With top-rated museums, theaters, restaurants and Verizon Center, Penn Quarter in Northwest Washington is a neighborhood that draws tourists and locals alike.
“It’s very diverse,” says Alicia Briggs, 30, a bartender at Asian Spice, a sleek eatery and bar at Eighth and H streets.
“You can walk to almost everything, except grocery shopping,” says Jo-Ann Neuhaus, executive director of the Penn Quarter Neighborhood Association, who has lived in the area since 2006. “We have more museums and theaters than any other neighborhood in the region.”
Act of Congress : Penn Quarter, part of the original downtown Washington, has grown and changed since the early 1970s, when the revitalization of the area east of the White House began. The transformation started with the creation of the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corp. by a 1972 act of Congress.
There were three overlays: historic preservation, housing and retail shopping, says Neuhaus, who was director of project development for the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corp. from 1968 until 1996, when it closed.
Historic facades dot the area where buildings have been gutted and modernized. New construction mixes with historic structures, creating a skyline that is as varied as those who live, work and play there. “It’s diverse in terms of ethnicity, sexual orientation and not as diverse in terms of income,” Neuhaus says.
Living there: The neighborhood, according to the Penn Quarter Neighborhood Asssociation, is bounded by Pennsylvania Avenue to the south, New York and Massachusetts avenues to the north, 15th Street to the west, and Interstate 395 to the east.
Housing in Penn Quarter includes rental apartments and condominiums. Among the first condominiums built during the revitalization was Market Square East at 701 Pennsylvania Ave. NW and Market Square West at 801 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, completed in 1991. In the past year, 41 properties sold in Penn Quarter, with the lowest, a studio, for $290,000 at 400 Massachusetts Ave. NW and the highest at $1.096 million, for a two-bedroom, two-bath condominium at 925 H St. NW, said Shahab Mastori, a sales associate at Coldwell Banker.
On the market at the low end is a studio for $289,000 at 777 Seventh St. NW and, at the high end, a two-bedroom, 1½-bath condominium for $984,500 at 400 Massachusetts Ave. NW.
Eating, shopping and playing: There are plenty of attractions — from the National Portrait Gallery, the Smithsonian museums and the International Spy Museum; to the National, the Warner, Ford’s and Shakespeare theaters; to sports.
The neighborhood is home to Verizon Center, where the Washington Capitals, the Washington Wizards and the Washington Mystics play, and where such musical acts as Cher, Beyoncé and the Eagles have performed.
Before and after games and shows, bars and restaurants are packed, from longtime fixtures such as Tony Cheng’s Seafood Restaurant and Mongolian Barbecue to newer eateries such as Zaytinya, which brings Greek, Turkish and Lebanese cuisine to the table.
“I’m a city person. I like to live in the city,” said Mastori, 41, who has lived in Penn Quarter since 2005. “Some days, it’s laid back. Some days there’s a lot more happening. For some people, there’s too much going on.”
Transit: Reach Penn Quarter from the Metro Center, Gallery Place, Judiciary Square and Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter Metro stops or ride a Metro or Circulator bus. On foot, walk down Pennsylvania Avenue from 15th Street, heading toward the Capitol, make any left turn and you’ll be in Penn Quarter.
Schools: Thomson Elementary, Thomas Jefferson Middle and Dunbar High.
Crime: In the Penn Quarter area, according to D.C. police data, there were 89 robberies, 35 assaults with a deadly weapon and 24 burglaries during the past 12 months.
Harriet Edleson is a freelance writer.