“It feels like a real neighborhood. The stories I had heard just didn’t match up,” says Charles Wilson, who moved to the Southeast Washington community in 2006 after living in the Trinidad neighborhood for a few years. When he was searching for a home in 2003, his real estate agent deemed Anacostia too “dangerous” and “dirty,” and he took her word.
“But this place called Anacostia continued to intrigue me,” Wilson says. He got in his car one day, drove across the river and became his own real estate agent when he walked up to a home with a for-sale sign. He made an offer on the house and it was accepted that week.
Wilson immediately got involved in bettering the community, becoming the president and co-founder of the Historic Anacostia Block Association. For neighborhood advocates, Anacostia’s historic character is its biggest asset — one that Wilson believes remains untapped.
Anacostia is one of Washington’s oldest neighborhoods and the only historic district east of the Anacostia River. In the 1800s, many employees of the Navy Yard, located just across the 11th Street Bridge, lived in the area. Prominent writer and abolitionist Frederick Douglass called the neighborhood home until his death in 1895. Today, the National Park Service maintains his residence at Cedar Hill. Near the neighborhood’s border with Fort Stanton, the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum studies African American history and culture and the challenges facing contemporary urban communities.
“There are struggles trying to get the District government, and even some of our own neighbors, to appreciate the historic charm that we have. It’s an asset that can create jobs and the economic development that we want,” Wilson says.
“All you have to do is look at neighborhoods like Georgetown and Shaw. Those are historic neighborhoods that have been able to leverage the character and history of the neighborhood to improve the quality of life there.”
Good Hope Road and Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue are the main corridors of the neighborhood, where mostly small, locally owned businesses line the streets. These include hair salons, thrift shops, a child-care center, an art gallery and several corner stores. There are locally owned restaurants too, which include Open Crumb, King’s Cafe and Mama’s Pizza Kitchen. A Busboys and Poets opened in 2017 — the result of community advocacy that Wilson helped spearhead.
“Restaurants coming here started because of our community effort. We were literally mailing postcards to government officials saying, ‘We are Anacostia. And Anacostia deserves the kind of attention that other neighborhoods in the city get.’ ”
Community advocacy continues to shape the underserved neighborhood. In early November, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser announced grant funding for nearly $9 million to food businesses to open new locations in Wards 7 and 8.
Still, a severe lack of full-service grocery stores in Wards 7 and 8 is one of the contributing factors to food insecurity in the area. Community leaders celebrated the opening of Good Food Markets on Nov. 13 in nearby Bellevue. It’s just the second grocery store in Ward 8.
As progressive as the business scene is, Anacostia has always had much to offer lovers of the outdoors. The neighborhood is home to Anacostia Park, one of the city’s largest national parks.
“I love nature, and Anacostia offers me the opportunity to be in D.C. but in the middle of nowhere at the same time,” says Alejaibra Badu, a life coach and five-year resident of Anacostia. “You’d have no idea driving on these roads that there’s nature like that just behind the scenes.”
The ark has a roller-skating rink, multiple sports facilities, an outdoor fitness station, and picnic and grilling areas, among other amenities. The park’s Anacostia Riverwalk Trail is a serene retreat for walkers and bikers.
Living there: Anacostia is roughly bounded by Route 295 to the west, Good Hope Road to the north, Erie Street to the east and Morris Road to the south.
Homes in the neighborhood are a mix of detached Colonials and traditional styles, as well as rowhouses, duplexes and newer condo developments. According to Melissa Ebong at Keller Williams Capital Properties, 20 homes have sold in Anacostia in the past six months. These include a two-bedroom, one-bathroom fixer-upper that sold for $260,000, and a fully renovated four-bedroom, four-bathroom rowhouse that sold for $690,000. Seven homes are for sale, including a two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo for $396,500 and a four-bedroom, four-bathroom townhouse offered at $615,000. Home prices in Anacostia are increasing. The median sale price for a home in Anacostia is $455,000, up from $349,000 in 2016.
Schools: Ketcham and Savoy elementary schools, Kramer Middle, Anacostia High.
Transportation: The Anacostia Metro Station is just outside Anacostia’s official borders and offers service on the Green Line. The neighborhood is served by several bus lines. Route 295 and Suitland Parkway are the closest major thoroughfares.
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