May 25, 2017 at 7:00 AM
by Audrey Hoffer
On a sunny morning, patrons of Bread & Chocolate on 23rd Street NW, next to West End Cinema, spilled onto the sidewalk. On nearby streets, you could hear the click of high heels, collide with runners and laugh at a gaggle of 3-year-olds tied together with rope, gently herded across the street by minders.
This is a typical scene in West End, a Northwest Washington neighborhood ensconced between Georgetown, Foggy Bottom, Dupont Circle and Pennsylvania Avenue and in the midst of a facelift.
"In the early 1970s, West End was industrial, with a lot of surface parking lots and mechanics shops," said Rebecca Coder, a resident and an Advisory Neighborhood Commission representative.
"Today it's a livable neighborhood that's near everything," she said. There's an energetic vibe on the streets and a pulsing mix of stores, offices, hotels, restaurants, embassies, residences and green space.
The streetscape is an intermingling of recently built glass-and-steel edifices, 1960s beige concrete structures, brick rowhouses and construction sites. Cranes reaching up five stories are common along with workers in hard hats and construction barrels.
"Last year, 2016, West End properties sold for the highest price per square foot in D.C. and we had the highest number of cash transactions," said Patrick Chauvin, resident and an executive vice president at realty firm Compass, Georgetown. "That starts with what West End is all about."
New library in the works: West End will have three full-service condominium residences — the Residences at the Ritz-Carlton, 22 West and WestLight, developed by EastBanc Real Estate Development.
The 21,000-square-foot West End Library at L and 24th streets is almost complete. Besides books, the library will offer outdoor space, a state-of-the-art media and technology center, meeting rooms, and a coffee shop. Condos and rentals will rise above.
"The neighborhood was very involved in the library's development plans because it really is the community center," said Coder. Two local artists — Adrienne Gaither and Nekisha Durrett — were commissioned to design decorative pieces.
Engine Company No. 1 and Truck Company No. 2 stand behind a striking red wall punctuated with small holes along M Street, sweeping the corner of 23rd Street. This is the fire station development, with the Squash on Fire racket facility and several dozen affordable rental residences rising above, available to people earning less than 60 percent of the area's median income.
The library and fire station are products of a public-private partnership involving the District, EastBanc, JBG and Clark Enterprises.
Another project is 2501 M — the conversion of offices to condos on five lower floors and an aesthetic blending, through exterior resurfacing, of existing condos on the top three floors. PRP Real Estate Investment Management is the developer. Nobu, a Japanese restaurant, is coming streetside.
The community is comfortably secure. "As an older resident, I feel totally safe walking around at night, as do my women friends," said Anita Sciacca.
Local amenities: "Everything we need is right here," said Frank Sciacca, a commercial real estate businessman and Anita's husband. Amenities include cleaners, a flower shop, banks, a pharmacy, medical offices and fitness venues — Soul Cycle, Solidcore, Equinox, Blast and Squash on Fire. There also are ample grocery shopping options — Trader Joe's, Safeway and Whole Foods Market.
Hotels include the Washington Marriott Georgetown, the Westin, the Fairmont, the Embassy Suites and the District by Hilton Club.
The Kennedy Center is within walking distance. Fine-dining options are plentiful.
Francis Pool, Francis Dog Park and Francis Field offer outdoor recreation.
"Sometimes people look at tall buildings and think the residents probably don't know their neighbors," said Coder, but Foggy Bottom West End Village, West End Library Friends, West End Dogs and Friends of Francis Field promote neighborhood engagement.
Living there: The West End neighborhood, Zip code 20037, is bordered by Rock Creek Parkway and P Street on the west and north, New Hampshire Avenue and 22nd Street on the east, and K Street on the south.
Chauvin, the Compass executive vice president, said 90 percent of the residences are condos and the rest are single-family homes and rowhouses. He said 21 properties are for sale, ranging from a studio condo for $364,900 to a three-bedroom, five-bathroom single-family home for $7,695,000.
Sixteen properties are under contract, ranging from a one-bedroom, one-bathroom condo for $439,900 to a three-bedroom, five-bathroom condo for $5.4 million.
In the past year, 67 condos sold, ranging from a one-bedroom, one-bathroom unit for $208,000 to a three-bedroom, five-bathroom unit for $5.2 million.
Schools: School Without Walls at Francis Stevens (elementary and middle) and Cardozo Education Campus (high school).
Transit: Four Metro stations are close — Foggy Bottom-GWU and Farragut West on the Orange, Blue and Silver lines; and Dupont Circle and Farragut North on the Red Line.
"About 60 percent of residents don't own cars and many who move here get rid of them," Coder said. "We just sold my car, and I don't even miss it," said Anita Sciacca.
Traffic is an issue. "The neighborhood is in the middle of a major commuter route, so the evening rush hour is challenging," said Coder. "One of my summer projects is to see if we can make any tweaks."
Crime: According to http://crime-map.dc.gov , there were one homicide, seven assaults, 21 burglaries and eight robberies in the past year.