“You can get a gem of a house here for drastically less than what you’d pay west of the park,” Braxton said.
Many houses in the neighborhood are within walking distance of Rock Creek Park, which residents said is another upside to living in Brightwood, along with the neighborhood’s leafy, quiet atmosphere.
“I like the fact that we’re very under the radar,” said Rebecca Mills, a 30-something contractor who writes about the neighborhood on a blog called the Brightwoodian. “I like the fact that we don’t have a lot of people coming in to hang out on Friday nights. If I lived on 14th and U, the noise and crowds would drive me crazy pretty quickly.”
Residents also said they prize Brightwood’s cultural diversity.
“I usually hear three or four different languages in the few minutes I spend waiting for the bus,” said Brightwood Community Association President Anthony Briggs, 32, alawyer who moved to the neighborhood in 2006. “I love that my daughter will grow up surrounded by such a diverse group of people.”
Residents also touted the neighborhood’s cohesive nature, on display at community events such as Brightwood Day, an annual summer festival, and the D.C. Caribbean Carnival, which includes a parade that runs through Brightwood.
The neighborhood’s battles are now fought over development and urban renewal, most recently in the form of a proposal to build a Wal-Mart at Missouri and Georgia avenues that is “dividing the neighborhood,” Briggs said.
“On one hand, there’s a lot that’s not being used, and everyone would like to see some development there,” Briggs said.
On the other hand, some residents say such a big-box store would clog the neighborhood’s roads with traffic and hurt its independently owned businesses.
“It would be nice to not have to get on a bus or drive across town to get to a Wal-Mart or Target,” said Walker, 63, a senior adviser at a federal agency. “But it also means some of the small businesses on Georgia Avenue will wither on the vine.”
The debate underscores larger issues about the neighborhood’s future.
“It raises the question: Why aren’t we getting a Wegmans or a Trader Joe’s?” Braxton said. “Why do we have to put up with a pawnshop? There’s no worse blight than an empty storefront, but it seems like we should be seeing more new retail.”
Several new businesses have opened in Brightwood in recent years, including the Brightwood Bistro.
Many residents said no matter what comes of the Wal-Mart proposal, Brightwood will continue to be defined by more-lasting resources.
“When I first moved here, I thought of Brightwood as being on the verge of revitalization, and I wanted to be part of that,” Braxton said. “It was also nice to move to a place with so much American history. How many people have a national treasure like Fort Stevens footsteps away from their front door?”