Monday, November 09, 2009

The Dirt on... Capitol Hill (East)


Neighborhood Vibe:
I live in a 1-bedroom condo with my husband. Let's call it cozy. Our condo building is home to law students, Hill staffers and long-time residents. My downstairs neighbor is a retired woman who has lived at our intersection for so long, she remembers when the new condo around the corner was a crack house (no joke). My condo could be a microcosm for the area: an odd mix of young professionals, young families, long-time residents, and active older people.

There are slight tensions in the neighborhood as Hill East continues to grow and change. When I was writing freelance from home I used to joke that as the underemployed political wonk next door, I was personally killing the street cred of the kids around the corner. Joking aside, my husband and I have had a couple unfortunate incidents with people in the neighborhood: first, he was mugged last September, then he and a friend were both shot with a pellet gun one night, and recently we had fruit catapulted at us as we walked home. The upside is that the police are incredibly responsive and very good about following up on reported incidents. (Both the mugger and the shooter were later caught, we decided not to report the fruit pummeling.) And since the perpetrators are at least creative; their entrepreneurial spirit gives us great stories for cocktail parties.

Retail and Restaurants
The occasional un-neighborly conduct does not overshadow the positive parts of living in Hill East. I love living in a neighborhood within a large city and having almost anything I want within walking distance. I have a new grocery store with the Jenkins Row Harris Teeter. I can walk to Eastern Market for not only fresh local produce, meats and fantastic cheeses but how convenient is it to be able to buy handmade jewelry, Indian pottery and a gently used couch all within 20 feet of each other? I even bought my "room-defining" painting from an artist at the Market.

The area is home to tons of thriving small businesses. Hills Kitchen is among my favorite shops in DC, not just my neighborhood. The independent gourmet kitchenware store is a great place for unique gifts or for an aspiring chef to stock up on the newest Staub dutch oven - and, they even offer cooking lessons. Owner Leah Daniels cares about her neighborhood and clearly loves her job; she spent several hours (after the shop had closed) working on my wedding registry and walking through the store, debating the pros and cons of various items. Who does that anymore? Nearby, Remix is one of the best vintage clothing shops around - with new items coming in all the time and reasonable prices, I love to stop in to browse, and rarely leave empty-handed. On the more practical side of retail is Frager’s Hardware. No matter what you need for home repair, Fragers will have it - along with other surprises like camping gear, bocce balls and bubble machine rentals. They also have a great garden section, where I have bought my Festivus (for the rest of us) Fern the past several years.

Hill East proper doesn't really offer much in the way of restaurants or bars. There are a few, such as Trusty's and Wisdom, but for the most part I need to go elsewhere for dinner or drinks. Luckily I don’t have to go too far. Barracks row/8th street is becoming a thriving restaurant and bar corridor. One of my favorite locations is Belga Cafe for their amazing Belgian beer list. A more recent arrival and family-friendly food establishment is Matchbox. Down the street two new bars, Molly Malone’s and Lola’s, offer comfortable locations to hang out, watch the game and get late night bar food (Lola’s serves food until 1 AM on the weekend). If I am looking for a more intimate and upscale setting, Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar has a fantastic wine list as well as good food, cheeses and charcuterie (though you might want save this for special occasions and pass on the $16 cheeseburger).

One exception to the walking distance rule is the National's Stadium, but no fear! The Circulator bus picks up on 8th street and takes me right to the Navy Yard Station--the bus is probably one of my favorite parts of going to the Nat's games.

Coming Soon
There are also some new additions planned for Pennsylvania Ave near Potomac Ave metro. Annie and Teddy's Po Boys, a New Orleans style cafe with inside and outside seating, is Joe Englert's newest project; Englert is the man behind DC9, The Big Hunt, The Pug, Rock and Roll Hotel, etc. The new cafe would feature live jazz music 4 days a week (Thurs-Sat night and Sat-Sun brunch). I wouldn't quite call Hill East "on the verge," but I would definitely say it's getting there.

TransportationThe closest metro stations to Hill East are Potomac Avenue and Stadium Armory and Eastern Market. The 34 and 36 buses, which can take you to downtown, Georgetown and all the way to Friendship heights, stop at the Potomac Avenue Metro station, as does the B2 bus, which is your round trip ticket to H St. NE. There are lots of other buses, but honestly, I don't take them that much. There are also tons of ZipCars nearby several right across from the metro and lots stashed in residential areas.

Is it for you?
For some people my age (20-something), the Hill doesn't offer enough of the urban bustle they want. No, it doesn't have the edginess of U Street (we've got the crime, just not the trendy bars) or the nightlife of Dupont or Adams Morgan (we have a jumbo slice, but it's never crowded). Most lights are out by 10 PM - both bars and houses. And the tree-lined streets of Eastern Market are frequented by families with strollers. Call me old beyond my years, but I'd rather have to cab, bus or metro somewhere to go out for a rowdy evening, than have that kind of noise and crowd near my home. So I'll continue to love the bar crawl scene on H Street with a cab ride back to my generally quiet neighborhood (barring any fruit attacks).

I moved to Washington for a school, for a job, and for a lifestyle no other city can provide. I choose to call Hill East home because when I walk to the metro, crossing Pennsylvania Avenue, the Capitol Dome view gets me every time. Washington is my city and Hill East is my neighborhood.

Washington DC real estate news

27 comments:

Mer on Nov 9, 2009, 9:01:00 AM said...

So "Hill East" is everything east of ...the Capitol Building? As a resident of the Hill, I disagree with the author's definition of "Hill East", which typically (in the Hill Rag, Voice of the Hill, etc.) refers to the area east of Potomac Yards Metro to the Anacostia/RFK Stadium. And yes, that area is still gentrifying and is largely residential with less expensive homes than on other parts of the Hill and fewer amenities. But to start out the "neighborhood vibe" section describing crime unfairly casts a shadow over the whole (oddly/unconventionally defined) Hill. Much of what the author describes (Eastern Market and/or the area between 1st and Barracks Row) as "Hill East" is just known around here as "The Hill," and has been well developed for years now, has grocery stores, ample transportation, trendy shops, a great restaurant selection, one of America's best "Main Streets" (8th--according to Nat'l Trust for Historic Preservation), historic row homes in pristine condition, and is full of families and the coverage of multiple overlapping police jurisdictions (Capitol, District, Parks, I even saw a Library police car once, no joke). I take exception to the portrayal of the Hill as an area to be wary of and hope those who haven't spent much time here will come down and fall in love with it like so many of us have.

(For those interested in other developments on the edges of the Hill, find more information about Hill North at the Frozen Tropics blog and Hill South at JDLand. Anyone know if the real Hill East has a good blogging voice?)

Shaun on Nov 9, 2009, 9:17:00 AM said...

Mer. Perhaps I was unclear, but I was not suggesting that Eastern Market is part of Hill East. I live at the Potomac Avenue metro, which by your definition and mine, means I live in Hill East. I love this area and I am proud to live here. I take advantage of the very developed Hill area, especially Barracks Row and Eastern Market, which I speak very highly of in the article. That said, I don't think there is anything wrong with being honest about what it is like to live in my area, Hill East, which has more crime and also has close access to your neck of the Hill.

I suppose, in your perception, my glowing write-up of Hill businesses wasn't enough to outweigh the mention of very real crime. Those businesses and this community, for me, do outweigh the occasional safety concerns. We're on the same side here (I think) and I hope that perhaps you might consider rethinking your assumption that Hill East is a different beast and a separate entity from the Hill as a whole. People who live in Hill East consider the amenities you hold so dear to be ours too. Minus my lighthearted mention of crime that I have personally experienced, the article is largely an ode to the area I have called home for the past four years and will continue to do so proudly.

Anonymous said...

Ugh...calling this first person travelogue "twee" would be generous at best.

How about a quote from someone who's lived in the area for more than 15 minutes and/or maybe can't afford a swank fucking condo?

To top it off, Mer is correct...this isn't Hill East. It's Barracks Row and Eastern Market! "Savvy real estate agents," indeed.

Anonymous said...

Wow, you guys are harsh. Was there a mention of her living in a "swank condo" that I missed? And did you actually read the whole post? It said she went to Eastern Market & Barracks Row because that was the closest retail to her.

Lighten up people; she said nice things about your precious neighborhood.

Tom A. on Nov 9, 2009, 9:36:00 AM said...

Yeah i was going to whine about the "hill east" definition also, but was beaten to the punch.

No one mentioned the future hilleast waterfront development coming soon- in only 10 or 20 years! This is potentially amazing, and I hope I am still alive and living in DC when it's actually constructed. I think the project was first decided upon 7 years ago, the developer should be decided by 2010, and maybe there will be something there by 2017!

http://www.hilleastwaterfrontdc.com/

Tom A. on Nov 9, 2009, 9:37:00 AM said...

PS: if you go to the hilleast website in the above comment, the December 11 community meeting was in 2008, so don't show up in 2009!

Mer on Nov 9, 2009, 10:26:00 AM said...

Shaun,
Didn't mean to be harsh. I can tell that you enjoy living in the area--my concern was that crime launched the column and the definition of Hill East seemed unconventional and might be misleading to those less familiar with the area. True that those of us between H NE & M SE/Capitol St and RFK are all in "the Hill" as the real estate agents describe it. Hill East, more particularly defined, deserves a good thorough looking-at because, as Tom A mentions, it has a lot of potential but development of the waterfront lacks momentum. I hoped your post might have more about that. ps, good crime stat site: http://crimemap.dc.gov/presentation/query.asp

Anonymous said...

comments on blogs are becoming more and more like the washington post comments.
virtually worthless and evidence of piss poor reading skills.

you squarely establish that hill east is with walking distance of other more enjoyable retail experiences, yet people mistakenly harp on your definition of hill east.
people want to insult you because you live in a condo or have not lived here your whole life. its as though most commentors have no respect for anything beyond their small experiences.

this is a good post. and a nice profile of your perspective of the neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

"I moved to Washington for a school, for a job, and for a lifestyle no other city can provide. I choose to call Hill East home because when I walk to the metro, crossing Pennsylvania Avenue, the Capitol Dome view gets me every time. Washington is my city and Hill East is my neighborhood."

Adorable...but about as "bleeding-edge" as an analysis of DC's best cupcakes. C'mon people, this is puffery in the first degree.

Paul said...

Shaun - I enjoyed your perspective on Hill East. Thank you for sharing.

Also, for the record, I felt you clearly delineated that Barracks Row was a short hike from Hill East rather than being part of Hill East. I'm going to have to agree with Anon 10:37 that reading comprehension was lacking among the initial wave of angry commenters.

Anonymous said...

Clearly, there is nobody qualified to speak or write about living in DC, because you have either not been here long enough, or you have been here too long. Either you don't know what you are talking about....or you don't know what you are talking about. In great DC fashion, we love attacking anybody who has something to say about anything.

Folks -- give the woman a break. This was a first-person account and she had the right to write what she wanted, how she wanted. From my perspective, it matched my perception and experience of Hill East and I am glad she led with the crime issue, because that is the FIRST question that people ask themselves when they consider moving to Hill East.

reflexive said...

"Clearly, there is nobody qualified to speak or write about living in DC, because you have either not been here long enough, or you have been here too long. Either you don't know what you are talking about....or you don't know what you are talking about."



hahaha. that was brilliant.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed reading this post. I haven't lived in the city very long and I enjoy reading about places and being educated in all things DC. I appreciate someone who steps over the snobbery line to paint a picture of her neighborhood. I hope there are more posts like this for thos of us who don't need to "bleed" 24/7. I would love to read someone's perspective on Columbia Heights and Kalorama for instance. Also I just got home from work and opened my newsletter and there were already 11 posts for this article! Even though some of them are nasty. I'm beginning to understand that anything interesting here creates strong feelings on both sides.

Anonymous said...

More Dirt On...!

Anonymous said...

I grew up on Capitol Hill and later moved to Hill East as a married adult with a child. I know the area cold, both the good stuff and the bad. The blogger's description was spot on. There is crime. There is crack dealing, though a good bit less than a decade ago. And it's a great place to live.
There is a real diversity all over the Hill (East as well) that help season the neighborhood like an amazing stew. For me: great friends, good food, good bar taps, great for biking, DC United, smart and creative people. For my son: a good school, great friends, living around history, a short bike to the museums, Cub Scouts, Soccer on the Hill. For my dog: other dogs, people who love dogs, Congressional Cemetary. For my wife: a great house, new friends, good food.

Anonymous said...

The boundaries every every neighborhood get stretched by real estate agents. I've heard areas North of Florida Avenue listed as on "The Hill" Until Logan became fashionable, everything from 14th St. to Mt Vernon was once called "Dupont East" It's all pretty irrelevant.

Nice piece btw. And yes - crime levels continue to improve in these parts but crime is still a reality. I live squarely in the middle of these areas and agree with this assesssment. I've only lived on the Hill for 9 years though, so what do I know ;-)

Anonymous said...

This has to be the Shallowist write-up of Hill East ever "published". Calling the neighborhood a "Beast" certainly describes the life of a self centered person who seemingly doesn't interact with other residents and interested with only the places to buy things or to eat. That 1 BR place will surely fill up with junk from shopping expeditions.

Hill East has so MUCH more than that, it's a tapestry of life, residents from infants to folks 100 yrs and older. Community Gardens, dogs, block parties, etc. The layout of the neighborhood offers much open space.

Crime in Hill East is NOT that bad. If one walks around with an Ipod or Cell Phone glued to their ears, then Yes,they are an easy target. I urge the writer to attend a MPD PSA107 meeting held every month except for Aug.

Coleman said...

Why are so many commenters referring to Shaun as a "she"?

Anonymous said...

Washingtonians are so amazingly tolerent of unacceptably high crime rates. NYC has half the crime per capita. Neighborhoods have opened up there because they are now safe. Wanna see rebirth here, lower the crime rate further.

Anonymous said...

Right, isn't Shawn the female spelling of the name? Not that it matters. To the person who wrote that the author was "a self centered person who seemingly doesn't interact with other residents and interested with only the places to buy things or to eat" what an assinine assumption. If his or her apartment is crammed with things from shopping expeditions wouldn't that be to your benefit since it helps support your neighborhood?

Anonymous said...

What bothered me about her column was her relatively lighthearted take at the crime she and her husband have experienced. To suggest that her husband's mugging and having objects hurled at her (even if they are fruit) is somehow smoothed over by the overall greatness of the place is peculiar. Wait till she has a child and I suspect she will be outa there. You can't tolerate muggings -- or even "fruitings" -- and you and the neighborhood have to relentlessly communicate with the cops and pols to help eliminate crime. Beyond that, don't try to lighten it. That mugging coulda turned out worse.

Anonymous said...

I believe that Shaun is a "she", because "she" mentions her husband in the column (unless of course its a he and he's gay -- not that there is anything wrong with that!).

Anonymous said...

Shaun is a she and it is the Irish female version of the name.

Reston said...

What a bunch of harsh and petty critics most of you are! As a new resident to Metropolitan Washington I am nothing but GRATEFUL that this individual took the time out of his/her busy schedule to provide us with his/her "ode to the 'hood." I live in the suburbs but journey into the District as frequently as possible to experience the gorgeous architecture, culture, diversity, and close-knit neighborhood atmosphere that you just can't replicate in most of NoVA. I work in a bland office building in the sprawling blob we call Tyson's Corner and live in a drab retro-looking 1-BR apartment in Reston---the suburb that, like Pinocchio, wants to be a "real" city someday, so God knows I NEED to head into the District on a regular basis to maintain my sanity.

I wish DCMud would post MORE neighborhood profiles such as these. I have an intense interest in real estate and urban planning myself, but there's nothing like sitting, captivated, as you read the honest and genuine commentary of neighborhood residents themselves to truly lure you into their community for a visit. I now look forward to experiencing the "Hill East" (and honestly why be so provincial about one-block 'hood border disputes?) and will check out a few of those businesses (supporting YOUR neighborhood's economy with my NoVA wallet) thanks to his/her insights.

I honestly have never lived in a city where people look to be offended and try to find fault in EVERYTHING, even such a well-balanced and intriguing personal take on someone's own neighborhood! This individual wasn't sugar-coating the crime issues nor was he/she dwelling upon them. He/she listed the incidents that befell him/her and his/her husband and then moved on.

I concur with others that reading comprehension skills on this site are very poor (and that is worrisome as someone who may potentially be looking to talk to some of you "indsutry professionals" to buy my first home in the District soon!)

Anonymous said...

Where is the Jumbo Slice in Hill East?

Anonymous said...

Where is Hill East? Hmmm, as posters have noted, "Capitol Hill" is a loosely defined term once real-estate sales people get into the act. "Capitol Hill - RE" (tm), the Realtor(tm) variant extends east from the Capitol dome to the Anacostia, south to the freeway and north to K street.

The "Hill East" neighborhood was named by Jim Myers to focus some attention on his neighborhood and not have it confused with the "Capitol Hill-RE".

Myers probably started it all in 1998. By 2000 it was well established as a name for a neighborhood. The western boundary is usually 14th street, although it might have been drawn to include the infamous Kentucky Courts housing project (now gone, converted to market rate housing with mixed income component). Hill East was distinct from "Capitol Hill" because it was always available as a dumping ground for nuisance development.

The Hill East name gave the neighborhood a location and the ability to say "Why is Hill East underserved?. Why aren't there any ...[long list of amenities available on Capitol Hill, such as the items mentioned as keys to the neighborhood vibe in Shaun's post] in Hill East?"

And slowly.... things changed.

This Washington Post article gives some context. http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A47099-2001Mar9?language=printer

The Boys Town site is now the "Jenkins Row Harris Teeter". The "Hill East Waterfront Development" plan has replaced jail expansion plans.
Condos and rich folk have come to Hill East and crime has gone way, way down.

Neighborhood building takes a long, long time. Having a name for the neighborhood is a big step. Kudos to Jim Myers. And thanks to the new residents who appreciate the special character of their neighborhood while still seeking to improve the amenties.

Anonymous said...

I think Shaun's account of Hill East rings true to many newer and established residents. I purchased my house in Hill East on 14th 10 years ago when said condo was still the crack house - and I felt the same as Shaun. I loved the proximity to 8th street (even when it was a concrete sidewalked place with just Banana Cafe and Blockbuster), the metro, and I loved being a part of the old and the new DC. I knew there was crime, but I loved the neighborhood, stayed, had a family, and now walk the kids to school in Hill East. Sounds like Shaun is also a dedicated neighbor who will also understand that living here is not with rose colored glasses, but loving the good over the bad so that she and her family become an integrated part of something that, after 10 years, I still feel lucky to be a part of. I think Shaun's post was a great personal account of living in Hill East.

 

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