When the Glenmont line opens next November, Metro will pass right by Brookland, a quiet residential neighborhood near Catholic University. Due to a bureaucratic snafu, the station serving that stretch of upper Northeast Washington will take three or four months more to construct.
As the gleaming trains hurtle through the unfinished station, some Brooklands may secretly wish they would just keep on going forever. Not that residents of this sleepy, secure community of old homes and tree-lined streets won't appreciate the conventience Metro will mean to those bound for the campus or downtown. They say they just don't like sudden, radical change.
The advent of Metro at Rhode Island Avenue about a mile away has brought the nuisance of all-day parking on nearby streets by commuters who find no space at the station. Fort Totten, a rapid rail stop about a mile to the north, has a large lot in anticipation of its position as a crossroads between the Glenmont and Greenbelt lines.
But thre is no large lot at Brookland, which is expected to be a pass-through station rather than a terminus.
Metro's impact on this community of 7,000 residents has yet to be felt.
Early on, when the Glenmont line was announced, real estate speculators began pestering homeowners with offers to buy their properties for inflated prices. Few succumbed.
In 1974 the Upper Northeast Coordinating Council, and umbrella organization representing 40 civic groups, fought off a developer's plan for a 650-unit town house and condominium project northeast of the university that would have included two high-rise buildings.
"We're not a fashionable neighborhood yet," said Tom Rooney, an art professor at Catholic University and an advocate for the coordinating council. "I dread the day when we're discovered."
Partly through the efforts of residents like Rooney, Brookland has not undergone the change of Northwest's Adams Morgan or the West End area near Washington Circle. An 80-block area north of Rhode Island and east of the B&O Railroad trcks, Brookland has a population that is 83 per cent black.
Before the turn of the century, it was a suburban residential community with its own post office. Integrated for a number of years, it was the boyhood home of Sen. Edward Brooke (D-Mass.). Catholic University faculty members and young professionals currently live there. And it has a large number of elderly persons and a highly educated, highly vocal white minority that lobbies hard with the blacks to preserve such Brookland assets as large oak trees and $120-a-month apartments.
The neighborhood has a strong percentage of homeownership, a stable population with little turnover, a good housing stock that doesn't need radical surgery, and little vacant land on which to build. The only available green space belongs to the area's Catholic institutions, which have begun selling off small tracts as the number of new recruits has declined.
Government planners have ambitious plans for Upper Northeast, the triangle bounded by New York Avenue, North Capitol Street and the District line. Proposed are expansion of the industrial corridor along New York Avenue, relocation of the Government Printing Office to Rhode Island Avenue, development of Fort Lincoln New Town, and construction of "uptown centers" at the Rhode Island and Fort Totten stations. The centers, as planned, would resemble the Crystal City complex near National Airport and would include shops, office buildings and high-rise apartments.
The upper Northeast Coordinating Council predicts that this development would result in a 50 per cent increase in dwellings and inhabitants in that area over the next 10 to 15 years. A council poll of more than 400 merchants and residents near the commercial intersections of 12th Street and Rhode Island Avenue revealed disparate views on Metro.
More than half of the Rhode Island Avenue proprietors said they were afraid they could not compete against an uptown center, a fifth of them said they might leave the area.
But more than half of the 12th Street business owners, many of whose shops are in dilapidated condition, said they anticipate a positive effect on Brookland by the rapid rail system.
Residents questioned said they hoped Metro-related development would result in new stores - clothing, food, shoes, ice cream parlors - to supplement existing, but often duplicative ones.
While neighborhood efforts helped defeat plans for an ambitious town house and high-rise project, development of two divisions of semi-detached houses - a type of housing characteristic of the area and one allowed under current zoning for the area - are now under construction on ground between Brookland and Fort Totten. Builder Joseph E. Pignataro is putting in houses at South Dakota Avenue and Decatur Street, and three-bedroom Stanley Halle homes, priced in the mid $50,000s, are going up nearby at Puerto Rico Avenue and Buchanan Street.
Inflation, as much as new houses,is responsible for a concomitant rise in resale prices. Verna Cross, who has lived on Crittenden Street for six years, recently sold her 1947 vintage, three-bedroom house for $57,000. With her handsome profit she bought an $80,000 house in Montgomery County. The prices in D.C. are "ridiculous," she said.
Sixty-nine houses on 10th Street that had lain vacant for many years awaiting construction of a freeway were sold by the city a few years back to realtor Jack Spicer. Entirely gutted, the rowhouses went on the market last year for $42,000. Fifteen months later, two were resold for $48,000. One had been owned by an investor who sold after failing to make a profit renting.
This kind of sale is rare in Brookland. But what about the future?
"With (houses) just 7 1/2 minutes from downtown (by Metro), property values have got to increase," commented realtor C. Howard Simons.
Demographic may also play a role. Watching the area for four years, builder Pignataro has noted the influx of young, middle class black couples.
"Before, the neighborhood was blue collar; now it's filled with government workers and policemen," he said.
The sales agent for University Park, the Stanley Halle development, observed that of the first 40 buyers, 37 were purchasing their first homes. He described the majority as couples under 30 without children who had been living in apartments in the city.
The arrival of young professionals on the Brookland scene may eventually change the neighborhood more than Metro.
Not suddenly or radically, of course. This is Brookland. CAPTION: Picture 1, The Brookland area of Northeast Washington includes tree-lined streets such as Lawrence at 15th.; Picture 2, and town houses such as the renovated block at 10th and Douglas.; Picture 3, Some of the area's newest construction, two-family houses on Buchanan Street, priced in the $50,000s.Staff photos by Larry Morris