Gathered around a coffee shop table, three Brookland residents are gushing about their neighborhood.
“People are always friendly — they speak to you and are willing to help,” says Enid Doggett, a media strategist who’s lived in the Northeast Washington community since 1992.
“There’s a sense of neighborhood pride, more than many other neighborhoods,” nods Isaiah Poole, a communications director and decade-long resident.
Doggett’s daughter, Damali Rhett, who works for a consulting firm and now owns a home in Brookland, jumps in. “You can get to places easily,” she says, pointing out that the neighborhood has its own Metro station. Plus, she says, it has scores of reasonably priced detached homes with good-sized yards.
But despite all those advantages, Brookland has rarely in recent years been seen as an up-and-coming neighborhood. That’s changing, though; the community is the site of several mixed-use developments under construction that promise to bring new stores, restaurants, art studios and residential units to the area’s quiet streets.
Not every Brookland resident is happy about the new developments, which sparked some serious community debate. “People are conscious about possibly losing the sense of neighborliness,” Doggett says.
It’s not an idle worry: The developments will bring increased density and hundreds of new residents. But in a community where neighbors have long complained about the relative scarcity of hangout spots, the offerings slated to open over the next couple of years are likely to provide new gathering places not only for Brookland residents but also potentially for folks from all over the city.
Mixing it up: Brookland is home to a combination of longtime residents and newcomers attracted to its reasonable housing prices. But that’s nothing new. “This was always a mixed community,” Doggett says.
Indeed, Brookland has been racially integrated since the 1930s and has been home to several prominent African Americans, including Tony- and Grammy-winning singer Pearl Bailey. There’s a real sense of neighborhood cohesion, possibly prompted by the community’s distance from Northwest Washington’s retail hubs, and its business association, civic association and neighborhood Web groups are all home to lively discussions.
Debates over the new developments and other changes fail to break down along predictable lines. “You have people who want to freeze the community in place,” Poole says — but they are as likely to be new residents as longtimers.
New shops and restaurants: Lined with storefronts, 12th Street has long been Brookland’s main shopping drag. Residents complained for years that it lacked key retail options, but that finally seems to be changing. Brookland True Value Hardware — “one of those old-school stores that sells everything,” Rhett says — is still there, as are services like dry cleaners and dentists, but now they’re joined by new options such as Little Ricky’s restaurant, Yes! Organic Market and the just-opened Askale Cafe.
The area also holds a surprising amount of green space. Turkey Thicket Recreation Center, Catholic and Trinity universities, and the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America are located in or near Brookland, providing parklike areas where people of all ages can spread out.
Living there: Brookland is generally described as lying between Rhode Island Avenue to the south, South Dakota Avenue to the northeast, Michigan Avenue to the northwest and the Metro tracks to the west. However, streets just west of the Metro tracks are also frequently included in the neighborhood.
Housing stock is remarkably diverse. While rowhouses and duplexes lie at the area’s fringes, most properties at its core are detached single-family homes in colonial, Victorian and bungalow styles. Many sit on relatively large plots, giving the area a distinctly suburban feel.
According to Kymber Lovett-Menkiti, vice president of sales for the Menkiti Group real estate firm, 176 homes have sold in the past 12 months for between $115,000 and $760,000. Twenty-two homes are on the market for prices generally ranging from $400,000 to $650,000. Lovett-Menkiti says the coming developments — as well as the neighborhood’s many other advantages — have finally put Brookland’s housing market on the map. “We’re seeing rush in demand among owner occupants,” she says.
Getting around: Brookland is on Metro’s Red Line, and buses frequently run through the neighborhood. Even driving is remarkably easy, Rhett says. “You can get downtown in 12 minutes and to the airport in 15.”
Crime: Despite Brookland’s growing popularity, “you still have to be careful,” Doggett says. According to the D.C. police’s online crime map, no homicides or assaults occurred in the past 12 months, but the community did experience four robberies and 14 burglaries during that time.
Amanda Abrams is a freelance writer.