If you want to live in or near the area known as the Golden Triangle in the District, you’ll be a bit of a pioneer, but that could change if developers convert more office space into residential buildings.
Therese-Marie and Bill Harkey were enjoying a meal in one of their favorite restaurants in the District last fall when they noticed construction underway across the street. For 32 years, they have been living in Montgomery Village near Gaithersburg, all the while thinking that someday they would live in the city.
“My dream was always to move into the city,” said Therese-Marie Harkey, 66. That dream will become a reality in the next month or two when the couple relocates to 1745N, a new condo and townhouse project on the edge of the Golden Triangle, just south of Dupont Circle. Bill Harkey, 68, is a government contractor working at the Federal Aviation Administration. He commutes to its downtown office.
“I never thought we could afford that area. I dismissed it,” Therese-Marie Harkey said. A former teacher, full-time mom and now an artist, she said she was thinking: “Wouldn’t this be a dream to live here?”
They’ve sold their house in Montgomery Village, trading it for a two-bedroom, two-bath condominium in the Modern Flats, a six-story condominium building at 1745N. “It’s enough for the two of us. I am a minimalist. We’re not coming with a lot of stuff.”
Looking ahead to their new life, she said: “What we really love about them is that they’re so hidden. Like a hidden diamond that nobody knows about.”
“I need the sounds of the city,” she added.
Getting rid of the car: Living in the Golden Triangle, which stretches south from Dupont Circle, is a small but potentially growing trend. Its approximate boundaries are New Hampshire Avenue to the west, 16th Street to the east, and Pennsylvania Avenue to the south, according to the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District. A small spur extends as far south as F Street. The area is known for its class A office buildings, high-end retail and some empty office buildings that some in the District government and beyond say could be converted to provide more residential options.
Both young and older people are finding new urban spaces to call home. Among the first such spaces in or near the Golden Triangle was Jefferson Row, a group of 23 townhouses on Jefferson Place NW, two blocks south of Dupont Circle.
In 2005, Ed Mackiewicz, a partner with Steptoe & Johnson, was living in a co-op in the Van Ness area of the District when he spotted an advertisement for a townhouse conversion effort underway near his office. He weighed his options and decided to put a deposit on a unit that would take a couple of years to develop. “I saw the billboard,” Mackiewicz said. Friends kidded him. Since he already worked nearby and spent a lot of time in the neighborhood, they asked: “Why don’t you move down here, too?”
For Mackiewicz, 67, who moved into his renovated townhouse in the spring of2007, “it’s been great. You can’t beat the convenience to the office and the restaurants I frequent, the variety of restaurants.”
The first thing he did when he moved to the area from Van Ness was to sell his car. “I don’t need a car,” he said. His lifestyle means walking to his office, enjoying nearby restaurants such as the Palm and inviting friends to his home.
Noise and rodents: The only downsides are the clubs, some with rooftop lounges, and traffic noise as clubgoers leave the area between 1:30 and 3:30 in the morning, he said. The other downside, he said, is the dumpsters on M Street in the alley, which are overused and can create a rodent problem.
“Go into it with open eyes,” Mackiewicz said. “There are inconveniences along with conveniences. It depends on what your needs are.” For him, being within walking distance of his office and the restaurants he frequents outweigh any negatives.
These days, most of the residential buildings, except for Jefferson Row, where Mackiewicz lives, are on the outer edges of the Golden Triangle.
Those who want to move near where they work may need to do a systematic search. “I was looking for new construction,” said Samantha Block, 27, of her quest to find not only space she could afford but monthly condo fees that were reasonable. “I wanted a balcony,” she said.
When she found the Modern Flats at 1745N, her search was over. “Everything I needed was in walking distance,” she said. “I don’t want to have to get a car so this was the perfect location. Closet space was a huge thing.” A recent law school graduate, Block will start as a law firm associate in September.
In a way, Block took a leap of faith when she went on a hard-hat tour of 1745N two or three months ago. From the Historic Row section of the property, she was “able to look right into my unit. I could look into which unit was going to be mine.”
The Modern Flats has 39 units while the Historic Row has 29, for a total of 68 units. The building is expected to be ready for occupancy in September or October. One-third have already sold.
Affordable housing incentives: Another new condominium building on the edge of the Golden Triangle is the Adele at 1108 16th St. between L and M streets NW, closest to the Farragut North Metro station on the Red Line and four blocks from the White House. The now-eight-story building retains its 1920s two-story facade. The building has 23,000 square feet of residential space and 19,000 square feet of office space.
The Legacy West End is a rental building at 1255 22nd St. NW, just outside the northwestern boundary of the Golden Triangle.
With 197 units, including 15 affordable ones, the property was converted from offices to rental residences in the past year, completed in the spring. A U.S. Post Office stands on its street level space. The building, which is owned by Tasea Investment Co. and the Floyd Akers family, is on land where the original East Coast Cadillac dealership was in business from 1935 through the late 1970s.
Conversions from commercial to residential spaces could increase. “People want places where people can live and work,” said Paul DesJardin, community planning and services director for the Washington Metropolitan Council of Governments. The COG Commercial Construction Indicators report notes that at the end of 2017, the Washington market had the highest vacancy rate for commercial space among the top 142 markets in the United States.
Meanwhile, a bill — the Mixed-Use Neighborhood Conversion Incentive Act of 2017 — is pending in the D.C.Council. The measure, if approved, would allow the mayor to approve tax abatements for no more than $20 per usable/rentable residential square foot within the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District as well as the Downtown Business Improvement District. Eight percent of the units would have to be affordable to those earning up to 60 percent of the median area income.
The Golden Triangle neighborhood is home to a number of parks, including Farragut Square, which occupies a rectangle bounded by K Street to the north, I Street on the south and segments of 17th Street on the east and west. As many as 90,000 people work in the neighborhood. “That’s why a lot of people live on the edges,” said Leona Agouridis, executive director of the Golden Triangle BID. “You can walk everywhere.”
Known as the “town square” of the Golden Triangle, Farragut Square is home to a variety of BID-sponsored activities, including Golden Cinema, a free series of outdoor movies throughout the summer ranging from “La La Land” to “Casablanca,” and Farragut Fridays, a free set of day-long activities that began in May and continues through the last week in September. Food trucks park along the streets near Farragut Park while hotels, restaurants, shops and bars dot the area.
Living there: In the past 12 months, according to data from Matt Dewey, chief operating officer of Urban Space, and Matt Cummings, director of sales for 1745N, 42 residential properties have sold in and on the edges of the Golden Triangle neighborhood. They range from a studio for $250,000 to a two-bedroom-plus-den, three-bath unit for $2.499 million. There are 56 properties on the market. They range from a one-bedroom, one-bath unit for $339,900 to a two-bedroom-plus-den, four-bath unit for $2.95 million.
Schools: School Without Walls @ Francis-Stevens (elementary and middle), Cardozo Education Campus (high).
Transit: The neighborhood is served by the Dupont Circle and Farragut North Metro stations on the Red Line and the Farragut West station on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines.
Crime: In the past year, according to the D.C. police Crime Map, there were 24 burglaries, 33 robberies and 31 aggravated assaults in the area.