Best Neighborhood Debate: Is H Street Worth It?

by Mark Wellborn

This week UrbanTurf is taking a look back at the best that DC’s residential real estate market had to offer in 2009. From the best deals to the best trends to, of course, the best listings, we believe we have sussed out the cream of the crop.

Photo by Elise Bernard

Nothing seems to arouse debate in this city like neighborhood talk. Is Cleveland Park falling off? Why doesn’t Georgetown have a Metro station? Is Petworth the best place to buy a home? No matter the question, you can be sure that you will get an impassioned response. And that is exactly what we got when one of our readers asked if the H Street Corridor was “worth it.”

For those unfamiliar with the H Street Corridor, it is the latest DC neighborhood to be labeled “transitional” and is attracting young homebuyers with its growing nightlife and retail scene and affordable housing stock. The post in which we posed the above question from a reader elicited close to 60 comments, the tenor of which ranged from current residents cheerleading about the future of the area to concerns from prospective buyers about a neighborhood still in transition.

Here are a few examples:

The (Overly) Optimistic:

This is undoubtedly the best area to invest around. In five years, H St beautificaion will be complete and the street cars will be up and running. A new condo building with mixed use and ground level retail will run from 8th to 10th Street. Probably another 15-20 restaurants, bars, new establishments will have opened. And your property value will have increased significantly. We just bought south of H recently. While I might not have been comfortable going much farther to the North as yet, this area is already good and is just going to keep getting better once they finish all that construction that makes H look messy right now. If you like Capitol Hill, but aren’t ubber rich, this is the only way to get in. So do it now and reap the benefits while you still can.

Dealing with Crime, Reaping the Returns of Long-term Investment:

You might possibly be mugged sometime in the next 10 years for $38 in your wallet, during which time you will have made at least 400k on your little row house with English basement, back yard and parking because other people unbelievably still did not have the guts to buy in 2009 even with all the obvious positive signs.

The (Overly) Pessimistic:

Better ask for a bullet-proof vest at closing. It’s absurd to even consider buying in this neighborhood! Save your money and move to NW DC. I lived on H St for 2 years beginning in 2004. Sure people will tell you it’s fine, but don’t believe it.

UrbanTurf’s Best of 2009 continues tomorrow with DC’s best live/work space and the top up-and-comers of the year.

Previous Best Of 2009 entries:

See other articles related to: h street corridor, dclofts, best of 2009

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/best_neighborhood_debate_is_h_street_worth_it/1605


  1. NENWSESW said at 5:30 pm on Tuesday December 15, 2009:

    Whenever I’m around H street, despite that undeniable U Street just before rebirth feeling, I can’t quite bring myself to say I’d like to live there. No access to Metro (ok if you have a car, I suppose) and the night-time being quite shady still kills the deal for me.

    But if you had to go with an investment property and then wanted to rent it out for about 5 years, I suppose you could do quite nicely.

  1. Aaron P. said at 5:49 pm on Tuesday December 15, 2009:

    I agree with NENWSESW.  I’ve had lots of fun visiting the restaurants and bars along H Street, and I think the neighborhood has potential.  But despite the number of new businesses that have opened up recently, I still don’t think it’s a place I’d like to live, which is why I bought recently in another area of DC.  The streets are barren at night, there’s a lack of transit options, and much of the commercial strip seems unappealing to me.

    Maybe I missed a great investment opportunity.  But for now, I’m ok with that.

  1. wdc said at 5:55 pm on Tuesday December 15, 2009:

    The thing is that H Street is pretty diverse.  If you are south and west of the bars, then you are really still on Capitol Hill.  If you are north and east, then maybe you are in a different area.  As far as transportation, its true that there isn’t anything besides the X2 or H St Shuttle, but if you are sticking around for a few years or investing, then you’ve got the streetcar in place soon and all of a sudden that problem is solved.

  1. dan said at 7:22 pm on Tuesday December 15, 2009:
  1. ian said at 11:59 am on Wednesday December 16, 2009:

    dan, funny. any google street view pics of Gtown douchebags with popped collars?

    H St props are worth buying. value prices and low mortgage rates are attractive. lack of metro access - whatever. parking is much easier than Adams Morgan or Georgetown (areas w/o metro). the wave of crime - i wouldn’t carry cash or laptops in your messenger bags. check it out if you’re adventurous. bicycle commuting is nice on that side of the district. plus NOMA development, Eastern Market, and SW waterfront areas could make that side of the district an exciting place to live in the future.

    as far as making profit, housing prices are interrelated especially in close proximity. so it really comes down to how much can you put down and pay per month.

  1. mace said at 1:08 pm on Wednesday December 16, 2009:

    NENWESW - what makes the neighborhood “shady”.  I am often curious by people’s use of that word.  Any definition help is appreciated.

    I’ll admit I’m addicted to my car, but H St has become my new stop on the way home to the Ft Dupont Park area.  Great parking.  It is a hump if on metro if you are going to get a fish taco at the Argonaut, but the X2 will ride you right there.  If I were to move the area would be one of the areas I’d consider, specifically for the retail growth that is coming, but also for the rich history that still exists there. 

    For those interested, there is a volunteer oral history project of the area that has just begun and volunteer researchers and interviewers are sought.  Contact - .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

  1. Home AtLas said at 1:44 pm on Wednesday December 16, 2009:

    I live just north of H Street and, while I would certainly say that living there can present some, ahem, challenges, on the balance, we really enjoy living in the neighborhood and still consider it a great investment. 

    However, the debate over this particular area has strong, valid points on all sides and seems to be, as the Urban Turf posts have shown, the most pointed “which side to you fall on” residential argument in DC right now. 

    Which is actually why we recently started a blog specifically dedicated to discussion the residential real estate market in the H Street Corridor (or Atlas District) specifically. Anyone interested in continuing this lively debate should check it out:


  1. Home AtLas said at 1:49 pm on Wednesday December 16, 2009:

    BTW—sorry for the fail on the “specifically” reduncancy above.

  1. NENWSESW said at 5:03 pm on Wednesday December 16, 2009:

    “Shady” is not easy to define, but I generally equate it to areas that I don’t feel comfortable walking around alone after dark. And there are plenty of parts of NW where I feel this is the case, so it isn’t a quadrant-by-quadrant thing.

    I’ll be the first one to admit it’s a subjective impression, and living in an area long enough might change one’s opinion either way.

    I do like the H St. corridor, and I think it is improving by leaps and bounds. The expanded transportation options are also making it more and more attractive (e.g. streetcars).

  1. PT said at 12:44 pm on Thursday December 17, 2009:

    Now that the H Street street car line has been designated as the first one to come by the Mayor and the first streetcars are actually in the area with tracks running along H, it’s hard not to see that this is a great place to invest in for your first home or investment property.  If the major criticism is transportation, it may still be another year or two off, but it’s coming and once it is in place, it wont be nearly as easy to buy around here.

  1. Georgetowner said at 1:49 pm on Thursday December 17, 2009:

    A friend of mine had a party in that neighborhood a few months ago.  I went to his party at around 7pm.  On my way to his place, I was accosted by a homeless man who was muttering something.  I ended up running across the street from where I parked to his building.

    At around 9pm or 10pm, I left and I saw about 10 kids running around.  They were about 12 years old.  They started yelling at me for some reason also.  And a few of them surrounded my car.  I wasn’t really worried.. just puzzled.  Until 1 kid pulled an egg out of his bag and egged my car.  Then they all ran away laughing and screaming.

    Now.. neither of these things are a big deal.  I was with a friend, and it was early on in the night.  It wasn’t like I was being mugged or whatever.  But whatever the case may be, I think H St is a sketchy neighborhood and there is no way in hell I would live there. Especially as a female.

    My friend’s house was about a block away from the Rock N Roll Hotel.  Not on the main drag, but behind it.

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