Pleasant Plains has a lower profile than the neighborhoods that surround it in Northwest Washington — Columbia Heights, LeDroit Park, Bloomingdale and Park View.
In fact, it’s often referred to as Columbia Heights. “If we look at our tax assessments our neighborhood is called Columbia Heights, but in our deeds it says Pleasant Plains,” said Darren Jones, a lifelong resident, president of the Pleasant Plains Civic Association and co-founder of the Georgia Avenue Community Development Task Force. “That’s because the city can charge more, because Columbia Heights houses are bigger.”
Still, Pleasant Plains residents say that doesn’t stop them from trying to ensure their neighborhood gets the respect it deserves.
Jones and Patrick Nelson are leading activists who can rattle off a list of accomplishments toward that goal.
“We work together on everything,” said Nelson, vice president of the civic association and a 22-year resident. “For example, getting 19 stops on the Pleasant Plains Heritage Trail. We lobbied the city for three years.”
The Georgia Avenue Window Walk is another project. “We put local artwork in the windows of vacant storefronts,” Jones said, pointing to colorful paintings on glass, paper and brick in empty stores.
Ingrid Frey, who moved into her Pleasant Plains condo more than five years ago, works on this project. “Anytime I heard about neighborhood events, I joined,” she said. “That got me to know the community, merchants, and I learned how much people care about living here.”
Banneker Recreation Center, built in 1939 as the city’s first such facility built for African Americans, was dilapidated until recently. Today, there are two ball fields, a pool, a playground and basketball courts. “It was rebuilt through community pressure and lots and lots of meetings,” Nelson said.
Sherman Avenue also benefited from local input. “We lobbied the D.C. Department of Transportation and worked with [former council member] Jim Graham to reduce traffic,” Nelson said. The result was installation of a median in the middle of the boulevard.
Trademark Wardman porches: In the 1880s, the area now known as Pleasant Plains was fields and farmland. Now it is an urban community in central Washington, west of the McMillan Reservoir, stretching about 1
Two-level Harry Wardman-style rowhouses line the streets. Throughout the neighborhood are Wardman’s trademark porches, which are imitated today in suburban single-family developments as a way to bring neighbors together.
Across the neighborhood, new condos are rising while existing homes are being renovated.
Two pocket parks on Hobart Place NW, established in 1968 as part of Lady Bird Johnson’s beautification program, are still in use.
Originally a three-acre parcel in the neighborhood — the site of a razed school — had been slated to become a parking lot. But the residents didn’t like that idea. So they took action, and the site is now Bruce Monroe Community Park — complete with new benches, fountains and a shade structure.
“It took months and months of negotiations to get all this,” Nelson said.
Better food choices: Howard University is the mega-landowner. Residents have historically viewed Howard as an insular neighbor that didn’t engage much with the community. In the past, practically no facade faced Georgia Avenue, but now residents are prodding the campus to literally open doors on the street.
“We want faculty and students to feel part of the community so we’re trying to inspire a change of attitude,” Jones said. Designs for new university development on upper Georgia Avenue show buildings that face the street.
The Interdisciplinary Research Building, still under construction, exemplifies success of this campaign with a glass-walled street level and curved glass corner.
Residents are also happy about their growing number of restaurants in the neighborhood.
“Food options have gotten better over the past five years,” said Frey. Eateries include Woodland’s Vegan Bistro, Bravo Bar, Harrar Coffee & Roastery, Blue Nile, Dulcinea Bar & Grill, the Howard Delicatessen and Negril Eatery. Giant Food, Trader Joe’s and Target stores are nearby.
There’s also Sankofa Video Books & Cafe, Listen Vision Studios and Pleasant Plains Workshop, a gallery with monthly exhibits by local artists.
Living there: Pleasant Plains, Zip code 20001, is bordered roughly by Harvard Street to the north, the McMillan Reservoir and Second Street NW to the east, W Street NW to the south, and Florida and Sherman avenues to the west.
According to Larry Bivins, a sales associate with Long & Foster, nine properties are for sale, at prices ranging from $455,000 for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom rowhouse to $1.2 million for a two-bedroom, two-bath rowhouse.
Twenty-two homes are under contract, from a three-bedroom, one-bath rowhouse at $330,000 to a four-bedroom, three-bath rowhouse at $689,000.
Over the past year, 125 homes sold, at prices ranging from $170,683 for a two-bedroom, one-bath condominium under foreclosure to $1.35 million for a two-bedroom, three-bath penthouse condo.
Schools: Bruce-Monroe Elementary School @ Park View, Columbia Heights Education Campus (middle) and Benjamin Banneker Academic High School.
Transit: Four Metro stations on the Green and Yellow lines are in walking distance: Shaw-Howard University, Georgia Avenue-Petworth, Columbia Heights and U Street.
The 70 and 79 Metrobus lines stop at Georgia Avenue and Columbia Road on their way to the Silver Spring Metro station; the crosstown H1, 2, 3 and 4 lines serve the area en route to the Tenleytown station.
Crime: According to D.C. police, there were three homicides, 18 assaults with a dangerous weapon, 29 robberies and 11 burglaries in Pleasant Plains in 2014.
Audrey Hoffer is a freelance writer.