The three-story townhouses of the Villages at Dakota Crossing, built over the past two years, sit on the east side of Fort Lincoln, between a new Costco store and the Maryland border. (Audrey Hoffer/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

Lillian Griffin was a newbie in August 1976 when she became one of the first home buyers in Northeast Washington’s Fort Lincoln neighborhood. Today she’s the longtime president of the civic association and still praises the neighborhood.

Fort Lincoln is a trapezoidal 360-acre residential community perched on the eastern border of the District consisting mostly of townhouses and condominiums. Like other residents, Griffin was drawn to the hilly topography, which offers sweeping city views.

“It has always been a nice community. It’s quiet even though we’re on a main thoroughfare. We’re close to the National Arboretum with its beautiful flowers and to downtown, and we have excellent public transportation,” she said.

The height came in handy during the Civil War when a fort was built in 1861 on land that is now over the Maryland border. The fort is on the grounds of a cemetery that is open to the public. The area was a battleground and artillery-storage site, said Robert King, an original community resident and its long-serving Advisory Neighborhood Commission member.

In the 1950s, a school for wayward youth was built on the site, he said, and after that “it was just nature” for many years. Woodland thrives especially in Fort Lincoln Park and mature trees and undergrowth are home to wildlife. On a recent frigid sunny afternoon, a red fox ran across Commodore Joseph Barney Drive NE.

President Lyndon B. Johnson “had some great dreams and aspirations” for an urban-renewal development there, King recounted.

Construction has been steady: Johnson’s vision of a planned community faded. But since 1971, roughly a dozen clusters of townhomes (Cannon Village, Maple View), condominiums (Hillside, Summit Village, Pineview Court, Villages at Dakota Crossing) and senior apartments (Fort Lincoln, Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Petersburg, Washington Overlook, Wesley House) have been built. In fact, Fort Lincoln has the largest senior community in Washington.

Condos and townhouses clad in brick or siding offer up to four bedrooms and 21 / 2 bathrooms. Some have two-car garages and a patio or deck. Sidewalks line quiet streets, and bus stops dot corners.

Construction continues on a swath of land across the eastern portion of Fort Lincoln. Bare soil is marked with stakes, house frames are covered in white Tyvek sheeting, and crews carve deep tire tracks with bulldozers.

The Shops at Dakota Crossing, the residential-retail development in progress now, will bring LBJ’s dream closer to reality.

Costco, the first retailer and anchor, opened in November 2012. The developer, Fort Lincoln New Town Corp., is in discussion with Lowe’s about being an anchor at the opposite end. Plans include many shops and dining options on the 40-acre retail site. “People are very excited about the development,” said Griffin who does much of her grocery shopping at Costco.

Several hundred new residential units are under construction across 24 acres. “We see a lot of people coming into the area now looking at properties and buying homes,” she said. They include young professionals and families with children.

Recreation abounds: “You don’t just buy a home here. You also get tremendous amenities,” said King.

Fort Lincoln Park sits on the highest land and is beautifully maintained even in winter. Four gazebo/cabanas provide sites for weddings or family reunions. “Applications are accepted in January and booked quickly through October,” King said.

An Olympic-size outdoor pool, an indoor pool, tennis courts, a baseball field and basketball courts offer sports for everyone. Sorrell E. Greene, recreation manager of the cultural center, designs photography, line-dancing and crafts programs for seniors. And plans are in the works to convert the shuttered Thurgood Marshall elementary school into a community center.

The Fort Lincoln Civic Association includes all residents as members without dues. “We have a lot of interest in our community and plan many activities, including monthly symposiums such as one on Obamacare, to which we invite outside experts,” Griffin said.

Living there:
Fort Lincoln, Zip code 20018, is bounded by the Maryland line to the northeast, New York Avenue to the south, South Dakota Avenue to the southwest and Bladensburg Road to the northwest.

According to Chuck Riley of Re/Max Allegiance, eight townhouses and condominiums are now for sale, at prices ranging from $207,000 for three bedrooms and 21 / 2 bathrooms to $539,000 for three bedrooms and 21 / 2 baths.

Eleven townhouses and condos are under contract, from $114,900 for three bedrooms and 11 / 2 bathrooms to $534,990 for three bedrooms and 21 / 2 baths.

Twelve townhouses and condos sold over the past year, ranging from $100,000 for three bedrooms and 11 / 2 bathrooms to $514,000 for four bedrooms and 31 / 2 baths.

Transportation and shopping: No Metrorail stations are in walking distance, but the Brookland-CUA and Rhode Island Avenue-Brentwood stations on the Red Line and the Cheverly station on the Orange Line are within 10 minutes by car. Metrobus lines run to both Red Line stations as well as the Capitol Hill and Anacostia neighborhoods. New York Avenue turns into Route 50 and provides easy access to the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and the Capital Beltway.

Bladensburg Road is packed with stores. A Giant Food is on Brentwood Road NE near the Rhode Island Avenue Metro, a Safeway is off Bladensburg Road near H Street NE, and a Yes Organic Market is on 12th Street NE. “Shopping is not an issue, especially since Costco opened, which people are happy about,” said F.J. Eddy, a resident since 1978.

Schools: The Langdon, Burroughs, Noyes and Brookland @ Bunker Hill education campuses accommodate elementary- and middle-schoolers. Students apply to high schools across the city.

Crime: According to D.C. police, there were seven robberies, nine burglaries and four assaults with a dangerous weapon in 2013.

Audrey Hoffer is a freelance writer.