Where We Live | Ivy City in Northeast Washington

WASHINGTON D.C., UNITED STATES - MAY 06: A group of row houses stand in the Ivy City neighborhood in the Ivy City neighborhood of Washington D.C., United States on May 06, 2019. (Photo by Lindsay Ferraris for The Washington Post)? (Lindsay Ferraris/for The Washington Post)

Ivy City, one of the District’s smallest neighborhoods, has been undergoing a revival that has only just begun. In the mid-1900s, the Northeast Washington enclave had an established residential community, but by the 1960s, the District attempted to rezone it into a commercial district. Although residents successfully fought the plan, many of them had already moved out, and by the 1980s, the neighborhood was plagued by drug problems and illegal dumping, leading to rat infestations and decrepit streets.

“Nobody lived here. Ivy City was known for things that weren’t good at all,” said Danny Cloyd, who’s lived in Ivy City for much of his life, about 35 years. “It was like a bad red-light district. No one came around here for anything else, really. You used to have to show your ID to come in the community because the homicide rate was so high.”

In the midst of a transformation: Like many areas of the city, Ivy City is rapidly evolving, with new businesses springing up every month.

The Hecht Warehouse is at the center of Ivy City’s new look. Douglas Development bought the defunct department store building in 2011 and converted the vast art deco structure into 335 luxury apartments, with amenities including a rooftop dog park and a basement speakeasy.

“I don’t necessarily welcome the development and changes, or not welcome it,” Cloyd said. “Change is good and the community, though it’s been violent, there’s always been community.”

For many longtime residents such as Cloyd, gentrification is seen as an inevitable part of revitalizing a dilapidated area, but he describes the changes as bittersweet. Although he welcomes less violence and cleaner streets, he said many newer residents act entitled. Cloyd’s decision to move into the Hecht building was deliberate.

“I’ve been in D.C. my whole life, so I saw gentrification happening before it happened in Ivy City,” Cloyd said. “I moved into the Hecht building to be a black face in that community. I’m standing my ground.”

Cloyd recalls a night when a fellow resident called the police because she thought he didn’t live in the building. He said that although change can be good, new residents should learn about the long-standing community, and he encourages engagement between neighbors that could ease much of the friction between old and new communities.

New neighbors: The new Ivy City is growing quickly. Nike, Mom’s Organic Market, Ivy City Smokehouse and Big Chief were some of the first businesses in the area. Big Chief is a bar that boasts a large rooftop deck, and Ivy City Smokehouse has an ample stage where local bands play live music. Both businesses partner with nonprofit groups to act as community event spaces.

Gravitas opened last year and is the first upscale dining option in the area. Chef and owner Matt Baker describes the concept as approachable fine dining, with a seasonal tasting menu that uses locally sourced products. For many businesses in Ivy City, the fact that many spaces remain barren is a draw.

“I like the neighborhood and how it’s undeveloped. I want to help shape and mold the neighborhood moving forward and hopefully be a large part of propelling the neighborhood forward,” Baker said.

In the next year, three businesses will open at the former tomato packing factory where Gravitas is located. Compass Coffee will relocate its master roastery to the building along with a cafe. Kick Axe, an ax-throwing bar, and Other Half Brewery are also slated to open there.

Ivy City’s immense industrial spaces are conducive to a variety of commercial retail options.

“Ivy City is home to diverse entertainment options and has unique, beautiful architecture. Compared to other local areas, Ivy City has bigger venues with much more space than most restaurants and bars,” said Big Chief events director Desmond Walker.

The Lane, which will open later this year, will capi­tal­ize on the roomy buildings. Located in a building across from the Hecht Warehouse, its concept is a family social club for children and parents. Indoor play areas, a rooftop, children’s movie screenings and food and drinks (including alcohol) will be available.

Living there: Ivy City is a triangle filled with rowhouses and large industrial warehouses bounded by Mount Olivet Road and West Virginia Avenue to the south while New York Avenue NE runs through it.

The Hecht Warehouse is the only large apartment building in Ivy City, and the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,900 per month. Rents at the Hecht Warehouse range from $1,600 to $4,000 monthly.

According to David Shotwell at Compass Real Estate, 18 homes sold in Ivy City in the past year, ranging from a three-bedroom, two-bathroom condo for $345,000 to a three-bedroom, three-bathroom townhouse condo for $695,000. There are no homes under contract or listed for sale at this time.

Schools: New Beginnings Vocational, Model Secondary School for the Deaf, Kendall Demonstration Elementary School (for deaf and hard-of-hearing students), KIPP DC Webb Campus, Two Rivers Public Charter School, Center City PCS Trinidad Campus.

Transit: Ivy City is served by several Metrobus lines, including the D4, D8 and E2 bus routes. The closest Metro stations are Rhode Island Avenue and NoMa/Gallaudet, both on the Red Line. There is a shuttle service available for Hecht residents during commuting hours, which runs between Ivy City and the NoMa/Gallaudet station.

Crime: In the past year, according to crimemap.dc.gov, there have been one homicide, seven burglaries, and eight assaults with a dangerous weapon in Ivy City.