When Bernedette Thomas purchased a building on Todd Place NE in the District’s Eckington neighborhood in 1999, the block was littered with rundown buildings and the neighborhood, she said, was a hotbed of drug activity.
Dealers operated openly and used nearby abandoned buildings to stash drugs, said Thomas, a retired New York City police officer.
But in the 17 years since she purchased a commercial building at Todd Place and Lincoln Road, eventually transforming the shell into a market and deli, the neighborhood has improved dramatically, she said.
“I stayed on the phone calling the police to clear the corners,” Thomas said. “The dealers would go to jail and as soon as they got out they came looking for me and apologized for selling drugs in the neighborhood,” said Thomas, who considers herself a surrogate mother to many of the neighborhood’s young men, who refer to her as “Ma.”
Today, rather than a glut of abandoned buildings, porches are dotted with pots filled with fresh flowers, decks sport fresh coats of paint, bikers and dog walkers fill sidewalks, and alleys are free of trash and debris.
By the time Brooke Edgecombe found a three-bedroom, two-bathroom rowhouse on First Street NE in 2009, Eckington was noticeably on the upswing, she said. Edgecombe, a former vice president of the Eckington Civic Association, said she helped to organize police walks and the construction of a dog park. “And now of course I’m thrilled because my property value has gone up substantially since 2009,” she said.
Friendly neighbors: Stocked with colorfully painted Federal, Victorian and Greek Revival-style rowhouses, Eckington offers potential residents affordable real estate options with a location that’s “easily accessible to destinations like Silver Spring, Bethesda or downtown D.C.,” said Desirée Hargett, an agent with Re/Max Excellence Realty.
Rachel Hynes agreed that Eckington’s accessibility was a major draw and contributes to the neighborhood’s desirability. About three years ago, Hynes was returning to the United States after attending graduate school in London. She’d been living in her parents’ basement and was ready to branch out on her own when a real estate agent suggested she check out a house on Todd Place. Her discovery of Eckington, she said, felt too good to be true.
“I like the fact that I am close to the action of the city but I come home to a neighborhood that’s a true community and it’s quiet,” said Hynes, 40, a performance artist.
Matt Silberman, 31, said that he likes the fact that residents of Eckington sit on their front porches and greet passersby, read and “hang out.”
“There’s a great sense of community and everybody’s friendly,” said Silberman, who lives in a three-bedroom, one-bathroom rowhouse on U Street NE.
Cornell Mills, 64, said that he receives offers daily from real estate speculators looking to purchase his three-bedroom, two-bathroom rowhouse on Second Street NE. But Mills, whose parents purchased the home in 1950, couldn’t imagine living anywhere but Eckington.
“The neighborhood means a lot to my family,” Mills said. “A lot of people have moved away, but there are still a few of us old-timers who remain and I just can’t see giving up a place that’s been my home for so long.”
Living there: The neighborhood is bounded by Rhode Island Avenue to the north, the Metropolitan Branch Trail to the east, Florida and New York avenues to the south, and North Capitol Street to the west.
In the past 12 months, 45 properties have sold in Eckington, ranging from a 1,064-square-foot, three-bedroom, one-bathroom Federal-style rowhouse for $250,000 to a 4,056-square-foot, four-bedroom, five-bathroom Victorian with a carriage house for $950,000, said Hargett.
There are eight houses for sale in Eckington, ranging from a 1,739-square-foot, four-bedroom, two-bathroom Federal-style rowhouse for $485,000 to a 1,920-square-foot, four-bedroom, four-bathroom Federal-style rowhouse for $899,000, Hargett said.
Schools: Langley Elementary, McKinley Tech Middle and High and Paul Laurence Dunbar High.
Transit: The Rhode Island Avenue-Brentwood and NoMa-Gallaudet stations on Metro’s Red Line are each about a 20-minute walk from Eckington. Metrobus’s 80, D8, G8 and P6 lines serve the neighborhood.
Crime: Since January, there have been 55 robberies, 40 assaults, 37 burglaries and one homicide in the police area covering Eckington, according to D.C. police.