Katie Ahlfeld and her husband, Timothy Schwartz, were new parents renting on Capitol Hill when they decided to invest in real estate a few years ago. They looked in Southwest Washington near Arena Stage, along the H Street corridor in Northeast and in Penn Branch in Southeast.

Then they discovered another Southeast neighborhood, Hillcrest, and opted to settle there with their daughter, Beatrice, now 4.

“It’s so wonderfully affordable,” said Schwartz. “You can buy a property for half to a third the price with twice or three times the square footage as on the Hill.”

They love the yards, weekend bar­becues, dogs and frequent neighbor get-

“We’re getting fliers in the mail from people who want to buy our house,” he said with modest disbelief.

Karen Williams, president of the Hillcrest Community Civic Association and a resident since 1998, said: “You get a lot more for your money here. My dream was suburban living in the city in an established neighborhood with people who are politically active,” she said. “This is it.”

And “it’s a point of pride” that D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) lives there, she added.

Architectural diversity: The hilly and forest-like landscape in Hillcrest affords good views of the Capitol and the Washington Monument from spots. The sidewalks are often filled with joggers and people pushing baby strollers and walking their dogs.

The houses are similar in architecture and quality to those in Cleveland Park and other neighborhoods in upper Northwest, said Chuck Riley, a real estate agent with Re/Max Allegiance and a resident since 1983.

Architectural styles include center-hall Colonials, Georgian Colonials, Tudors and bungalows. “It’s not cookie-cutter,” Williams said. “It’s not congested or dense. Everyone has a yard.”

Riley said a former neighbor, who was born in 1908, recalled when members of Congress came to Hillcrest for weekends in the 1920s.

“She showed me advertisements telling potential purchasers that lots in Hillcrest were four to six degrees cooler than on Capitol Hill,” he said. “Seems silly to us now, but in the era prior to air conditioning that was something.”

Schools: Demographics are changing. “Older people are retiring out and young families are coming in, so education is important,” Williams said.

Two elementary schools, Anne Beers and Randle Highlands, are in Hillcrest and feed into John Philip Sousa Middle School and Anacostia High School. There is a big push to get a middle school in Ward 7, which includes the neighborhood.

De’Andre Anderson, chairman of the civic association’s education and recreation committee, is actively trying to raise the bar for education and aggressively pursuing a high-quality middle school.

“We want a school like that here east of the river. This is a community driven by parents with small children,” Anderson said. “We need that option and are fighting for it.”

Future shopping options: The community sits along Pennsylvania Avenue and is close to the Anacostia Freeway, giving it easy access to downtown, the Capital Beltway and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. Across the Maryland line, Pennsylvania Avenue becomes Route 4 while Branch Avenue, which runs through Hillcrest, is Route 5 — both routes cross Prince George’s County and Southern Maryland on the way to the Chesapeake Bay. The Naylor Road Metrorail station is on Branch Avenue just south of the neighborhood in Prince George’s County. Metrobus lines 32 and 36 run between downtown and Hillcrest.

Though there are some small shopping plazas, the community lacks the large-scale commercial development of neighborhoods in other parts of the city. “If you want to dine, you have to go to the Hill, which is only 51 / 2 miles, but parking is a problem,” Riley said.

Residents say they’re looking forward to the construction of Skyland Town Center, which will begin next year. The 18.5-acre site along Naylor Road SE will include stores, residences, a community gathering place and, of course, parking.

Living there: The housing stock in Hillcrest, Zip code 20020, consists mostly of single-family residences. But it also has a couple of apartment buildings and one condominium complex, Fairfax Village.

The neighborhood approximates a triangle, bordered roughly by Pennsylvania Avenue SE to the northeast, Southern Avenue to the southeast, and Naylor Road and 28th Street SE to the west.

According to Riley, 30 homes have sold over the past 12 months, at prices ranging from $125,000 for a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house needing a total renovation to $525,000 for a newly renovated four-bedroom, 31 / 2-bath house.

Ten properties are currently on the market, from a $319,000 three-bedroom, two-bath residence to a historic three-
bedroom, 11 / 2-bath house priced at $549,000. Eleven properties are under contract, from a three-bedroom, 21 / 2-bath fixer-upper ($199,900) to a five-bedroom, 41 / 2-bath house ($899,900).

Crime: According to Tracy Parker, crime analyst in the D.C. police office of research and analytical services, there were four assaults with a dangerous weapon, five burglaries and 53 thefts from January to October in Hillcrest.

Audrey Hoffer is a freelance writer.