The Pursuit: Riding the Emerging Neighborhood Wave Out of DC

by Shilpi Paul

Rebecca Ortega’s Del Ray home

When Rebecca Ortega moved to DC in 2004, she saw real estate possibilities all around her. She bought a condo in Logan Circle, then still a neighborhood more appealing for its potential than its reality, and lived there for three years while watching the 14th Street Corridor fill out.

In 2007, she decided to sell. “I got a pretty good turnover from the sale and wanted to reinvest in the city,” Ortega told UrbanTurf. This time, she set her sights on H Street, and with her husband, found a three-bedroom, 2.5-bath row house right off of the main corridor at 13th and I Street NE.

The H Street house

For the next four years, Ortega and her husband watched another neighborhood flourish around them. “We saw a lot of change happen there,” she said. “We felt personally invested in the evolution of the neighborhood.” For awhile, the couple was happy in their home, which was spacious enough for the two of them and close to the area’s restaurants and bars.

Then, Ortega got pregnant.

Like many urban couples, they now needed to weigh the pros and cons of their home with a new factor in mind. “I never really move anywhere thinking anything long-term,” Ortega said. “I make decisions in the here and now.” But the arrival of a child necessitated a bit of long-term planning.

Strollers were becoming more common in the H Street Corridor, so they knew it was at least possible to raise a child there, and Ortega recognized the benefits of children growing up in a city. But their house was on a busy corner that faced a constant stream of cars, trucks and foot traffic. The bar scene brought reveling drunks to the corridor every weekend, and the house was constantly surrounded by noise and commotion.

These factors, and a desire to have four bedrooms instead of three, led Ortega and her husband to the decision to make the move to the suburbs before their daughter was born. They looked in Maryland and Virginia, trying to find a place with walkability, community engagement and a taste of urban life, while offering them space and quiet. They knew Montgomery County had great schools, but couldn’t find a house that felt right. They also looked in Chevy Chase, Silver Spring and Old Town, but nothing fit until they happened upon Del Ray.

“It’s really a walking neighborhood with a lot of families, dog parks and coffee shops,” Ortega said. “You can get to DC in twenty minutes.” And like H Street, the community felt engaged. “It feels like people want to get together, share ideas and better the community.”

A big kitchen in the Del Ray house

For $794,000, Ortega and her husband found a four-bedroom, three-bath bungalow on Little Street, three blocks from the Braddock Road Metro and less than a mile from Old Town and Mount Vernon Avenue. They made an offer and were able to move in before the baby arrived.

While it was tough to leave DC, Ortega enjoys the friendly atmosphere and the slower pace. “The first week that we moved in, almost every single one of our neighbors came by bearing baked goods,” she remembered. It took Ortega and her husband a moment to realize that a knock on the door at night no longer indicated some kind of emergency.

The couple recognizes that the move to Del Ray has not only led them out of the city, but broke the string of moves to neighborhoods on the rise.

“It was kind of bittersweet leaving,” Ortega said. “You want to make a smart financial investment, but you also want to make an investment in your future, and if you’re thinking about starting a family, other factors come into play.”

See other articles related to: the pursuit, logan circle, h street corridor, del ray

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/the_pursuit_riding_the_emerging_neighborhood_wave_out_of_dc/5382


  1. Quiet Preference said at 12:58 pm on Friday April 6, 2012:

    I would never buy a house on a busy street, like H St even though I don’t have children.  I think such areas are better for businesses or mixed developments (stores on bottom and residences on top. But this might be just me - a personal preference.  I am currently living in Foggy Bottom coop (24th and H St NW) and love the proximity to everything but I don’t like the loud sirens of ambulances or cops in the middle of the night.  Even though on H St between 24th and 25t, there is a sign “Quiet Zone”, vans for Kennedy Center diesels sometimes loudly rev up their engines and I hear the squeaky breaks of the 80 bus occasionally.  I can’t imagine how much worse it would be on Washington Circle or closer to the hospital emergency entrance.

  1. Al said at 2:58 pm on Friday April 6, 2012:

    Quiet Preference,  Are you kidding? You live in a major urban city.  What major urban city doesn’t have sirens from ambulances, firetrucks or squad cars…  Wow!

    What are you and people like you thinking about living in the city?  This city isn’t some quaint village or small town.  Wow

  1. jag said at 4:10 pm on Friday April 6, 2012:

    Jeez, Al. Well, as a matter of fact, a huge percentage of the city is quite residential. I lived in the city for many years and now live in downtown Silver Spring - downtown Silver Spring is far more urban in the sense you’re talking about than any of the DC neighborhoods I’ve lived in over the years. That’s just the way the world works, especially in the DC metro region.

  1. Larry said at 5:32 pm on Friday April 6, 2012:

    Too many people move to Washington from the suburbs, they come here see all the trees and forget its a bustling city for the most part and then spend their best years complaining about noise. Go back to the suburbs! I have lived in cities my whole life and I can sleep to the sounds of a buzzing city. I love it!!!!

  1. Jon said at 8:43 am on Saturday April 7, 2012:

    I have to say I’ve lived in many cities and have never heard the amount of sirens I hear in DC

  1. anon said at 11:26 am on Monday April 9, 2012:

    There are different types of noise and nuissances. Just because you live in a city doesn’t absolve all of the offenders.  Emergency vehicles, traffic and the like are givens (and really not such a big deal as someone who gets a steady stream of each).  Loud drunken assholes on streets in residential neighborhoods at 3 am really don’t merit a pass.

    I like Del Ray well enough, but it’s the suburbs and not that close to the DC city center.  I’d take H St. with kids over Del Ray anyday.  And DC isn’t all buzzing.  There are plenty of DC neighborhoods equally tree lined and sleepy as Del Ray

  1. Dartagnan said at 12:00 pm on Monday April 9, 2012:

    It is all about preference. I have lived in 10 places, most of them urban cities. I love living on busy streets, because I love the energy of all the traffic and noise. I understand this is a preference. When buying my place, I purposely bought on a busy street because I love it that way, so yes there are (a few of us) out there!! Also, many parts of DC are very quiet - the parts where I personally don’t want to live. For example - I actually have seen more deer inside DC that anywhere else, in some of the quiet upper NW areas close to Rock Creek Park.

    Oh, I also agree with Jon, I constantly here more sirens here than anywhere else (and in fact have been hearing them from my office now for the last 45 minutes). An additional frustration, I hate that sirens here seem to not be standardized - sometimes I cannot distinguish that its a police and not some car alarm.

  1. D said at 11:41 pm on Tuesday April 10, 2012:

    Personal preferences aside, I think it’ll be a decade or two before the burbs might be considered “emerging” relative to the city again.

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