It’s a neighborhood in flux, where new stores and restaurants are opening, new mixed-use buildings are rising into the sky, and newcomers and area residents are moving into the rental spaces.
The hub of the neighborhood is Union Market, a complex of wholesale warehouse buildings that occupy a 40-acre tract of land just east of the intersection of Florida and New York avenues NE. The historic district listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2016 is limited to the area between Fourth and Fifth streets NE and Florida Avenue and Penn Street NE.
Essentially, the larger area has been rezoned from warehouse and industrial to mixed-use.
Union Market has been revitalized with new culinary retailers, restaurants and bars. Change began in October 2009, when the District Office of Planning’s Florida Avenue Market Study was approved. In 2016, the National Register of Historic Places designated the two rows of buildings lining Fourth and Fifth streets NE and the two smaller rows on Morse Street NE the Union Market Terminal Historic District. Last November, the city’s Office of Planning announced streetscape guidelines aimed at maintaining a “vibrant street life” near Union Market.
“This whole area’s transforming,” said Troi Jones, leasing manager at the Edison at Union Market District in Northeast Washington, a luxury rental building at 1240 Fourth St. NE. What used to be a “very underdeveloped” neighborhood is burgeoning, she said.
Mixed-use plans: The changes haven’t happened overnight. In fact, the D.C. Office of Planning began studying the area in 2007.
“It is one of the city’s primary locations for industrial wholesale distribution, the location of the DC Farmer’s Market and home to several unique stores,” according to the Florida Avenue Market Study report. “The historic nature of some of the buildings and the functions of the area, offers a certain character and grittiness.” The report described the area as “significantly underdeveloped” and “increasingly run-down,” with many structures in need of repair.
The aim has been “to preserve the unique and historical set of buildings that represent the area’s original use.” While grappling with a range of issues, the redevelopment initiative envisioned the opportunity to “redevelop an isolated, under-developed, light-industrial area into a mixed-use development that is vibrant and integrates seamlessly into the surrounding urban fabric.”
Local and national developers have swooped into the area, buying up land and designing a variety of mixed-use properties. For example, buildings are in progress along Florida Avenue NE, where cranes fill the sky. The target is urban dwellers seeking walkable communities where they can live, access goods and services, and commute to work easily.
Caroline Nabors, 29, said she found an apartment a few weeks ago in the area while still living in Ethiopia for her staff position with the Peace Corps.
“I found it online,” she said. “I liked it because it was near friends, had amenities, a grocery store in the building and was near the Metro on the Red Line.” The closest supermarket will be a Trader Joe’s under construction in the Edison, where retail shops such as Pluma, a cafe by Bluebird Bakery, opened this month at 391 Morse St. NE. A. Litteri Inc., which sells Italian products and sandwiches that attract lines of shoppers, is at 517-519 Morse St. NE, and is known by many longtime Washingtonians.
At the revitalized Union Market, murals such as one known simply as “Zebras” by Peter Krsko splash color across the urban landscape.
Close to downtown: Next to the market, a bar called Suburbia, housed in an Airstream trailer, is parked. Nearby, blue, pink and green picnic-style tables, some with umbrellas, await the spring crowds.
Of the neighborhood, Nabors said, “I knew it was up and coming. I wanted a kind of diverse neighborhood with different types of people. It was not downtown but close.” She commutes to her job as education and training manager at Education for Employment within five or 10 minutes from the NoMa-Gallaudet station.
“Union Market was a very big catalyst for the neighborhood,” said Nicholas Stefanelli, owner/chef of Masseria, a restaurant that opened two and a half years ago at 1340 Fourth St. NE.
“There is a lot of revitalization” in the neighborhood, he said. “We want to see a lot of the heart and soul of it stay.”
Living there: The Union Market area is bounded roughly by New York Avenue NE to the northwest, Florida Avenue NE to the southwest and West Virginia Avenue NE to the northeast. According to Joe Freeman, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker, 24 residential properties sold in the past year, ranging from a three-bedroom, three-bath, 1951 Colonial-style three-level attached rowhouse for $170,000 to a four-bedroom, three-bath, 1910 attached rowhouse for $850,000.
There are two residential properties on the market: a 1931 two-bedroom, two-bathroom garden condominium, listed for $317,000, and a three-level 1923 attached rowhouse with four bedrooms and one bath, listed for $999,000.
Schools: Wheatley Education Campus (elementary and middle), Dunbar High, Two Rivers Public Charter School (pre-K through eighth grade).
Transit: The neighborhood is served by the NoMa-Gallaudet Metro Station on the Red Line and Metro buses 90, 92, 93 and X3.
Crime: In the past year, according to the D.C. Crime Map, there were two homicides, 30 aggravated assaults, 24 burglaries and 17 robberies with a gun.