In a quiet residential enclave off New Hampshire Avenue, John Milligan has spent more than 50 years preserving a sense of neighborhood best exemplified by the sounds his children made playing outside with friends.
"They say the crime in this area is low," Milligan said. "We look out for one another."
Lamond-Riggs, Milligan's upper Northeast D.C. neighborhood, is about to get much larger as its most notable landmark, a former Masonic retirement home at 6000 New Hampshire Avenue, transforms into a community of condos, single-family homes and townhouses.
Comstock Homes is building 38 single-family and 73 townhouses on the site called The Hampshires, said Dan Martin, a sales executive. A different builder is developing the condos.
Seven homes already are under contract, and Martin said the development continues attracting a steady flow of prospective buyers.
"It's been a mix of everyone," Martin said. "Some people live in the city. Some are first-time homebuyers. Some have kids."
The townhomes feature up to 1,900 square feet, with floor plans including three- and four-story units. Some can have rooftop decks and garages. The starting price is $525,000. The single-family homes start at $699,000 and feature four and five bedrooms with up to 2,700 square feet of space.
Meanwhile, the permitting and approval process continues for the condo project planned for the site's most recognizable feature, the mansionlike retirement home. Built in 1905, with a commanding hilltop view of what was then a rural landscape in the path of New Hampshire Avenue, the site's buildings and land had for years been underutilized.
Property owner Rick Genderson plans to divide the former retirement home into 46 condos with one to three bedrooms. A smaller 1920s building, originally used as an orphanage, will host offices, likely for medical professionals.
While the surrounding area has long since been developed, the former retirement home's nine acres of open space helped this corner of Lamond-Riggs remain quiet.
In 1958, when the Milligans were among the first African-American families to move into the neighborhood, they were drawn to the affordable homes in a suburban setting with easy access to the major commuting arteries.
Now, with two Metrorail stations nearby, the same sense of neighborhood so attractive 50 years ago is what lured Comstock, said Tere Richards, senior vice president of marketing. The Hampshires is situated less than a mile from both the Takoma and Fort Totten Metrorail stations and has a Metrobus stop in front of the model home.
While Milligan welcomes new neighbors, he hopes they share his fervor for a neighborhood he's worked hard to preserve. In the 1960s, Milligan was among the many residents who fought to prevent a planned expansion of Interstate 95 from slicing through the community. More recently, he worked to ensure the former retirement home hosted residential development.
"I'm sure there will be some happy folks in there," Milligan said. "I hope they get a homeowners association together to protect it."