Woodridge’s Spotlight

Great article on the Woodridge community from the Washington Post once again that a community only improves:

Where We Live: Woodridge, a slice of suburbia in Washington, D.C.

Vanessa Small/THE WASHINGTON POST – WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 18: Trees line the streets of Woodridge, adding to the suburban atmosphere of this Northeast Washington, D.C. neighborhood, January 18, 2012. The neighborhood is home to many African American retirees, mostly former government employees. (Photo by Vanessa Small/The Washington Post)

By , Published: January 19

There’s nothing particularly special about the new dog park in Woodridge. Tucked between the neighborhood pool and the community center, it’s an expanse of rough granite surrounded by a low black fence. Unassuming. Average. But quite possibly the most vivid illustration of another Northeast neighborhood transforming — albeit more slowly than some others.More and more young professionals looking to escape rising rents while keeping a D.C. address have stumbled upon the quiet community and discovered its suburban flavor.Although she has lived in the District since 2002, Daniella Gibbs Leger had never heard of Woodridge before moving to the neighborhood, which borders Maryland’s Prince George’s County.Leger, 36, and her husband, Matthew, 38, thought Northern Virginia was the only place they’d be able to become homeowners and kiss their Capitol Hill rent goodbye without breaking their bank accounts. But one day her real estate agent took her to an unfamiliar Northeast neighborhood — driving her through the bungalows, farmhouses and Colonial-style homes that blanket the community’s rolling hills and tree-lined streets.

“I couldn’t believe these cute detached homes with yards and porches and well-manicured lawns and gardens. It wasn’t anything I was expecting to see in that neighborhood,” said Leger, a nonprofit executive who now grows tomatoes in the yard of their three-bedroom Woodridge house.

“I love the fact that it’s like living in the suburbs but you get the convenience of living in the city,” she said.

It’s what brought Nora Wheatley and her family from Arlington County.“We were looking for more house for our money,” said Wheatley, an executive secretary at the Federal Election Commission. They moved to Woodridge in 2004 after visiting a friend living in the area. “We were so pleasantly surprised that there were such beautiful homes in Washington, D.C., with grass and a back yard.”

The average home price is $276,719, down from $320,851 in 2008. The average sale price last year in neighboring Brookland was $345,263.

“It’s like living in Cleveland Park Northwest, but for a third of the price,” said Dreyer, who added that the average home in Cleveland Park is $733,489.”

But you don’t see many for-sale signs hanging in the front yards. The neighborhood had only about 100 home sales last year.

Though Woodridge Civic Association President Anthony Hood says he regularly receives phone calls from people expressing interest in the neighborhood, he adds: “There’s not a lot of moving in and out,” Hood said. For that reason, he describes the neighborhood in three words: “stable, consistent and predictable.”

The affordability that most residents boast has also attracted investors looking for a quick profit, as shown by the homes currently on the market with refurbished insides.

But there isn’t nearly as much investment in Woodridge as in its denser neighbors, Capitol Hill North, the Atlas District and Trinidad, which are, as a result, experiencing more rapid appreciation.

Many residents attribute the low sales activity to the strip of dark, metal-cased storefronts along the main artery that cuts through the community, Rhode Island Avenue.

“It’s like a ghost town,” said longtime resident Carol Fleming, a retired community supervision officer. The only visits she would make to the Rhode Island strip were to get her hair done. The businesses along the busy, wide road are mostly salons, storefront churches and a few liquor stores. Residents praise the subs at Carl’s Foods, one of the few eateries on the strip, but it closes before 5 p.m.

The lackluster business presence frustrated one newcomer, lawyer Stephanie Liotta Atkinson, into action. She and her partner moved into their Woodridge bungalow in 2010 after outgrowing their one-bedroom brownstone condominium in Dupont Circle.

“When driving along Rhode Island Avenue, it looks uncared for,” she said. “But it doesn’t reflect the people living in the neighborhood,” whom she describes as welcoming.

So she galvanized a few neighbors, creating the Friends of Rhode Island Avenue, an organization that wants to revitalize the community by attracting businesses such as pet-food stores, coffee shops, banks, sit-down restaurants, curbside cafes, dry cleaners and entertainment attractions.

In the meantime, as the organization courts developers, other residents have come together to build community amenities such as the Langdon Dog Park in the heart of Woodridge. It was started by residents, most of whom moved into Woodridge or neighboring communities in the past 10 years.

“I would say Woodridge is being shaped today by those who participate, engage and express interest,” said Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Corey Griffin, whose constituency includes parts of Woodridge.

A new brewery, DC Brau on Bladensburg Road, attracts residents on the weekends with beer tastings, tours and barbecue. Plans to refurbish the community center and the Woodridge Neighborhood Library have also stirred excitement.

“Woodridge is a community that has a varied past but an evolving future,” Griffin said.

The suburban vibe in many parts of the community harks back to its emergence as subdivision in the early 1900s.It remained a region of woodlands and farms even as downtown Washington began to develop. The tree-filled hills and ridges — perhaps the inspiration for the community’s name — had made it the ideal place for two forts to defend the nation’s capital during the Civil War.

The name of one street in Woodridge, Mills Avenue, pays homage to the home and studio of Clark Mills, the the early-1800s sculptor of the equestrian statues of George Washington in Washington Circle and Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Square

It wasn’t until the 1930s that the neighborhood acquired its current borders: Eastern Avenue, Michigan Avenue, 18th Street, New York Avenue and Bladensburg Road.

Desegregation laws attracted an influx of African Americans to the neighborhood after World War II. Their children, many of whom are now retired government employees, make up a sizable portion of the current population.

In the late 1990s, the coffeehouse-going, cellphone-toting, dog-walking set rushed into neighboring Brookland — but not as quickly to Woodridge.

“The Woodridge train hasn’t quite taken off,” said real estate agent Lindsay Dreyer, owner of City Chic Real Estate. “People love the houses, but the location isn’t ideal for them,” she said, because the nearest grocery store and Metro station are at least two miles away.

But some are willing to make the sacrifice, she added, because of Woodridge’s greatest attraction for prospective buyers: affordability.

9 thoughts on “Woodridge’s Spotlight

  1. It would be good for readers to contrast and compare this article to the one written on Urban Turf for Langdon (See http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/langdon_the_nice_northeas_neighborhood_that_no_one_knows_about/3886).

    It appears that much of what is cited as “Woodridge” overlaps with “Langdon” on the southside and “Michigan Park” on the northside. Either way, redevelopment efforts have been going on for decades in “Woodridge.” It’s not just something people who have moved here within the past 10 years have started. The dog park just isn’t very popular. I kind of wonder if that was the best place to put it. Unfortunately, it was the only place they could find where it could be placed in Ward 5. Some communities members even want a dog park and playground near the Rite Aid on RIA.

    I find it interesting that the article mentions DC Brau on Bladensburg Road. Bladensburg Road is far worse than RIA. I do hope with the Walmart coming in can spur life to this mostly industrial section of “Woodridge.” On the otherhand, what about the 6 approved Marijuana cultivation centers in “Woodridge” (or more properly, Langdon). As one commenter stated in the Urban Turf article “…this neighborhood is not a hybrid – it’s schizophrenic: dog park, beautiful pool on one side, pot factories and strip clubs on the other.”

    Lastly, what is the “community center” mentioned in the article. I know we have the Langdon Recreation Center. It’s really not a community center where meetings are held. Most community meetings are held at the Center for the Aging on 18th & Evarts. So, what are the plans to refurbish the Langdon Recreation Center? Hopefully, it can be made an attractive community center. I do hope it will have an indoor (year-round) swimming pool! Even, better if the new Library, Rec Center, and business center could be merged.

    1. Just picking up on the dog park point- I am thrilled to have the new dog park so close to our home (we are dog owners in Langdon Park). Perhaps the dog park association could look into getting a few nice signs from the city to place along RIA to announce the park’s existence and direct folks to the dog park? What else can be done to promote the new park?

  2. I spent some time at my store on Capitol Hill yesterday and I had several customers come in and discuss the article knowing we have a home in Woodridge. There has always been a nano-second awkward space of time after I tell someone who pays WAY more money in mortgage or rent, that we lived in Woodridge; as if they contemplate asking out loud…why? Yesterday’s discussions were more of genuine interest due to the write up. We’ll see what the future holds. Hopefully we will get some decent leadership who, for instance, doesn’t take advantage of their post and works to make Woodridge a more livable, enjoyable, and beautiful place to call home. I’ve been on Langdon Park since 2004…la vie boheme

    1. That’s great to hear, Chase! I find that when I tell people I live in the Northeast (blank stare), up by the Maryland border (more blank stares), none of my VA colleagues know where that is. The closest I can get that they know of is “the basilica” or Catholic U. Its nice to get some publicity!

      1. Location isn’t ideal? First of all, its only 20 minutes drive to downtown, H.st even closer. Development at RIA, Brookland, and Ft. Totten metros are all close and accessible. Hyattsville is a no hassle drive. Whole Foods coming to nearby easy drive College Park. Costco/big box at Ft. Lincoln. Bladensburg Road development creaping north. Catholic U stepping it up. We’re surrounded.

        Not to mention access to nature, of all things. I can be out 295 hiking in Greenbelt in 15 minutes. Carderock is 30 minutes by highway. Rock Creek is close. The Arboretum is right here. Access to the Anacostia bike trail system is less than two miles from from my house.

        There is little crime in PSA 503 (and great officers), there is ample parking, city services are good.

        And I get to have a yard and a garage.

        Its an ideal location.

  3. I thought the article was pretty good. Of course I’m biased since I’m interviewed in the piece. Some ppl have asked how I got into the article. It’s because I always talk about how great this neighborhood is to anyone who will listen, and the author heard me.

    I know that change has been happening in this neighborhood for years before I arrived, but I wonder when older residents will stop seeing me as a newbie and see me as someone who has put roots down here and considers this home. 8 years isn’t enough? It’s getting annoying. Let’s all work together to make this a great neighborhood for ALL residents.

  4. Hello,

    I stumbled upon Woodridge/Langdon Park, about a year and a half ago after helping a cousin of mine gather information for a project that he was working on regarding Historic Route 1 (which RIA is a part of)–I was amazed at the community that hid behind the decrepit belt of store fronts on RIA. This amazememnt, I can honestly say led me to purchase a home in Langdon/Woodridge two months ago after having lived on U Street/14th Street for the last 4 years. It should be noted, that perhaps others are “Discovering RIA again for the first time” as well, because after we bought the house, which is still under renovation, we learned from the former owner that our offer was one of 8! That is definitely great news for things to come. I can’t wait to meet my new neighbors!

    1. Glad I stumbled upon this article and comment thread, even though it’s a few months old. I just put a contract on a home on Douglas St, just south of the Park. The house is amazing and I can’t wait to meet my new neighbors! (27-year-old male here with a dog – I’ll be using that dog park quite frequently!)

  5. I just put a contract on a new home on Douglas street, just south of the Park. I can’t wait to meet my new neighbors! (27-year-old with a dog who can’t wait to use the new dog park!)

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