The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Change is coming to quiet, residential Fort Totten in Northeast D.C.

Placeholder while article actions load

Where We Live | Fort Totten in Northeast Washington

Fort Totten is on the District’s border with Maryland. It is bounded by Riggs Road to the north, the Metro tracks to the east, Hawaii Avenue to the south and North Capitol Street to the west. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

For many District residents, Fort Totten is synonymous with its Metro station. But Fort Totten is much more than a transfer point. Residents of this upper Northeast community see it as a hidden gem, untouched by the hustle and bustle of downtown.

“This neighborhood is very quiet. I guess you could say it’s like suburbia,” says Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Gordon-Andrew Fletcher.

“It’s middle class. There are a lot of federal government workers that live here and have since the 1950s. They owned their homes and have given them to their kids and grandkids.”

Fletcher moved to Fort Totten from Wheaton in 2015. He hadn’t heard of it, but a friend owned a condo in nearby Hyattsville, and Fletcher frequently passed through the neighborhood to visit him. Fletcher says the residential feel resonated with him and that it felt “comfortable.”

“It looked so different back then, but it’s always had the detached and semidetached homes and a little more land being so close to the Maryland border. That’s really unique to find in D.C.,” Fletcher says.

There aren’t any sit-down bars or restaurants. Most residents own cars, cook at home and do their grocery shopping at nearby Costco and Walmart. Nearby Brookland offers the closest sit-down dining.

Near Leesburg’s downtown, an older neighborhood with a live-and-let-live spirit

Change in the area has been gradual, but it’s coming. Within the community, there are mixed feelings about the impact of more retail outlets on their modest neighborhood. Last year, Fletcher worked with North Michigan Park residents to rally against Pax Liquor’s application for a liquor store license. D.C.’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board rejected the application, saying it would “encourage loitering to the detriment of peace and quiet” and that it would “likely have a detrimental effect on property values.”

Fort Totten is a mostly older, African American community. There are seniors who still live in the homes they purchased in the 1960s and ‘70s, and many homes have been passed down through generations. But young families are beginning to move into Fort Totten, too. At 34, Fletcher seeks to bridge the gap between older residents and newcomers.

“I really try to find ways for us to live harmoniously, or as harmoniously as possible,” he said. “In the community meetings I’ll say, ‘Okay, I’m going to fight with you against this liquor store; however, if this was a sit-down bar, I’m going to advocate for that because I think we need that kind of growth in the area.’ ”

Robert Oliver moved to the area in 1988. He is glad that it’s heavily residential but says the right type of businesses would be welcome.

“I see it as a positive, it’s going to bring a lot of service jobs which will be good for young and elderly people that may want to work half days,” he says.

“There’s never been much in the way of a business corridor here, and that means no real sit-down restaurants or bars. I have no problem with a bar or restaurant that serves liquor but as far as wholesale spirits shops, most people are fine going to the Walmart or Costco for that. It’s not that we’re dry. I think as these developments happen and bring in more people and increase the density, the demand for restaurants will come,” Oliver says.

Deanwood: Affordability, if not amenities, in a part of D.C. rich in history

The biggest development in Fort Totten is Art Place. Located steps from the Metro station, the Modern at Art Place is an apartment complex that was completed in 2017. The 520 units range from studios to two-bedroom units with rents starting at $1,475 per month. Phase 2 of the Art Place project will add an Aldi grocery store, a children’s museum, an experiential art museum and a Union Market-esque food hall. It will also include another 270-unit apartment building with 30 affordable dwelling units offered to households whose income falls within a certain range. The Cafritz Foundation, the developer, is also targeting another grocery store option, possibly Trader Joe’s or Mom’s Organic Market. Phase 2 is scheduled to be completed by 2022.

The Lamond-Riggs Library, about a five-minute walk from the neighborhood, is expected to undergo a renovation by late 2021. The $20 million project is in the design phase.

Living there: Fort Totten is on the District’s border with Maryland. It’s bounded by Riggs Road to the north, the Metro tracks to the east, Hawaii Avenue to the south and North Capitol Street to the west.

According to Kimberly Fallin at Redfin, four homes have sold in Fort Totten in the past year, including a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house that sold for $525,000 and a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house that sold for $380,000. There are two homes for sale: a three-bedroom, three-bathroom rowhouse listed for $539,900 and a three-bedroom, two-bathroom rowhouse listed for $479,999.

Transportation: The Fort Totten Metro Station serves as a transfer point for the Green, Yellow and Red lines. Several bus routes serve the area. North Capitol Street and Missouri Avenue are the main thoroughfares.

Schools: LaSalle-Backus Education Campus (elementary and middle), Ida B. Wells Middle, Coolidge High.