Petworth resident Dan Silverman explains his state of mind when he bought his house in the Northwest Washington neighborhood 10 years ago: “I went in really knowing nothing.”
Things have certainly changed since then. Silverman— a.k.a. the Prince of Petworth, founder and full-time writer of one of the District’s most popular blogs — was so taken with his new neighborhood that he started documenting it on a daily basis in 2006. These days, his blog, Popville, covers the entire District, but it’s safe to say Silverman, 38, now knows more about the community than most in the city.
Another thing that’s changed is Petworth’s status; in that time, the area has vaulted from a barely-heard-of neighborhood to burgeoning D.C. hot spot. This year, the real estate Web site Redfin listed it as the top neighborhood to watch in the District.
And, of course, Petworth itself is gradually transforming — but mostly in positive ways, Silverman said. When he arrived in 2003, “it was very friendly, really community-oriented and welcoming,” and that’s still the case. “The good parts about the neighborhood have stayed the same, and that probably contributes to why it’s so hot right now,” he said.
Diverse neighbors: While Petworth is gentrifying in the technical sense, with new residents moving in and home prices rising, changes have occurred relatively slowly and the neighborhood has managed to maintain its sense of community. Silverman argues that the area is more diverse now than it was a decade ago, with a variety of newcomers of all ethnicities and income levels leavening what was once largely an African American population. “Go to the farmers market on a Friday, and look at the diversity — it’s everybody,” Silverman says.
The diversity of Petworth’s residents is reflected in its restaurants and retail offerings. The number of hip hangout spots such as Qualia Coffee, the French bistro Chez Billy and Domku Bar and Café, which serves Scandinavian food, is slowly rising, but they’re still relatively scarce. More common are the restaurants and corner stores lining Georgia Avenue, a central artery, that focus on ethnic cuisines such Caribbean, Ethiopian, Salvadoran and soul food. Of course, Georgia Avenue itself is changing: A Safeway under construction will emerge as a swanky grocery store with several floors of residential units above it, and storefronts along the avenue are gradually being developed.
Not all of the area’s draws cost money. “We have one of the best kids’ spray parks in the city,” Silverman says. That’s at the Petworth Recreation Center, which also hosts a monthly family-friendly jazz concert. And the Petworth library was completely renovated two years ago.
Living there: Petworth is bounded by Georgia Avenue to the west, Rock Creek Church Road to the south, North Capitol Street to the east and Kennedy Street to the north. But that’s the strict interpretation, says Silverman, and residents living a few blocks south or west are likely to describe themselves as belonging to the neighborhood.
Petworth includes a smattering of multi-family buildings (particularly at its southern end) and a handful of single-family homes, but the bulk of its housing stock is simple two-story rowhouses with sweeping porches. Dina Paxenos, an agent with Evers & Co. Real Estate and a Petworth resident, says the homes are in high demand. “I think it’s the perception that [Petworth] is affordable,” she says, adding, “and for what you can get, it’s a good deal.”
Between August 2012 and August 2013, 226 homes sold for $142,900 to $725,000, and 31 condos sold for $98,500 to $519,00. Currently, 30 houses are on the market at prices that range from $380,000 to $749,000, and 12 condos are for sale for $138,000 to $575,000.
Crime: According to the D.C. police’s online crime map, the area that includes Petworth reported about 23 assaults, 29 robberies, 38 burglaries and no homicides during the past 12 months.
“I feel relatively safe,” says Silverman, pointing out that crime in Petworth has dropped dramatically over the past decade. “I used to hear gunshots when I moved in, and now I can’t even remember the last time I heard gunshots.”
Getting around: Silverman may gush about many of Petworth’s characteristics, but he’s most passionate on the topic of location. “It’s unbelievable,” he says, pointing out that the neighborhood is anchored by a Metro station on the Green Line and is no more than 15 minutes away by car from many of the region’s prime business districts: Columbia Heights, H Street NE, Capitol Hill, U Street, even Georgetown. Buses run regularly along Georgia Avenue toward downtown Washington and Silver Spring.
Schools: Powell Elementary; Whittier, Truesdell and Raymond education campuses, which host elementary- and middle-schoolers; and Roosevelt High School.
Amanda Abrams is a freelance writer.