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Navy Yard becomes exciting home for young professionals

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Photo - The Navy Yard neighborhood in Southeast Washington D.C., Tuesday, February 12, 2013
The Navy Yard neighborhood in Southeast Washington D.C., Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Real Estate

Ryan and Kristen Sylvester could be the archetypal residents of Twelve12, the under-construction Harris Teeter and apartment complex next to the Washington Navy Yard.

The Sylvesters live a block away from Twelve12 in the Foundry Lofts. They enjoy views of the Anacostia River and Nationals Park. They travel around town by Metro, Capital Bikeshare and Zipcar.

He walks to work at the Washington Navy Yard. She takes a short Metrorail ride to work at George Washington University. "I haven't owned a car since 2002," Ryan Sylvester said.

The evolving Anacostia waterfront by the Navy Yard Metro station provided them with great views and easy commutes -- almost everything the couple wanted. "The downside is there isn't a lot of stuff here yet," Ryan Sylvester said.

That's where Twelve12 fits in, said Gary McManus, of Forest City Washington, which also built the Foundry Lofts.

Scheduled to open in mid-2014, Twelve12, at 1212 Fourth St. SE, will rise eight stories and include a 50,000-square-foot Harris Teeter, a 28,000-square-foot Vida Fitness and 218 apartments. About 70 percent of the units will be one-bedrooms. Residents will have access to a parking garage and rooftop amenities such as a pool and deck area.

Twelve12 rents will be set in 2014, McManus said. In comparison, the nearby Foundry Lofts currently lists monthly rents for 755-square-foot, one-bedroom units between $2,500 and $3,200.

Forest City Washington started developing the waterfront area in 2004, a year after the General Service Administration accepted bids for 42 acres of land that the Navy no longer needed. McManus expects construction in the neighborhood will continue for 15 to 20 years. Ultimately, up to 5.5 million square feet of residential, office and retail space could be built.

"There are only so many waterfront sites available." McManus said. "To drop a 42-acre waterfront site on the market is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

Indicative of the neighborhood's draw is the Bluejacket Brewery, slated to open this spring across the street from Twelve12. The brewery and associated restaurant are moving into an old boilermaker factory within eyesight of Nationals Park.

Michael Babin, one of Bluejacket's partners, said they had considered opening in a suburban warehouse, but they liked the idea of turning an old industrial site into a significant part of a burgeoning neighborhood with a mix of office workers, residents and ballpark visitors.

"The grocery store will drive a lot of traffic," Babin said. "Even if people are doing one thing, they'll see we're there."

Meanwhile, Mark and Meredith Baker have lived through the changes and welcome their new neighbors as justification for taking a chance on the Navy Yard area.

"When we first moved here, our apartment looked out on a bus parking lot and a garbage-sorting facility," Meredith Baker said.

Five years later, the Bakers live in a recently built townhouse, and the bus parking and garbage-sorting facility are gone. Instead, their family frequents the nearby Yards Park and looks forward to enjoying restaurants and a supermarket two blocks away.

"It's almost like we live in a small town in a big city," Mark Baker said.

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