He was drawn to his Park View home because the Northwest neighborhood, which lies just east of Columbia Heights and north of Howard University, has a burgeoning arts scene. Nearby 11th Street is experiencing a restaurant mini boom.

Public art pieces dot storefronts. One of the newest, a giant mural called Off the Hook, showcases a brightly painted telephone spray-painted onto the cement-block side of a Georgia Avenue convenience store.

“This vibrant community is sort of under the radar,” he says. “It’s really exciting to be here.”

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