Mount Vernon Triangle offers walkability to loads of attractions

The Northwest Washington neighborhood has condo living and an emerging restaurant scene

Diners enjoy outdoor eating at Bar Chinois in the Mount Vernon Triangle neighborhood of Northwest Washington. Bar Chinois is “kind of like our neighborhood watering hole where so many people gather,” said Jeffrey Tenenbaum, a nonprofit attorney who has lived in the neighborhood since 2009.
Diners enjoy outdoor eating at Bar Chinois in the Mount Vernon Triangle neighborhood of Northwest Washington. Bar Chinois is “kind of like our neighborhood watering hole where so many people gather,” said Jeffrey Tenenbaum, a nonprofit attorney who has lived in the neighborhood since 2009. (Maansi Srivastava/The Washington Post)
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Terri Markle fell in love with Mount Vernon Triangle, a Northwest Washington neighborhood, by walking around it. The creator of a travel blog called Female Solo Trek, Markle got to know the neighborhood before she moved into her condo in 2015 thanks to walking tours that exposed her to the history of the area. It’s how she discovered Prather’s Alley, a commercial corridor used by milk delivery trucks in the late 1800s and now surrounded by trendy bars and eateries.

“You sort of straddle two worlds,” she said of Mount Vernon Triangle, part of which was designated a historic district in 2006.

Markle joined the pandemic puppy trend in 2021, adopting a golden retriever she named Parker. Now, because of their walks, “Parker and I know every inch” of the neighborhood, she said.

While a decade and a half ago the neighborhood was “a sea of parking lots,” it’s now a walker’s paradise, according to Kenyattah Robinson, president of the Mount Vernon Triangle Community Improvement District (CID). A survey by the organization found nearly 80 percent of Mount Vernon Triangle’s residents live within a mile of their workplace, and half commute on foot.

“I personally — and I need my car for work — only fill it up every two to three months,” said Thais Austin, a resident since 2006 and a real estate agent with Long & Foster. “A lot of people that move into this neighborhood end up selling their car.”

When Austin moved to MVT, she said, the neighborhood was just emerging. Her building, one of the first high-rises built there, was only 40 percent full.

“At first, I thought, ‘Well, this isn’t what I imagined D.C. to be. It looks like just a very commercial area,’ ” she said. “But then every restaurant I went to was amazing. I could go to the museums and theater so easily. I could walk to the National Mall. I could go to festivals on Pennsylvania Avenue. And I realized very quickly that this was exactly where I wanted to be.”

While residents of MVT have long enjoyed being steps away from lively parts of D.C. — Gallery Place, Chinatown, the H Street corridor and Union Station are all within strolling distance — the neighborhood is rapidly becoming a destination in its own right for gourmands. Among the eateries with big shady patios on K Street are A Baked Joint, Toscana Market and Busboys and Poets. Mélange, a casual American restaurant, and Baan Siam, a Thai restaurant, which both opened in 2020 during the pandemic, earned spots on Eater’s “Essential Restaurants” list. Bar Chinois, Bartaco and Stellina Pizzeria are also popular new arrivals.

Bar Chinois is “kind of like our neighborhood watering hole where so many people gather,” said Jeffrey Tenenbaum, a nonprofit attorney who has lived in MVT since 2009. “It’s great to have a place like that in the evenings or on the weekends. You can’t walk in there without running into people that you know.”

The CID, which fills the role of neighborhood association, organizes an outdoor summer concert series, “Tunes in the Triangle,” and a popular Saturday farmers market at Fifth and I streets NW. Neighborhood resident Julie Cangialosi, the reigning Mrs. D.C. International and mother to two children ages 6 and 8, said one of her family’s favorite local events during the past year was a festival on Seventh Street, part of Open Streets. A 1.5-mile stretch was closed for vendors and performers.

“That was probably the most fun we've had as a family in a long time,” she said.

Residents are looking forward to the planned development at Cobb Park on H Street NW, just off the Interstate 395 on-ramp. Now a fenced-off empty field, it could soon meet the neighborhood’s need for a local green space. The development project, which has a $2.1 million budget and calls for an artwork installation, children’s play area and a food truck zone, is slated to be complete in summer 2023.

Tommy McFly, an MVT resident since 2013 and a TV and radio personality, said he’s excited to walk his dog in the new park.

“I think it’s going to be a great landmark for, ‘What in the world is Mount Vernon Triangle?’ ” he said. “And with it being right off the freeway, it’s a big welcome sign for D.C., and that’s why it’s exciting.”

While MVT clearly appeals to D.C. professionals, it’s also home to another group: grandparents raising their grandchildren full time. In 2018, the District, in collaboration with several nonprofit developers, opened a first-of-its kind affordable housing project with 50 units set aside for “grandfamilies” at Plaza West, 307 K St. NW. Of the 4,300 grandfamilies in the District, the building’s website notes, one-third live in poverty. Grandparents who make 30 percent to 40 percent of the area median income can secure rents substantially below market rates in these units.

Constance Jones, who is raising three grandchildren ages 21, 18 and 17, moved into Plaza West last June. The building has developed its own community, she said, with floor captains to support the grandfamilies and an internal tenants’ association. This summer, she said, that association is working together to close off part of their block for a neighborhood July Fourth picnic, complete with a bounce house and activities for the children.

“We’re doing it,” she said. “The families are doing it.”

Living there: The layout of Mount Vernon Triangle, which dates to Pierre L’Enfant’s 1791 urban plan, includes 17 blocks flaring out from Seventh Street NW, bounded by New York Avenue to the north and Massachusetts Avenue to the south. North Capitol Street NW forms the base of the triangle. Nearly 7,000 residents occupy 4,500 residential units in the neighborhood, according to the CID.

All of the homes are condominiums, Austin said. One-bedroom condos and one-bedrooms with dens are most common, she said; two-bedrooms are rarer and tend to sell very quickly. The local market is changing rapidly, she said, as people in D.C. begin to return to office work. Prices spiked in 2020, reaching a peak in August of that year, then dipped back to 2019 levels. This year, they're beginning to climb again.

In the past 90 days, Austin said, four two-bedroom condos and 26 one-bedrooms or one-bedroom dens sold. The highest sale price in that time frame was a two-bedroom for $817,000; the lowest was a one-bedroom that closed at $399,900. The average rent for a one-bedroom condo is around $2,200, she said, although parking can add another few hundred per month. There are 17 units listed for sale, ranging from a $1 million penthouse to a $349,900 one-bedroom.

Schools: Walker-Jones Education Campus (K-8th), Dunbar High School

Transit: Metro stations Mount Vernon Square (Green and Yellow lines) and Gallery Place (Red, Yellow and Green) are just outside neighborhood boundaries along Seventh Street NW. Union Station is two blocks east of North Capitol Street, MVT’s eastern boundary. Several Metrobus routes serve the neighborhood.