Apartment Living

Eddystone Residents Gravitate to D.C.'s Center

By Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 5, 2003

The big February snowstorms that trapped many Washingtonians and suburbanites in their homes for days at a time had about as much impact on the daily routines of the residents of the Eddystone apartment complex in downtown Washington as a gentle dusting of snowflakes.

Ramona Acosta, a retired bank employee, bundled up and walked the four blocks to her neighborhood grocery store.

Mordu Kaman, a professor of political science at Howard University, walked one block to Thomas Circle, where he retrieved his dry car from the underground garage of the Washington Plaza Hotel and used major roads to drive to work.

Jill A. Moschak, a Justice Department employee, put on her winter coat and trudged to her office.

The don't-miss-a-beat manner in which the three residents coped with snowfalls that caused many people in the region to hunker down underscored one of the Eddystone's major attractions.

As Moschak put it: "Location, location, location."

That would be the corner of Vermont Avenue and N Street NW, close by office buildings and restaurants and in the heart of a neighborhood that is enjoying a robust renaissance.

The eight-story building is one block north of Thomas Circle and one block south of Logan Circle. Metro Blue Line, Green Line and Red Line stations are 10 to 15 minutes away by foot. Metro bus lines are one block away, either on 13th or 14th Street. Fresh Fields is about three blocks west, and a Giant Food supermarket is five blocks to the east.

Just in the past year or so, at least four new eateries have sprung up a block away, on 14th Street: Hamburger Mary's, Thai Tanic, a Subway shop and the Caribou Cafe. The Studio Theatre is a little more than a block away, on the corner of 14th and P streets. The downtown YMCA is about four blocks away, as is the 17th Street strip of restaurants and cafes.

The Eddystone is on one of the most architecturally attractive streets in the city, a tree-lined block dominated by gracious brick, turn-of-the century rowhouses. At least three new apartment or condominium buildings have been completed in recent months or are under construction.

As the neighborhood has become more desirable in recent years, real estate prices have soared: Some one-bedroom condominiums are selling for nearly $400,000.

The area wasn't always so trendy. Off and on from the 1970s through the mid-1990s, the neighborhood was plagued by street prostitution, car break-ins and occasional violence.

The 73-year-old Acosta, who moved into the Eddystone in 1979, recalled that in the early 1990s some Eddystone residents got so fed up with the prostitution -- and the increased car traffic that it attracted -- that they briefly blocked off Vermont Avenue with their cars, until the police stopped them.

In the summer of 1995, a prostitute was shot to death inside a vacant apartment building across the street from the Eddystone (the building has since been renovated and turned into condominiums). In the early 1990s, a prostitute was found murdered inside the Eddystone.

But in recent years, by aggressively patrolling and by arresting prostitutes and their customers, District police have all but eradicated such activity from the neighborhood.

"The prostitutes used to walk in the neighborhood all day and all night. All that has been cleaned up. You don't see that anymore," said Kaman, 50, who moved into the building in 1979.

Built in 1939, the Eddystone is rather nondescript from the outside. But inside, the building has a feeling of 1940s glamour to it. The newly renovated Art Deco lobby has large mirrored walls. The apartments themselves have foyers, curved archways and wood parquet floors.

Some of the units on the upper levels have views of downtown and the Washington Monument to the south, or of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception to the north.

Acosta, Kaman and Moschak all gave high marks to the building's management company, William C. Smith Co. A manager is on site, and repairs are made promptly, the residents said.

Kaman said that when a pipe broke in his kitchen in February, it was promptly repaired -- and then some.

"They came in right away. They gave me a new sink, new stove, new cabinets, new [kitchen] floor," Kaman said. "I was very impressed."

The renaissance of the neighborhood -- and the flurry of new construction -- has made street parking scarce. Street parking is zoned for residents and restricted on certain days for street cleaning.

Residents deal with that in different ways. Kaman, for instance, pays $145 a month to put his car in a hotel garage.

Moschak doesn't have a car. "Living at the Eddystone makes it unnecessary," she said.

© 2003 The Washington Post Company