Rowena Hamilton says she is happy in her new home in the quiet tree-lined Northeast neighborhood except that her home in the new University Park duplex development was flooded recently, the street asphalt melts in the summer and is tracked onto her carpeting and she didn't realize that when she moved there two years ago "they were going to build so many houses."
"It's going to be congested," Hamilton said. "That's a lot of people in a small area. It's a nice quiet area, but when you think of all those people . . ."
Hamiltonhs three-bedroom, mostly-aluminum-siding duplex home and approximately 249 others like it planned on the 10-acre tract represent a nightmare come true to some of her neighbors. They fear that development of much of the still virgin land in the Upper Northeast will intrude into the enclave of stately, largely-single-family brick homes that the area's residents - most of them middle-aged persons with middle-range incomes - have enjoyed for years. For others, like housing developers who have run out of building space in the city, the prospects for new development are a dream.
"I took a piece of property that was literally a dump," said University Park developer Stanley Halle. "Metro was dumping trash on it. I created a fine community in there."
In the past several years, more new home development has been creeping into the area, like the ivy that slithers up the sides of the 30-year-old to 50-year-old brick colonials, cape colds and historic homes that have decorated the Upper Northeast for years. But unlike the climbing, colorful foliage around the homes, no one knows for sure how long development of the area will keep growing.
On of the more recent new Northeast developments was the Ft. Lincoln New Town,a townhouse community built on 360 acres of rolling hills where a Civil War bastion, Ft. Lincoln, once stood. It has been followed nearby by Summit Villages, a duplex townhouse community built by the same developers.
More recently, however, has been the University Park development, at Puerto Rico and Buchanan streets, originally planned as a 650-unit townhouse and condominium project with two high-rise buildings. The community fought to preserve its quiet character and a smaller version of University Park was created instead.
Development has just begun on another duplex community, Buchanan Mews, which will have 22 three-bedroom duplex units near University Park. Another development, Michigan Park North, off Eastern Avenue near Taylor Street, will consist of three-bedroom and four-bedroom townhouses with prices starting in the low $80s.
The newest development now under construction is Park Place, a community of 541 townhouses on 24 wooded acres across from Trinity College, which sold the site last year to developers Gerald M. LaVay and Richard J. Donohoe. In fact, the area's Catholic institutions - mainly Catholic University - seem to hold the key to further development in the area because they own a lot of the undeveloped land.
Catholic University, however, has no immediate plans to sell more land, according to Richard Applegate, vice president for administration and finance. When the land was sold for University Park, "We sold it for the money. We were in a desperate financial situation." Applegate said.
Yet some of the neighbors still fear the encroachment of development.
"We have a well-integrated, well-struc- tured, middle-income area that survived white flight and maintained a stable economic level," said John D. Kelley, projects coordinator of the Upper Northeast Coordinating Council which successfully fought the original townhouse, high-rise concept where University Park now stands. "The only thing that imperils us in development."
As for University Park, "It's too much. We don't know how the area will absorb it." Kelly said. "We're very much concerned about land use that will impact us."
Of toher new developments, Kelly said, "We're getting inundated with townhouses, and they're nothing but oversize apartments. There's still a lot of vacant space around here. Space is at a premium here."
Scott Ross, a representative of Park Place, disagrees. Future development will be "very difficult," he said. "There isn't land in large enough pieces. There are some pieces, but who wants to go tearing up the neighborhood." Besides, small developments are not economically prudent, Ross added. The Park Place tract may be one of the city's last large tracts that's close in, he said.
Besides noting their proximity to the city, Upper Northeast residents boast about the quality of their homes without the high price tags.
"There's very little distinction between Northeast and Silver Spring and other suburbs," said a representative of one developement.
The homes are "better than Capital Hill and as good or better than Georgetown and Cleveland Park," said Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Robert I. Artisst. "We haven't been exploited yet. It's highly stable. We're trying to keep the exploiters out."
Artisst said there has been relatively low turnover in the area. One resident he knows has lived in the same house for 72 years. But, he added, "We feel the real estate people are flexing their muscles here."
Before the turn of the century, the Upper Northeast, particularly the Brookland area, was a suburban residential community with its own post office. It pretty much has kept that ambience today. Its residents now consist of Catholic University faculty members, young professionals and a large number of elderly persons. Artisst said 27 percent of Brookland's residents are retired and have lived in their homes from 25 to 45 years. Ownership of many homes has been handed down from generation to generation, he added.
The neighborhood had a strong percentage of home ownership and a good housing stock that has the appearance of chronic good maintenance. It is served by the Brookland-Catholic Unitversity, Rhode Island and Fort Totten Metro stations. CAPTION: Map, Shows current D.C. construction or condominium conversion activity for (1) condominium apartments, (2) town houses and condominiums, (3) garden apartment condominiums, (4) town houses and (5) single-family houses. By John Pack for The Washington Post; Picture, Home construction at University Park in Upper Northeast as seen from the Taylor Street Bridge. By Margaret Thomas - The Washington Post