The neighborhood that has come to be known as Navy Yard exudes excitement and energy on the streets, in shops and even in its quiet space along the water. It’s located south of Capitol Hill along the Anacostia River in Southeast Washington.
A strong sense of community has evolved in the short modern history of the neighborhood, and residents take great pleasure in the new retail and residential offerings.
The area is known by competing names. The D.C. government calls it Near Southeast. The area’s business improvement district, or BID, calls it Capitol Riverfront. Some simply call it the ballpark neighborhood, after its top attraction, Nationals Park. But most people know it as Navy Yard, partly for its historic naval facility but perhaps more so because that’s the name of the Metro station.
“This is the best of all worlds in urban living,” said Meredith Fascett, who lives in a rowhouse with her husband, Jonathan Janos, and their two boys, a 3-year-old and a 6-month-old. “We think this is the most exciting neighborhood in D.C. and this is where we’re establishing roots.”
History: The community was once the city’s industrial back yard. During World War II, the U.S. Navy employed 32,000 people at the Washington Navy Yard to make ship parts such as boilers, gun barrels and torpedoes. But residential and commercial development remained scarce until nearly the turn of the 21st century. “It’s hard to believe this land was overlooked for more than 100 years,” said Michael Stevens, president of the Capitol Riverfront BID.
The neighborhood’s transition from its industrial past began in the late 1990s with the relocation of thousands of Naval Sea Systems Command workers to the Washington Navy Yard. In 2001, the District was awarded a federal grant to replace the Arthur Capper and Carrollsburg public housing projects with a mixed-income development on those 23 acres.
In 2007, the U.S. Department of Transportation moved to M Street SE. The building and site were designed to be visually attractive and open to the public, in contrast to many federal government structures, said Tammy Shoham, the BID’s vice president for economic development and research. The result is an inviting streetscape. The 2004 decision to place the baseball stadium in the neighborhood was the next springboard for development, and Nationals Park opened in 2008.
“Over the last 15 years, District and federal governments invested over $1.2 billion, which in turn catalyzed private-sector investment of over $3.5 billion,” Shoham said.
“Now we have one of the most exciting developments in the country — a master-planned mix of renovated old factories, new residential and office buildings, retail and 10 acres of park,” she said.
Family-friendly: Stevens said the BID is committed to supplementing the 30-year Anacostia Waterfront Initiative begun in 2000 to clean up the river, build parks, offer recreation, create jobs and revitalize neighborhoods. “We’re using the waterfront as an integral component of the community.”
Yards Park on the riverfront “is our front porch,” he said. “To be connected to the water is amazing.” Views are postcard-pretty, with grass, a boardwalk, a waterfall and a bridge.
Canal Park, two blocks to the north at Second and M streets SE, offers grass, trees, ferns and flowers in rainwater gardens, seating on low wood benches, a wading pool, public art, and a restaurant. Dancing fountains draw kids in the warm months and give way to an ice rink as winter nears. This year, skating starts Nov. 8. “The parks have really branded our community as family-friendly. They’re the heart and soul of the neighborhood,” Stevens said.
Ground was recently broken for a community center at Fifth and L streets SE.
Kathleen Louis lives in a seventh-floor condo. “I started work at the BID, so my job brought me here. I drank the Kool-Aid. I wanted to live here and be part of the changes,” she said.
“In my building we have a wine club and book club. Now we’re trying to figure out what to do for Halloween.”
The neighborhood’s news Web site, JDLand.com, reports that Harris Teeter expects to open its store at Fourth and M streets SE on Nov. 5. A Whole Foods store is being built at 800 New Jersey Ave. SE.
Retailers include Lot 38 Espresso, Ice Cream Jubilee, Park Tavern, Wagtime Too, Agua 301, Harry’s Reserve, Cornercopia, Kruba Thai, Buzz Bakery, Justin’s Cafe, Vida Fitness, Osteria Morini, Bluejacket, Gordon Biersch, Nando’s Peri-Peri, Sweetgreen and TaKorean.
Living there: Navy Yard is bordered by the Southeast Freeway and M Street to the north, the Anacostia River to the east and south, and South Capitol Street to the west.
The area’s housing, most of it recently constructed, consists of rowhouses and rental, co-ops and condominium buildings. Roughly three-quarter of Navy Yard’s 4,200 or so residents rent while one-quarter own their homes, Shoham said. There are 564 subsidized residential units, she said.
The colorful Capitol Quarter townhouses, built as part of the Capper-Carrollsburg redevelopment, are a mix of market-rate and subsidized units for rent and purchase between Third and Fifth streets SE.
Vicki Johnston, director of sales for Stages Premier Realtors of Logan Circle, began selling there in 2007. “I saw the area stall in the downturn, but it has come back,” she said. “Property values have gone up and will continue to do so as more development comes.”
Three residential properties are for sale, ranging from a one-bedroom, one-bathroom co-op priced at $299,900 to a two-bedroom, two-bath rowhouse to $634,999. Six properties are under contract from a one-bedroom, one-bath co-op at $290,000 to for a two-bedroom, two-bath condo at $599,900. In the past year, 38 homes sold, from a one-bathroom studio co-op for $215,000 to a three-bedroom, three-bath rowhouse for $905,000.
Transportation: “I take the Metro and haven’t driven to work in years. You don’t need a car here,” said Louis, although she and her husband own one. The Navy Yard-Ballpark station, on the Green Line, is four stops from Gallery Place-Chinatown, where riders can transfer to the Red or Yellow line or exit to Verizon Center and the nearby restaurants, stores and museums.
Several Metrobus lines serve M Street SE, and a Circulator bus route runs between the Metro stop and Union Station, via Barracks Row and the Pennsylvania Avenue SE shopping corridor on Capitol Hill.
The neighborhood has five Capital Bikeshare stations. Owners of electric cars can use the charging stations installed along Second Place SE. Wide sidewalks — decorated with flowered rain gardens — allow strolling, pushing a shopping cart and sprinting from office to coffee shop.
Schools: Amidon-Bowen Elementary, Jefferson Middle and Eastern High. Van Ness Elementary is scheduled to reopen next September.
Crime: D.C. police said there were 10 assaults, 13 robberies and 13 burglaries in the past 12 months.
Audrey Hoffer is a freelance writer.