When Mark Elsesser, 36, moved into the Navy Yard neighborhood in June 2014, he could sit on his couch and watch the sun set over the Anacostia River. Today, an 11-story apartment building blocks the western portion of his view, and, soon, two more high-rises will blot out what remains.
“We’ll miss seeing the river, but we knew that’s what would happen when we moved in,” says Elsesser, who set up house at Twelve12 (1212 4th St. SE; 202-479-2734) with his girlfriend the month it opened. “Every other month it seems like a new apartment building pops up in this neighborhood.”
He’s hardly exaggerating. In the past five years, 10 new apartments, condo buildings, retail and office buildings have opened in the Navy Yard neighborhood (which is also known as Capitol Riverfront or Near Southeast); 14 are currently under construction and 17 more are in the pipeline. Most of the new buildings are being turned into apartments, with a sprinkling of condos, retail and office space.
“If everything is built according to plan, there could be 11,000 households living in the area around the Navy Yard Metro, which would make it the most densely populated neighborhood in the city,” says Payton Chung, an urban development wonk who blogs for Greater Greater Washington.
The story behind the current spurt of development dates back to 1963, when the U.S. Navy returned 55 acres along the Anacostia River to the General Services Administration. The federal government cleaned up the land, which had been used for building weapons and ships, built a new headquarters for the Department of Transportation and turned over the remaining property to private developers in 2005. Meanwhile, other industrial structures and one low-income housing project were razed to make way for new buildings.
Today, the Navy Yard neighborhood is attracting droves of new residents, thanks to its promise of metro-accessible apartments that are close to the city’s center and two major highways. Other draws include Nationals Park, which opened in 2008, and a growing number of restaurants and recreational activities, including a trapeze school and a kayak rental.
But perhaps more than anything, new renters are coming to Navy Yard apartments because of the relatively low prices.
“If you went to an area like Dupont or other areas in Northwest, you’re going to pay a lot more than we’re paying,” Elsesser says.
Heather McGinnis, 34, agrees. She and her partner looked at more than 75 apartment buildings before they settled on Parc Riverside (1011 1st St SE; 844-515-1997), which opened in April.
“When we started looking at apartments in the Navy Yard area, the rents seemed reasonable. We were like, ‘OK, this isn’t the six and seven grand that we’ve been seeing in Dupont Circle and Foggy Bottom,’” McGinnis says.
McGinnis’ favorite part of her building is the roof deck, with a panoramic view that encompasses many D.C. landmarks, including the Capitol and the Washington Monument. There are also grills, fire pits encircled with comfortable furniture and a heated pool — all of which make for a perfect night in, McGinnis says.
“I don’t want to go out to Adams Morgan and go drinking after work. I want to go up to the rooftop and have a bottle of wine with a couple of our neighborhood friends,” she says.
If you do want to go out, it’s easy to hop on the Green Line and get to U Street, Elsesser says. But it’s even more tempting to hit up one of the many good places in the neighborhood.
“Osteria Morini has to be one of the best restaurants in the city,” Elsesser says. “There’s also a free outdoor concert series in the summer and lots of events like Laser Cat [an art show and dance party] last year that are making Navy Yard more of a destination,” he says.
The only thing Navy Yard is missing is a late-night spot, says Sloane Darden, 34, who also lives in Twelve12.
“It’s just so quiet. It’s ten o’clock, eleven o’clock and I’m the only one awake with nothing to do,” she says.
If Navy Yard doesn’t cater to night owls, it is a big draw for another kind of animal.
“Seemingly everyone who lives here, especially in this building, has a dog,” Darden says. “It’s like residing in a kennel. Sit in the lobby for 30 minutes and you’ll see an impromptu dog show.”
Dog owners may be drawn to Navy Yard due to the its surfeit of green space. In addition to the 5.5-acre Yards Park on the water, there’s also Canal Park, featuring a splash fountain that turns into an ice skating rink in the winter.
Though Navy Yard has a lot to recommend it, Darden doesn’t see herself living here for more than a year or two. People are just too standoffish, she says — perhaps because the area’s many renters don’t bother to get to know one another before moving on to their next home.
“I don’t get a sense of neighborly rapport at all,” Darden says. “I think I’ll eventually move back to Maryland, where people are a little more friendly. Though I will miss being able to walk to the grocery store.”
Plenty of ports at Navy Yard
Considering a move to Navy Yard? Here’s a guide to the apartment buildings in the area, including some that will be ready a few years down the road. Locations on map are
approximate. Info from Capitol Riverfront BID.
Correction: The map above originally included roads that have been closed, and incorrectly located Parc Riverside and Dock 79. It has been updated.
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