Debra Lee readily admits that her wish list for a new home was complicated by a number of factors that the average buyer probably doesn’t have to contend with.

For starters, Lee, who until last May served as chairman and chief executive of BET Networks, the largest cable network for African American audiences, needed a house that provided easy access to her offices in downtown Washington and would offer a level of semi-seclusion for the many fundraisers, dinners and philanthropic events with VIPs that she was known for hosting.

A long commute downtown from the suburbs of Northern Virginia or Maryland was out of the question, she said.

Add to that a desire to be close to her children’s grade school, which was in Upper Northwest, and Lee said her housing checklist began to feel a bit impossible to accomplish.

It wasn’t until a real estate agent pointed out the small Washington enclave of Massachusetts Avenue Heights that Lee said she began to see her housing dream take shape.

“When I discovered the neighborhood I had no idea that the little community was even there,” said Lee, who moved into the neighborhood in 2001 and lived there until recently, relocating to Los Angeles to be closer to her adult children. Lee still owns a home in the neighborhood and regularly commutes to Washington for business, she said.


Lee said she fell in love with the renovated estate of the late Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke, a modern house with lots of windows and natural sunlight.

Lee said she lived there for about nine years before purchasing a nearby property and building her “dream house” in 2008 on Woodland Drive NW.

“I liked being in Massachusetts Avenue Heights because walking is my favorite form of exercise, and I could easily walk to Georgetown or Adams Morgan, she said.

Marilyn Charity, a real estate agent with Washington Fine Properties, who’s worked with Lee, said that the community, while small, packs a mighty punch into a relatively small geographical package.

With winding streets and a diverse stock of houses, the community is a dream location for the “average CEO or ambassador-type,” Charity said.

“The neighborhood is just five minutes from seemingly everything. You have views of Rock Creek Park and when you drive through the neighborhood you feel like you’re in wooded suburbs but you can get to Reagan National Airport in 15 or 20 minutes.”

Friendly but private: The community also offers walkable access to a number of food and retail hotspots along nearby Connecticut Avenue.

With a large concentration of high-ranking government officials, business leaders and ambassadors, Massachusetts Avenue Heights is also prized for its emphasis on privacy, said Nancy Taylor Bubes, a real estate agent who specializes in the sale of multimillion-dollar estates in Washington.

Residents are friendly, she said, but they also make sure to respect boundaries and offer space to neighbors whose day jobs often are demanding and have them working under intense spotlights.

On a recent visit by a reporter, many neighbors politely declined requests for interviews.

That’s not surprising, Bubes said.

“The homeowners in Massachusetts Avenue Heights share a common bond and form a lot of great friendships, but they also value their privacy,” she said.


People walk near Washington National Cathedral. With a large concentration of high-ranking government officials, business leaders and ambassadors, Massachusetts Avenue Heights is prized for its emphasis on privacy, said Nancy Taylor Bubes. (Sarah L. Voisin/Sarah L. Voisin)

Living there: For District real estate tax purposes, Massachusetts Avenue Heights refers to the hilly, wooded area pinned between 34th Street, Cathedral Avenue and Rock Creek Park. The neighborhood is bounded to the north by Woodley Road, to the southwest by Massachusetts Avenue, and to the west by Wisconsin Avenue.

In the past 12 months, nine properties have sold in Massachusetts Avenue Heights, ranging from a 3,400-square-foot, five-bedroom, six-bathroom Colonial for $1,835,000 to an 8,000-square-foot, six-bedroom, seven-bathroom Colonial for $5,425,000, said Charity, the agent with Washington Fine Properties.

There are six houses for sale in Massachusetts Avenue Heights, ranging from a 3,759-square-foot, four-bedroom, five-bathroom Tudor-style home for $3,395,000 to a 4,443-square-foot, five-bedroom, six-bathroom French Normandy-style castle for $11,200,000, Charity said.

Schools: Oyster-Adams Bilingual School and Wilson High.

Transit: The neighborhood is a short walk to the Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan station on Metro’s Red Line. Massachusetts Avenue Heights is also served by a network of Metrobus routes.

Crime: In the past year, there have been five stolen vehicles, three robberies and three assaults reported in the service area that includes Massachusetts Avenue Heights, according to D.C. police.