If neighborhoods were birds, Ivy City would be the ugly duckling who turned into a swan. It is one of those amazing diamond in the rough areas –a real estate developers dream — you know, the one’s you’ve never heard of then a few years later are booming with business? The area is situated between Brentwood and Galluadet University and in the past 5 years, this neighborhood has gone through an extreme glow up.
Once considered practically a “dumping ground” — a neighborhood that has been neglected and all but forgotten for decades is being re-defined, re-imagined, and re-priced. Now, its real estate is practically prime with posh restaurants and rooftop bars popping up like it’s going out of style.
Perhaps the neighborhoods redefining moment was when Doug Jemal saw a diamond in the rough when he looked at the old Hecht Warehouse. The historic building, built in 1937, was purchased in foreclosure by Douglas Development for $20 million in 2011.
The old department store’s storage facility is now the home of 335 luxury apartments. A beautiful upcycled antique train car sits across the street functioning as a bar. Tenants are conveniently located within walking distance of a bikrham yoga studio, a CrossFit gym, a Gin distillery, a dozen new restaurants and diners, organic grocery stores and markets, a Nike store, coffee houses, and many retail shops planning to open their doors in the coming months. They also live across the street from Catholic Charities homeless shelter.
Property values have been steadily increasing in Ivy City for the last decade, raising the mean income and welcoming more middle class earners into the neighborhood, but consequently driving out senior citizens on fixed incomes who have lived there for decades, and displacing low-income households who have called Ivy City home their whole lives. Ivy City today is experiencing a noticeable shift in demographics.
Young hipsters are moving into this up-and-coming neighborhood, seeing it as an opportunity to live a middle class lifestyle — reminiscent of the current changes also affecting the Bedford-Stuyvesant and Morningside areas in New York City.
Many new businesses will be opening their doors in Ivy City in the coming years. Even though the neighborhood isn’t served by the Metro, more people are finding themselves in this 30-acre section of the District for dining and shopping. Ivy City has also much to offer in terms of entertainment. It is home to at least 2 distilleries and a brewery, Compass Coffee, and many store fronts, retail shops and yes, even — rooftop bars (le sigh).
The neighborhood will continue its development in the coming years. Plans are being discussed for The Crummell School, an old abandoned elementary school that now sits vacant. Residents are petitioning to see it turned into a neighborhood community center, pleading with the new businesses for their support in creating something positive out of the old building.
Ivy City is in the middle of its transition. Many are thrilled with the economic progress and gentrification that has caused the area to thrive with attraction from various developers. Many are considering it the new “hip” area for dining and foodies. However, there are additionally some that have caused a stir at what they’ve categorized as a social inequality, pointing out that the lower-income communities are really the ones paying the price for the growth of the neighborhood.
Greg Casten, owner of seafood company ProFish, has owned and operated his establishment since the late eighties and classified the gentrification as “overdue” according to an interview with the Washington Post. Casten also attributed the spur in development to the opening of the Hecht’s warehouse saying, “We’ve been here for 30 years and have seen it grow a lot…it is a tight-knit community with fourth and fifth generation folks living in the same blocks.”
Fortunately, a lot of the newer establishments are set on giving back to the community, pumping money back into the area and it’s residents in an effort to create a sense of symbiosis.