Where We Live | Brentwood in Northeast Washington

WASHINGTON, D.C. - FEBRUARY 2: Homes for rent in the Brentwood neighborhood of northeast Washington D.C. on February 2, 2020. (Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for The Washington Post)

Nestled on a hill in Northeast Washington, Brentwood has long been a neighborhood where families raised their children and stayed for many years, but change is coming to the brick rowhouse-lined streets of this community. Plans to revitalize some of the neighborhood’s housing and retail complexes may revamp Brentwood’s appearance, but developers aim to preserve its historic, tightknit roots.

A sense of camaraderie is one of the things James Holland, 42, admires most about Brentwood. Since moving to a street of rowhouses in the neighborhood seven years ago, after living around the District for almost 20 years, he’s noticed how close-knit the community is, saying his neighbors all know each other.

“People are looking out for each other,” he said.

Freda King was born and raised in Washington. She remembers Brentwood as a family-oriented community, recalling its yearly block parties as one of her favorite events in childhood. She also remembers a playground across the street from her house where children in the neighborhood played.

King, 59, moved out of Washington after retiring from the federal government and selling her house in Brentwood. She’s noticed a lot of other residents have moved out as well, selling their houses to investors as the community undergoes a transition.

Brentwood is part of Washington’s Opportunity Zones program, a federal program that provides tax incentives for investments in new businesses and commercial projects in low-income communities. The program has attracted developers to the neighborhood.

RIA, a 20-acre mixed-use development by MidCity Development, was underway before the Opportunity Zones program existed but has since benefited from it. Part of RIA’s funding comes from an Opportunity Fund. Its development is also being paid for by charitable and public financing. RIA will bring new apartments, houses and senior residences to the neighborhood over the next few years. It will include a new town center, stores, restaurants and additional public spaces.

To make way for RIA, the Brentwood Village Shopping Center was demolished in 2016. Brookland Manor, a large 1940s-era apartment complex in the neighborhood that is home to low-income residents, was scheduled to be demolished in 2019, but is on hold due to outside appeals being resolved in court. The redevelopment efforts have been met with mixed reviews, especially from the apartment residents, many of whom fear displacement.

Minnie Elliott, president of the Brookland Manor-Brentwood Village Residents’ Association, moved to Brentwood 27 years ago, looking for a bigger place to raise her grandkids.

Elliott, along with many other seniors and residents raising children and grandchildren in Brookland Manor, supports the renovation and redevelopment of the neighborhood but worries about a lack of affordable and available housing. The residents’ association continues to campaign for the preservation of all 535 units of existing affordable housing at their three-, four- and five-bedroom sizes and subsidy levels for residents making zero to 30 percent of the area median income, along with tenant employment opportunities.

“It’s not that we don’t want them to build, but to be fair with the people living here,” she said.

In 2018, the median home price in Brentwood rose to $456,000, a 40 percent jump from $325,000 in 2017, according to Bright MLS. The sharp increase brought worries about affordable housing to the forefront of many residents’ minds.

Some of the homes were purchased by investors, who renovated and sold them for higher prices, causing the median price to rise, said Pamela Nelson-Chandler, a real estate agent with Keller Williams Preferred Properties.

Groundbreaking for the RIA development is expected this year, but it is not the only new development in the neighborhood.

Rhode Island Row, a luxury apartment complex that opened in 2012 at the northwest corner of the neighborhood, has restaurants, stores and services for Brentwood residents. A Target store recently opened on New York Avenue, just south of the neighborhood.

The former site of Brentwood Village Shopping Center now boasts a mural, painted by local muralist Matt Corrado and some Brentwood residents. The lot is used for arts and community events, including National Night Out, a neighborhood camaraderie campaign promoting police-community partnerships, resident summer barbecues and more.

Younger residents are moving into the area as well, King noticed.

“I think the neighborhood is coming up . . . and you’ll see it developing quite well over the next couple of years,” King said.

Living there: Brentwood is bounded by Rhode Island Avenue NE to the north, Montana Avenue to the east, and New York Avenue to the south. The tracks of Metro’s Red Line and Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor make up its western boundary.

In the past year, 47 homes have sold in Brentwood. The lowest-priced was a one-bedroom, one-bathroom condo for $249,900. The highest-priced house was a four-bedroom, three-bathroom rowhouse for $685,000.

There are eight properties for sale, ranging from a two-bedroom, one-bathroom condo for $274,900 to a three-bedroom, three-bathroom rowhouse for $613,000.

Schools: Langdon, Burroughs and Noyes elementary schools, Brookland and McKinley middle schools, and Dunbar High.

Transit: The Rhode Island Avenue-Brentwood Metro station, at the northwest corner of the neighborhood, provides Red Line rail service and serves as a bus transfer for several routes. Buses run through the center of the neighborhood along Brentwood Road. The Metropolitan Branch Trail, an urban bicycle and walking trail accessible by the Metro station, runs along the border of the neighborhood.