The Ward 8 neighborhood is not a legal subdivision, so its boundaries vary depending on whom you ask, but many agree that the heart of Fairlawn lies in the rows of detached and semidetached single-family homes branching off Minnesota Avenue, although there are several apartment buildings in the area, too.
The upcoming 11th Street Bridge Park and nearby Skyland Town Center have brought the neighborhood attention and sparked debate among residents about displacement as well as opportunities for new businesses. Residents are drawn to Fairlawn’s convenient location and affordability. They wind up staying for the views and easygoing atmosphere.
Abutting the river and the Anacostia Freeway, the neighborhood allows for easy access to Capitol Hill, Yards Park and Navy Yard, as well as Maryland and Virginia.
“It’s all within reach here in Fairlawn,” says Terry Brown, a real estate agent with ReMax Allegiance. Brown and his family moved to the neighborhood six years ago from Bloomingdale.
“It’s laid back and quiet,” he says, “but at the same time just across the river you can do some fun stuff.”
The couple, who grew up in Southeast Washington, bought the house thinking they might flip it, but took to it instead.
“The house is a pretty nice house,” says Brown, “and the neighbors were nice and I said, ‘Well, maybe we can live here.’ And we did just that.”
Fairlawn Citizens Association president and 35-year resident Graylin Presbury has fostered a dialogue between developers and residents around the bridge project and in the 1980s participated in a neighborhood watch group formed in response to rising crime. He also wrote a history of the neighborhood, chronicling moments such as the division of the Fairlawn estate into residential lots in the early 1900s, White flight in the late ’60s, and the neighborhood watch group.
Such engagement lives on.
“There is a belief,” says Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Brian K. Thompson, “in the legacy of middle-class, Black families being able to have a place where it’s not high density, where people can own homes. Folks feel strongly about that legacy of affordable housing of a certain stock [of] well-kept housing, and that communities around that housing stock continue to exist.”
When he was growing up near Fairlawn, Thompson’s mom would take him to play in Anacostia Park, and he expects to do the same with his children. From picnics to the Anacostia River Festival, the park remains a community space, though residents wonder what changes the upcoming Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge and 11th Street Bridge Park will bring.
In particular the Bridge Park, which connects Fairlawn to Navy Yard, has excited residents. It has drawn comparisons to New York City’s High Line, the elevated greenway in Lower Manhattan, and has been similarly scrutinized. But, the project includes initiatives to preclude criticism, such as programs to help residents become homeowners and job training.
“There was concern about development that brings displacement,” says Presbury, “but the 11th Street Bridge project is more than a bridge project. There’s an equitable development aspect.”
The project also promises to redress the segregationist legacy associated with the highway, which has historically separated Black communities from goods and services available to other city residents.
Some are less hopeful about Skyland, worried that as with the 2018 development of a storage facility along the waterfront, they weren’t consulted, although they concede that there will be more dining options and another grocery store.
Skyland and the Frederick Douglass Bridge are expected to open in 2022, and the Bridge Park in 2024. Residential development is slated to follow, including an 86-unit building on Good Hope Road.
A local pastor, the Rev. Wanda Thompson, served on a committee that consulted residents about the 11th Street Bridge Park project. From amenities to increased property values, she sees the benefits, but has concerns.
“We need lots of things,” she says, “but we want to make sure it’s done in a way that is equitable and that allows for affordable housing for people in the neighborhood.”
She wants housing made available to people at not just 60 to 80 percent of average median income but also 30 to 50 percent AMI.
Having lived in Fairlawn for 38 years, she’s seen change, with new challenges from the pandemic. She switched to ministering virtually at her church on Minnesota Avenue. She describes a neighborhood in which many residents are seniors who raised families there and fought for their community. But now ANC Commissioner Brian Thompson (no relation) sees a new generation taking up that mantle.
“There are a number of young families with children,” says Brown. “There’s been a little baby boom over here.”
Public charter schools don’t guarantee admission based on proximity, but Thompson hopes that with the new Lee Montessori school in the neighborhood, more families will move in.
He wants Fairlawn to remain “a well-kept middle class community where you can raise your children.”
Living there: According to Fairlawn Citizens Association President Presbury, the neighborhood is bounded by Pennsylvania Avenue to the north, 25th Street and Naylor Road to the east, Good Hope Road to the south, and Anacostia Park to the west.
In the past six months, 18 rowhouses and three detached homes have sold in Fairlawn, according to Brown. The average price for a rowhouse was $502,636. The highest price for a detached house was $856,000 for a four-bedroom, four-bathroom home. The lowest price was $525,000 for a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house. Six properties are for sale. The highest price is $660,000 for a three-bedroom, four-bathroom detached house; the lowest price is $469,000 for a three-bedroom, two-bathroom rowhouse.
Schools: Ketcham and Lawrence E. Boone Elementary; Kramer Middle; and Anacostia High.
Transportation: The closest Metro station is Anacostia on the Green Line, a 20-minute walk from the intersection of Good Hope Road and Minnesota Avenue. Metrobus has extensive service in the area, including to the Anacostia Metro Station and across the river to the Potomac Avenue Metro Station. Capital Bikeshare has eight stations in the area, including one in Anacostia Park.
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