Where We Live: Mount Vernon Triangle, high-rise heaven

May 23

Mount Vernon Triangle is a vibrant, thriving urban center in downtown Washington. No longer an emerging neighborhood, it has arrived, and so have residents and office workers.

Four high-rise condominium buildings — 11 to 14 stories of glass, metal and brick — are scattered around the neighborhood. City Vista, the Sonata, Madrigal Lofts and 555 Massachusetts Avenue — offer a sleek and modern aesthetic with large windows and balconies.

The neighborhood has 3,691 condo units, 2,607 rentals, more than 40 restaurants and shops and 1.7 million square feet of office space existing and under construction — and, thus, is a textbook example of urban planning and design, connectivity among people, and walkability.

“When I go to the gym, I see lots of people walking, some with yoga mats, some with children. There’s a good mix of ages and families,” said Marie Finnegan, a young professional who moved from Arlington three years ago and lives in a rental.

Michelle Martin, her husband, John, and their 41 / 2-year-old daughter, Josie, moved from Alexandria five years ago and bought a large condo with two bedrooms, 21 / 2 bathrooms and a den.


(By Laris Karklis/The Washington Post)

“I can’t say enough great things about the neighborhood,” she said. “When we moved most people with children were doing the reverse, leaving the city. But we wanted to be close to work. We wanted to be in a place where we could walk down the street and see people we know and not have to drive everywhere. We wanted our daughter to grow up in a livable, walkable city. We made the move and haven’t looked back.”

Martin founded Kids in the Triangle, a parents group and online mailing list with about 120 members. “We set up play-dates, activities and share outgrown clothes. It’s a great networking tool for downtown parents,” she said.


Parks but few playgrounds:
Howard Marks, a resident since 2005, says he was attracted to the nearby museums, restaurants and prospects for a healthier lifestyle that included daily walks. But at a recent City Club of Washington meeting, Marks expressed disappointment about the absence of playgrounds for his granddaughter.

“We know how valuable outdoor green space is to the community,” Claire Schaefer Oleksiak, president of the Mount Vernon Triangle Community Improvement District, a 10-year-old private, nonprofit dedicated to enhancing the area, told Marks. “Finding ways to increase it is a top priority.”

Pocket parks dot the 17-block neighborhood — Milian Park (Fifth and I streets), Seaton Park (Massachusetts Avenue at I between Fifth and Sixth), Rigo Walled Park (Fifth and New York Avenue), Cobb Park (Second Street and Massachusetts Avenue), and two at Seventh and K. Two are being upgraded by adjacent property owners, and one is targeted for redesign by a developer.

The K Street reconstruction project stretching east to west across the Triangle is a huge success and streetscape improvement. With $7 million, the District Department of Transportation turned a bleak thoroughfare into colorful pedestrian sidewalks.

“K Street is our Main Street,” said Oleksiak. With new curbs and bike lanes; 50-foot-wide sidewalks that encourage ambling with dogs, pushing a stroller or arm-in-arm; and flowers and young sycamore trees in leafy bloom, “it’s inviting.”


Shops and restaurants galore:
The scene is plaza-like at Fifth and K streets, with circular brick planters low and wide enough to sit on and a gigantic yellow welded aluminum-plate structure by artist David Black in front of Busboys and Poets. This is the community focal point and “heart of the neighborhood,” said Martin, and site of the farmers market expected to open June 7.

On surrounding streets, old low-rise brick buildings housing longtime commercial establishments sit among new glass-and-steel high-rises. “There’s a richness to the mix and a lot of history on our streets,” said Oleksiak.

A 24-hour Safeway at 490 L St. NW is complemented by dozens of restaurants and shops. There are stores selling hardware, liquor and wine, and paint and wallpaper, as well as a pharmacy, a nail salon, a fitness center, a dry cleaner, a barbershop and a bank.


Living there:
The triangular community, Zip code 20001, is bordered by New York Avenue to the north, New Jersey Avenue to the east, Massachusetts Avenue to the south and Seventh Avenue NW to the west. Mount Vernon Square, the site of the city’s Carnegie Library, lies west of Seventh Street.

According to Vicki Johnston of Taylor Properties, a resident since 2008, homes in the neighborhood are a mix of condominiums and rental apartments.

Fourteen units are for sale, ranging from $375,000 for a one-bedroom, one-bathroom condo to $709,000 for a condo with two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a den.

Fifteen properties are under contract, ranging from a studio condo with one bathroom for $315,000 to a condo with two bedrooms, two bathroom and a den for $699,900.

In the past year, 93 condos sold, ranging from $285,000 for a studio with one bathroom to $745,000 for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom unit with a view of the Capitol.


Transit:
It’s easy to walk everywhere — Dupont Circle is 20 minutes away. The Circulator bus runs through, and three Capital Bikeshare stations are in place.

Two Metro stations, Gallery Place on the Red, Yellow and Green lines and Mount Vernon Square on the Yellow and Green lines, are close.

New York Avenue (Route 50) runs east from Mount Vernon Square, past the National Arboretum, into Maryland, where it becomes the John Hanson Highway. Access to Interstate 395, north to Baltimore and south to Alexandria, Reagan National Airport and the Virginia suburbs, is also close.


Schools:
Walker-Jones Education Campus (pre-kindergarten through eighth grade) and Dunbar High School.


Crime:
From May 2013 to May 2014, according to D.C. police, there were 12 reports of assault with a deadly weapon, 22 robberies and five burglaries.

Audrey Hoffer is a freelance writer.

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