loading...

Adams Morgan: From Adolescence to Adulthood

by Zak Salih

image
Adams Morgan

UrbanTurf has profiled more than 50 neighborhoods in the DC area. We are now revisiting each of those neighborhoods to update our profiles and see how they’ve changed over the years.


Ashley Lusk’s earliest memories of Adams Morgan involve half-eaten pizza and crumpled napkins.

Frequently on Sunday mornings, she and her husband, David, would wake up to find the trash of another weekend bacchanal scattered along her front yard and walk. Now, six years after she moved to the neighborhood, the trash is disappearing.

“I would say the party traffic has reduced by half,” Lusk said. “I think it’s becoming a very different neighborhood.”

This transition is one Ted Guthrie, a 20-year resident of Adams Morgan and a local ANC member, welcomes.

“One thing I just love is all the kids in the neighborhood now,” he told UrbanTurf. “When I first moved here, there were almost no kids. I think people feel comfortable staying here after they have kids now because the schools have improved.”

For a neighborhood long synonymous with wild weekend nights, Adams Morgan’s evolution to a more mellow state of mind has been coupled with some large developments on the horizon—some welcome, some not. 

One of the biggest top-of-mind changes for residents like Lusk and Guthrie is LINE DC. Scheduled to open this fall, the new hotel built into a pre-existing church at 17th and Euclid Streets NW will feature more than 200 rooms, several restaurants and bars, and skyline views from its roof.

“LINE DC is by far the most exciting addition to the neighborhood,” Brian Barrie, operations manager for the Adams Morgan Partnership BID, said. “Adams Morgan has a thriving restaurant scene, but we struggle to attract enough retail businesses to match the need because we don’t have a lot of office buildings that feed the retail. LINE DC is poised to change that.”

image
LINE DC

A far more controversial development is the plan for what’s known as “SunTrust Plaza” at the corner of 18th Street NW and Columbia Road NW – a spot considered by many to be the gateway to Adams Morgan.

The contentious redevelopment, whose proposal includes a six-story condo building with ground-floor retail, has been met with ire by neighborhood groups and community organizations. On August 7, a DC Superior Court judge granted an injunction against the developers over concerns about a lack of public space in the plans.

“I’m not opposed to development there in general, but I’m not too excited about what they’re going to put there,” Lusk said.

Val Morgan, who owns the used bookstore Idle Time Books and lives right above the shop, isn’t a fan of the new development due to what it might portend for the neighborhood.

“I think the SunTrust Plaza development is going to have a devastating effect on what the feel of Adams Morgan is now,” she told UrbanTurf. “All everyone wants to do is develop and fill in every little bit of space. I moved to DC for the breathing room, for the lovely trees and the low-rise buildings. But they’re just going to turn this into any other neighborhood.”

image
Looking out on 18th Street.


A Nightlife Nexus

Stretching from the corner of Columbia Road NW and Calvert Street NW down to Florida Avenue NW, the 18th Street Corridor has long been considered the nexus of the neighborhood’s nightlife.

On the weekends, the sidewalks (recently widened to accommodate more foot traffic) are packed with people hopping between various bars, music venues, and eateries, including Madam’s Organ, Dan’s Café, Amsterdam Falafelshop, Duplex Diner, and Muzette. These familiar faces now intermingle with newer spots like Smoke & Barrel, and Tail Up Goat.

“The streets now come alive a lot earlier than they used to,” said Brian Vasile, owner of Grand Central. “I think it’s because of all the new happy hours and restaurants. Before, we got people just for the late night crowd. Now, we’re getting people for happy hour, dinner, and late night.”


From Melting Pot to Party Central

Adams Morgan is located adjacent to other highly populated neighborhoods like Dupont Circle, Columbia Heights, and the U Street Corridor. The neighborhood is bounded on the north by Calvert Street NW and Columbia Road NW; to the east by 16th Street NW; to the south by the slope of Florida Avenue NW; and to the west by 19th Street NW.

Long before its reputation as a party destination, Adams Morgan was a melting pot for immigrants. Back in the 1960s, the neighborhood streets were home to a vibrant mix of people from Africa, Central America, and South America.

This multicultural feel is a characteristic some residents, like Lusk, are concerned will be lost in the face of rising rents.

“If you ask the long-timers, they’d tell you that the part they loved about Adams Morgan, the multicultural aspect that it was known for in its earliest days, is perhaps quickly diminishing,” she said.

“When we first got here [in the 1980s], there were all sorts of weird and wonderful people here,” Morgan recalled. “There were all sorts of little stores here because the rents were cheap. Then it started turning into a bar neighborhood. I guess the landlords got onto it and realized they could make money from bars, so the rents went up and more and more little businesses left.”

Throughout the late 1980s and 1990s, Adams Morgan developed its reputation as a place to go out and have fun. The reputation stuck in part to a liquor license moratorium that began in 2000 and culminated in 2009 with the prohibition of any new liquor licenses, which made it difficult for new businesses to get a leg up in the neighborhood.

The result: new businesses began to push out into nearby neighborhoods like Logan Circle, Petworth, and Columbia Heights, where liquor licenses were easier to obtain. Then, in 2014, in an effort to draw new businesses to the neighborhood, DC’s ABC Board ended the moratorium.

“The lifting of the moratorium made it possible for great new restaurants and bars to enter the community,” said Arianne Bennett, co-founder of Amsterdam Falafelshop. “This gives customers more choices, and as they choose the better places to patronize, they’ve marginalized the bad ones, which are slipping away from the community.”

“Over the past decade, the clientele from ten to close has pretty much stayed the same,” Vasile said. “The thing that has changed is the non-spending element: the people who used to come here just to cause trouble. The police presence has helped dissipate that.”

image
Inside an Adams Morgan condo on Adams Mill Road.

The Cost of Putting Down Roots

As much as renters like Lusk and her husband – who see themselves as invested in the neighborhood as those who own property –  would love to buy a place here, prices are holding them back.  As with other DC neighborhoods, Adams Morgan is an expensive place to live.

“Earlier this year, I sold a unit on Champlain Street NW for around $800 per square foot, which was a new benchmark for the building it was in,” noted real estate agent Max Rabin. “As for rentals, I recently rented a large loft with a roof deck for $6,500 per month. My initial thought was it would be a very high asking rent, but we had immediate interest at the full amount.”

As for some of the magnificent townhouses to be found just west of 18th Street NW, sales of these places are few and far between. There have been only around 10 sales over the last couple years, with a median price of $1,075,000.

Four Things to Do

  • Dine at Tail Up Goat. One of the neighborhood’s newest high-end restaurants, Tail Up Goat is a must-try eatery in Adams Morgan…if you can get a table.
     
  • Telework at Tryst. This popular coffeehouse (whose siblings, The Diner and Open City, are also popular haunts) is a great place for teleworking. A fun bonus: the animal crackers that accompany Tryst’s coffee drinks.
     
  • Take the Kids to Kalorama Recreation Park Playgrounds, basketball courts, benches, lawns – this three-acre urban park is a great place for Adams Morgan’s burgeoning parent population to let their kids expend pent-up energy.
     
  • Eat at Mama Ayesha’s Noted for the presidential mural created by the owners, this hidden gem at the eastern end of the Calvert Street Bridge is noted for its delicious Middle Eastern food and reflects the heavy immigrant presence that once defined Adams Morgan.
  • image
    Pici carbonara at Tail Up Goat

    Don’t Bother With a Car

    The closest Metro stations to Adams Morgan, both on the Red Line, are Woodley Park-Zoo to the north and Dupont Circle to the south. Various Metrobus lines – 90, 96, 42, H1, L2 – run throughout the neighborhood’s streets.

    Parking, despite recent changes, remains difficult and requires a certain amount of luck (and a high level of patience). To get to Adams Morgan on weekends, your best bet is to Metro or grab a taxi or car share.

    Foot traffic in the neighborhood has improved with the widening of the sidewalks along 18th Street NW, but there’s been recent talk about closing down portions of 18th Street entirely to car traffic. While this possibility is a long way off, it has sparked interest among neighborhood residents.

    “Having all of that traffic really detracts from a pleasant atmosphere for pedestrians in particular,” said Guthrie. “We don’t want to make it so it’s impossible to drive in the neighborhood, but I think there are ways to close part of the 18th Street drive to make it a nicer place to live.”

    
The Bottom Line

    A nicer place to live – even on the weekends – is an apt description for what Adams Morgan is becoming.

    “It’s been a really interesting evolution in my time here,” Lusk said. “There’s this new energy of people who are seeing themselves here for the long term. It never stops being interesting for me.”

    Once given over entirely to its reputation as a rowdy party area, the neighborhood, it seems, is slowly coming out of its adolescence and reaching something more akin to maturity.

    Zak M. Salih is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C. His work has appeared in publications including Washington City Paper, the Richmond Times Dispatch, Baltimore City Paper, the Chicago Tribune, and the Christian Science Monitor.

    
    

    Recent Neighborhood Profiles:

     

See other articles related to: hoods, adams morgan

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/adams_morgan_from_adolescence_to_adulthood/12953

DC Real Estate Guides

Short guides to navigating the DC-area real estate market

We've collected all our helpful guides for buying, selling and renting in and around Washington, DC in one place. Visit guides.urbanturf.com or start browsing below!

Northern Virginia

Profiles of 14 neighborhoods across Northern Virginia

Ballston
Looking to Give People A Reason to Stay Past 6pm
Clarendon
Happily Straddling the Line Between City and Suburb
Columbia Pike
Arlington’s Neglected Stepchild is Getting a Makeover
Crystal City
Turning Lemons into Lemonade
Lyon Village
Developing An Air of Exclusivity?
Rosslyn
Hitting Its Growth Spurt
Shirlington
An Urban Village Hitting Its Stride
Del Ray
Virginia’s Small Town Near the Big City
Eisenhower Avenue
The Vibrancy Might Take a Few Years
Huntington
The Quiet Neighborhood By the Beltway
Old Town
Mayberry By The Potomac
Parkfairfax
132 Commerical-Free Acres
Downtown Falls Church
Staying the Same in the Midst of Change
Tysons Corner
Radical Change Could Be On The Way

See more Northern Virginia »

Maryland

Profiles of 14 neighborhoods in suburban Maryland

Annapolis
Small-Town Living in the State Capital
Bethesda
Bedroom Community Gets Buzzing Cache
Cabin John
In With The New While Maintaining the Old
Chevy Chase
Affluence, Green Lawns and Pricey Homes
Downtown Silver Spring
Experiencing a Resurgence After a Bumpy History
Potomac
A Suburb on Steroids
Rockville Town Square
Despite the Dynamism, Still Somewhat Generic
Takoma Park
More Than a Little Bit Quirky
Wheaton
A Foodie Magnet on the Verge of Change
Capitol Heights
Kudzu, Front Porches and Crime
Hyattsville
Glass Half Full or Half Empty?
Mount Rainier
Artists, Affordable Homes and A Silo Full of Corn
National Harbor
A Development Rises Next to the Potomac
Riverdale Park
A Town Looking For Its Identity

See more Maryland »

Northwest DC

30+ neighborhood profiles for the city's biggest quadrant

16th Street Heights
DC's Sleeper Neighborhood
Bloomingdale
Where (Almost) Everyone Knows Your Name
AU Park
One of DC’s Last Frontiers Before the Suburbs
Brightwood
DC’s Northern Neighborhood on the Cusp
Burleith
DC’s 535 House Neighborhood
Cathedral Heights
Do You Know Where That Is?
Chevy Chase DC
Not to Be Confused With the Other Chevy Chase
Cleveland Park
Coming Back After A Rough Year
Columbia Heights
DC’s Most Diverse Neighborhood, But For How Long?
Crestwood
An Island of Serenity East of the Park
Dupont Circle
The Best of DC (For a Price)
Foggy Bottom & West End
Where the Institutional Meets the International
Forest Hills
Ambassadors and Adventurous Architecture
Foxhall Village
350 Homes Just West of Georgetown
Friendship Heights
A Shopping Mecca With a Few Places to Live
Georgetown
History, Hoyas and H&M
Glover Park
One of DC’s Preppier and More Family-Friendly Neighborhoods
Kalorama
A Posh View From Embassy Row
LeDroit Park
A Quiet Enclave in the Middle of the City
Logan Circle
Trendy Now, But Not By Accident
Mount Pleasant
Sought-After Homes Surround Main Street in Transition
Mount Vernon Triangle
From Seedy to Sought-After
Palisades
The Long, Skinny Neighborhood at the City’s Northwest Edge
Park View
It’s Not Petworth
Penn Quarter/Chinatown
DC’s Go-Go-Go Neighborhood
Petworth
Getting a Vibrancy of Its Own
Shaw
The Duke’s Former Stomping Ground
Shepherd Park
DC’s Garden of Diversity
Spring Valley
A Suburb With a DC Zip Code
Takoma
Not To Be Confused With Takoma Park
Tenleytown
Not Quite Like Its Neighbors
U Street Corridor
The Difference a Decade Makes
Woodley Park
Deceptively Residential
Adams Morgan
No Longer DC’s Hippest Neighborhood, But Still Loved by Residents

See more Northwest DC »

Southwest DC

The little quadrant that could

Southwest Waterfront
A Neighborhood Where A Change Is Gonna Come

See more Southwest DC »

Northeast DC

Profiles of 10 neighborhoods in NE

Brookland
New Development Could Shake Up Pastoral Peace
Deanwood
A Little Bit of Country Just Inside the District’s Borders
Eckington
Not to Be Confused With Bloomingdale
Fort Totten
Five Years Could Make a Big Difference
H Street
A Place To Party, and To Settle Down
Langdon
The Northeast Neighborhood That Few Know About
Michigan Park
A Newsletter-On-Your-Doorstep Community
NoMa
Evolving from a Brand to a Neighborhood
Rosedale
Ripe for Investment Right About Now
Trinidad
The Difference 5 Years Makes
Woodridge
Big Houses, A Dusty Commercial Strip and Potential

See more Northeast DC »

Southeast DC

6 neighborhoods from Capitol Hill to East of the River

Capitol Riverfront
Still Growing
Hill East
Capitol Hill’s Lesser Known Neighbor
Congress Heights
Gradually Rising
Hillcrest
Notable for Its Neighborliness
Historic Anacostia
Future Promise Breeds Cautious Optimism
Eastern Market
A More European Way of Living

See more Southeast DC »

Upcoming Seminars ▾