When then-Ward 4 council member Muriel E. Bowser launched her mayoral campaign in 2013, she made sure to tout her working-class roots.
She announced her bid in front of her childhood home in North Michigan Park, a Northeast Washington neighborhood filled with modest homes where mostly working-class African American Washingtonians have resided for generations.
Later, the Democratic candidate gave The Washington Post a tour of the Riggs Park home she purchased in 2000 for $125,000 — one half of a brick duplex she shares with a family of Colombian refugees.
“This is really a neighborhood that is like so many neighborhoods in D.C. that are filled with working people who have invested everything they have in their homes and keeping their homes up and well, and have invested in the Washington, D.C., that we have now,” Bowser said of the neighborhood in the interview.
Now, nearly a year after she took over the top post in the District, Mayor Bowser is moving to a bigger home directly east of Rock Creek Park in Colonial Village — a Ward 4 neighborhood in upper Northwest where the colonial-style homes can sell for upward of $1 million.
A spokesman for the mayor confirmed that Bowser would soon call Colonial Village home but would not provide the address, saying her security detail was not yet posted at the new property.
“I decided that I need a little more space,” Bowser said during a Lamond-Riggs civic meeting Monday night at LaSalle-Backus Education Campus, where she thanked about 100 of her neighbors for voting for her to be the D.C. Council member from Ward 4 and then to be mayor. “I wanted you to know that I am not going anywhere; this has been my home for 15 years.”
It’s unclear how much Bowser paid for her new home, but online real estate database Zillow shows that a more-than-4,000-square-foot home in Colonial Village sold for $1,087,400 in early November. The average family income, according to census data, in Colonial Village and the nearby Shepherd Park and North Portal Estates neighborhoods was $193,468 between 2008 and 2012, well above the city average of $119,511 during that period.
By comparison, D.C. property records show the 2015 assessed value of her 1,000-square-foot Riggs Park home — located on the 500 block of Oglethorpe Street NE — as $244,120. Bowser said Monday that she has not decided whether she will sell that home. (Her Colombian neighbors purchased their half of the duplex for $350,000 this year.)
That’s all to say that Colonial Village is more upscale than the working-class Riggs Park, where the average family income in the area between 2008 and 2012 was about $73,000.
Colonial Village is part of a cluster of neighborhoods in upper Northwest along 16th Street known as the “Gold Coast” — an enclave of the city that has historically been home to many of the city’s black elites and intellectuals. In recent decades, more white people have moved into the area, with 2010 Census data showing the neighborhood as 69 percent black.
“Once a covenant forbade residents ‘of Negro blood or of the Semitic race,’ ” according to a brief history compiled by neighborhood historian F. Merle Bollard, “but today the neighborhood is well integrated, populated by government executives, lobbyists, political consultants, lawyers, doctors and several city judges,” a 1994 Washington Post story on the neighborhood read.
When Bowser defeated Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) in last year’s Democratic primary, Gray — who lived in Ward 7’s more affluent Hillcrest neighborhood — beat her badly among voters east of the Anacostia River, which is home to the city’s poorest neighborhoods.
Her move from Riggs Park could provide fodder for critics across the river, who argue she is removed from the struggles of the city’s poorest residents.
Parisa Norouzi, the director of Empower DC — a local nonprofit organization that advocates on behalf of the city’s poor residents — said that although Colonial Village physically puts the mayor farther from the city’s lower-income neighborhoods, the move doesn’t change much. Homeownership itself, according to Norouzi, is the more distinguishing factor between the city’s well-off residents and poorer ones, not where the home is located.
None of the District’s elected officials “have done a Cory Booker to make sure they are attached,” Norouzi said, referring to the Democratic senator from New Jersey who famously lived in public housing while he was mayor of Newark. “The reality is that the way [D.C. elected officials] run their job, they are very isolated from people. She is not at the bus stop, she is not going to Walmart.”
In interviews during the meeting Monday night, most of the mayor’s soon-to-be former neighbors did not seem bothered that Bowser was leaving the neighborhood after just one year in office. Some noted that the move would mean fewer police officers in the area, because her security detail would no longer be camped outside her house.
Others took no offense at the mayor’s decision.
“If she wants to move up to a bigger place, then why not?” said Barbara Lee, who has lived in Riggs Park for more than 50 years and has known Bowser since she was a young girl attending community meetings with her father. “I don’t feel like she’s deserting us; she’s the mayor of the whole city.”
For now, however, the home could be a boon to the mayor’s social life. She’ll be living near her senior adviser and well-known party host Beverly L. Perry, who has a new game room and big-screen TV for sporting events in her mansion along Rock Creek Park.
“I think everyone recognizes that I need more space,” Bowser said in an interview Monday. “The mayor always has people coming in and out.”
Indeed, last year, a handful of people, including Perry, squished into Bowser’s side of her Riggs Park duplex for spaghetti and champagne.
This year, she’ll have more room to host a party.
Aaron C. Davis contributed to this report.