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River Park:
Cosmopolitan Meets Quaint

By Kate Moore
Washington Post Staff Writer
April 22, 1995

A touch of the suburbs in the city. That's how many residents of River Park see their Southwest Washington neighborhood.

"It's the best of outdoor and indoor living within a city dwelling," said Coralee Farlee, who moved into an O Street town home in 1980.

Farlee, 65, and her husband, Bernard Goldstein, bought a three-bedroom town home for $65,000. Residents who work in the District can take the Waterfront Metro stop on the Green Line or can walk to nearby Capitol Hill.

Another convenience about the neighborhood is "you can make it to the Kennedy Center in 10 minutes for a performance," Fredrica Kra\mer said.

She and her husband, Michael Keane, bought their four-bedroom River Park town home in 1979 and are raising their 6-year-old son, Teddy, there. Kramer, a social welfare policy analyst, said "one of the many reasons we bought here is because River Park is a co-op and owner occupied."

"It functions like a small town and because all of the units face each other and it forces social contact," she added.

Farlee said, "It's a quiet, attractive and affordable area in the city." She said she also likes the convenience of the various downtown shops, as opposed to a large suburban mall. "I encourage all of my friends to shop in the city, instead of the suburbs," she said. An active member in the neighborhood, Farlee said she and her husband plan to stay there for good.

The efficiency apartment units range from $20,000 to $30,000, the one- and two-bedroom apartments are priced from $30,000 to $60,000 and the town homes range from $60,000 to $90,000. There are 27 units available: three efficiencies, 13 one-bedroom units, six two-bedroom units, and five town homes, said Shari Barton, an associate broker with Prudential Preferred Properties.

The community is bounded by N Street SW to the north, O Street to the south, Fourth Street to the west and Delaware Avenue to the east.

River Park has about 1,000 residents, most of them from 30 and 60 years old, living in the 518 units, including 134 town houses and twin high-rises with 384 apartment units, all part of the overall cooperative.

It was the first residential complex to be built in the early 1960s during the Southwest Urban Renewal project, just south of M Street. The community is a self-managed corporation with a board of directors and 10 standing committees to deal with various community issues.

The residents are racially diverse and include a mixture of government employees, teachers, writers and members of the foreign service. "It has a flavor of New York City, a real diverse community with a cosmopolitan feel," Kramer said.

Martin Forrester, a former Foreign Service officer, said one of the reasons he chose River Park in 1987 is because his mother was one of the original owners. Moreover, he said, "I liked the architectural style, especially the barreled-shaped roofs, which gives it a quaint appearance."

After living in a one-bedroom apartment in River Park, Forrester in 1991 bought a town home on Fourth Street for $125,000. At 61, Forrester is director of the international affairs department of Service Employees International Union.

"One of my favorite things to do is to walk along the waterfront and around Fort McNair," said Forrester, who is a member of the community's board. "It's an affordable, racially balanced neighborhood in an ideal setting."

Betsy and Walter Hobby have lived in their three-bedroom town home on O Street since 1962, where they raised two children. Betsy Hobby, 68, is a retired economist with the Department of Energy.

"We wanted to stay in the city and knew that Southwest was being redeveloped. After reading articles about the area, which sounded affordable, we decided to buy a town home," she said.

Among the many things the Hobbys like about living there is "that it's accessible to public transportation and you don't need a car to live here," Betsy Hobby said. "It's also a quiet place. Even though we live near the airplane route, you don't have the air traffic noise from National Airport."

An active member in the community, Betsy Hobby serves on the Southwest Affairs Committee, which keeps members aware of what's going on in other parts of Southwest. "There's a real sense of community within this splendid location where you are able to walk to museums and take part in the Washington area. It's very user-friendly," she said.

In 1983, when Glenn Harke decided to move in with a friend at River Park, he thought it would be short-term. Ten years later, Harke decided to buy a place of his own. He and his dog, Zak, now live in a $73,000 town home on Fourth Street.

Harke, 44, works for Westat Inc., a social research company in Rockville. "Commuting is a pleasure. I get to drive on the George Washington Parkway every day and enjoy the view of the area, especially this time of year," he said. "It usually takes 30 to 40 minutes to get to work. Ninety-nine percent of the time, it's a lovely drive."

Harke attributes meeting most of his friends from his walks with Zak. "The people are friendly and congenial {and they} watch out for each other. I'd highly recommend River Park to others because we can always use more nice neighbors," he said.

© The Washington Post Co.

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