Young professionals, new businesses transform Petworth neighborhood

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Business

In 1986 Bill Sims opened his antique shop on Georgia Avenue in the Northwest Washington neighborhood of Petworth because the area "had great potential." Nearly 25 years later, he is seeing the neighborhood blossom as young professionals move in, attracted by the lower cost of living and access to the Metro.

It is the availability of public transportation that has fueled the neighborhood's growth over the past two years, said Sims, whose shop, Mom & Pop Antiques, has benefited from the influx of new residents. New construction in the area -- including Park Place Apartments on Quincy Street -- will make the area "hard to recognize within a few years," he said.

Petworth is bordered on the west by Georgia Avenue, on the east by North Capitol Street, on the north by Kennedy Street and on the south by Rock Creek Road. Development around the intersection of Georgia and New Hampshire avenues, in particular, has helped to attract new people, said Gabriel Acevedo, who has lived in the neighborhood since 2004.

Nothing was at the intersection for a long time, he said, but now several restaurants, as well as a sports bar, are planned.

People are buying the row houses that dominate the neighborhood, making it one of the fastest-growing neighborhoods in D.C., said Acevedo, who serves as a commissioner on Washington's Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, an advisory board that provides input and recommendations on issues to various District government agencies.

The average price of a row house is $350,000, but some sell for as high as $450,000, and the new residents are buying row houses as investments, he said.

Petworth originally was the site of two country estates comprising 387 acres in a then-unincorporated part of Washington. In the 1880s, the estates, one called Petworth, became part of the city and were developed. Like today, transportation played a major role in the development. The installation of a streetcar line on Georgia Avenue that ran out to Silver Spring spurred growth along the way.

Petworth resident Molly Grolton is typical of the younger, newer crowd moving in. Originally from Phoenix, she chose Petworth because it is close to the Hitching Post restaurant, where she works, has more affordable housing and, of course, offers access to the Metro.

"This is my first place living close to a subway or an accessible bus route, and that's amazing. I don't have a car, so I walk or take the Metro or buses everywhere," she said, and added Phoenix is "spread out and you can't get anywhere without a car. So it's a delight to be able to get anywhere for $5."

That attitude is shared by future Petworth resident Amy Bartels, who is scouting out places to live when she moves from Richmond for her work. "While there might not be cute shops or restaurants right on the corner, you can get to them very easily without using a car. You can walk or take the Metro; you don't have to drive everywhere," she said.

Joel Finkelstein, the owner of Qualia Coffee (which roasts its own beans on the premises), lives right in the area -- a money-saving move he said was key to successfully opening the shop.

Petworth is "quiet, safe and a lot more reasonable expensewise than some of the other neighborhoods," Bartels said. "You have a grocery store close by. You have schools, parks and neighbors. If you live in a neighborhood with a house, there's a neighborhood and not just a bunch of people living in the same apartment building."

Top reasons to live in Petworth  

Location

The Metro's Georgia Avenue-Petworth station provides access to the Green and Yellow lines, as well as to several bus lines.

Cost of living  

Low rental costs and reasonably priced town homes are drawing young professionals, but the growth is expected to trigger increases in real estate prices.

At a glance

April 2010

Average sold price in the 20011 ZIP code: $320,577

Average list price in the 20011 ZIP code: $329,624

Average days on market for homes sold: 59

 

April 2009

Average sold price in the 20011 ZIP code: $376,231

Average list price in the 20011 ZIP code: $424,879

Average days on market for homes sold: 138

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