loading...

Eckington: Industrial Past, Commercial Future

by Zak Salih

Eckington: Industrial Past, Commercial Future: Figure 1
Homes in Eckington
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.

In late 2004, when Robert Boyer moved to DC's Eckington neighborhood with his husband, Rich Holcomb, it was something of a return to familiar territory.

While a student at The George Washington University in the early 1980s, Boyer lived a block away from his current rowhome among streets he described as “the central hub of the crack epidemic.”

So why come back? 

“At the time, Eckington wasn’t on anybody’s radar, which worked in our favor," Boyer recalled. "It just didn’t have the hype of other neighborhoods, so there weren’t a lot of people here to beat down the door to make an offer on the place we wanted.”

In the years after they moved, crime in Eckington continued to be an ongoing issue. Boyer noted that many long-time residents were afraid to go outside after dark. But the climate has since changed in the neighborhood off North Capitol Street. 

“Crime’s just not the concern now that it was for a lot of older residents,” Boyer said. 

William McKelvey, who moved to the area in 2009, was constantly being told how dangerous it was. He moved into a shared house in the lower half of Eckington after falling in love with the neighborhood’s industrial vibe.

“I like how it’s one of the few parts of DC that looks like it could be in Baltimore or Philadelphia,” he said.

As more and more people like Boyer, Holcomb, and McKelvey are drawn to Eckington, concerns about crime have been replaced with concerns that many Northwest neighborhoods now face: development and congestion.

Eckington: Industrial Past, Commercial Future: Figure 2
A rendering of Eckington Yards. Click to enlarge.

In the coming years, Eckington’s borders will become home to several large new developments. The lower half of the neighborhood will host a massive community called Eckington Yards, a 700-unit project from JBG Smith and Boundary Companies that will span four connected buildings and over 77,000 square feet of retail space. It’s the kind of expansive, eye-catching development that can change the character of a neighborhood.

Katrina Velasquez, president of the Eckington Civic Association, says that there is excitement around this new development, as well as other improvements to the neighborhood, including a new public park, a pentagonal apartment complex adjacent to the Metropolitan Branch Trail, and rumors of a pedestrian bridge over the tracks to Union Market.

Then there’s the traffic which, for many Eckington residents, has overtaken crime as the main concern for those who walk, drive, or bike through the neighborhood. The congestion is epitomized by the infamous traffic circle at Florida and New York Avenues NE known by residents (and others) as “Dave Thomas Circle” for the Wendy’s that squats in its center. 

“Dave Thomas Circle is a choke point,” said McKelvey, who was hit by a car on New York Avenue NE while riding his bike a few years ago. “There aren’t many east-west routes across downtown, and the city hasn’t seemed to realize this, so there are always cars and busses backed up.”

Velasquez agrees. 

“It’s actually the third most dangerous intersection in the city and takes residents an average of 10 to 20 minutes to just leave Eckington via car during rush-hour and lunch-hour traffic, as there are only a handful of exits out of the neighborhood.” The Eckington Civic Association and several residents have submitted requests to the DC Council, DDOT and Councilman Kenyan McDuffie to fix the circle. So far, nothing has been solved.

Traffic woes aside, Eckington’s transformation from little-known neighborhood to one of the city’s latest brand-name locations is something that most residents welcome. 

“One common sentiment is that people are proud of themselves for recognizing what a great location this is,” said Holcomb. “We’re now actually on the map.”

Wrapped in Commercial Potential 

Eckington is sandwiched between Edgewood, Bloomingdale, and NoMA. The neighborhood’s boundaries are Rhode Island Avenue (to the north), the railroad tracks and the Metropolitan Branch Trail (to the east), North Capitol Street (to the west), and Florida Avenue (to the south).

“I like the fact that most of what’s going on in Eckington happens on the fringes,” said McKelvey. “It keeps the neighborhood quieter.”

Boyer agrees. “Eckington is about 90 percent residential, and the commercial properties wrap around us, so we don’t have a commercial strip,” he said. “I like it that way.”

Depending on which side of McKinley Technology High School you live on can influence where you spend a lot of your free time.

“You don’t feel like you’re just in the one neighborhood when you’re down here,” McKelvey says. “Where I live, we’re very much integrated with Bloomingdale. Upper Eckington, I feel, is getting more developed as they build more on the other side of the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station in Edgewood.”

For Boyer and Holcomb, the geographic differences are mostly found in the neighborhood’s properties. The couple say their area has bigger property lots and better off-street parking. The south, however, has longer houses and more iconic turrets.

An Old Center of Industry

One of DC’s oldest neighborhoods, Eckington still shows signs of its industrial roots, including railroad tracks and warehouses. The name derives from the English village of Joseph Gales, Jr., a newspaper editor and Washington mayor who had a summer estate in the area.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, the B&O Railroad tracks and a streetcar line ran through Eckington, and a wealth of factories, warehouses, and plants (including one for biscuits and one for Schlitz beer) were located in the neighborhood. It was civil engineer George Truesdell who first joined the neighborhood to the city’s existing grid and developed its first row homes and apartment buildings.

While the hustle and bustle of industry isn’t what it used to be, you can still feel it walking the streets along Eckington’s eastern half, and are reminded of it when you hear the trains roaring by.

Eckington: Industrial Past, Commercial Future: Figure 3
Inside the Eckington School loft for sale.

Not as Cheap as It Used to Be

One powerful example of how the real estate scene has changed in the years since Boyer, Holcomb, and others came to Eckington lured by relative obscurity and lower home prices can be found at the former Eckington School, transformed in the 1970s into four artist lofts. For the first time in 30 years, one of these two-bedroom, 3,800-square-foot lofts is up for sale for $1.5 million.

While it’s an extreme example, home prices have nevertheless been on the rise.

“We’re seeing similar development to what Bloomingdale experienced a few years back,” said Mattia D’Affuso of The Rob and Brent Group. “In May 2018, the average sales price in Eckington was $771,297,” he told UrbanTurf. “That’s an increase of almost 20 percent from last year.”

As more businesses have grown up around the neighborhood, she’s also noticed an increase in rental buildings and condo conversions.

Rental prices are comparable with those in nearby neighborhoods. Studios at The Gale Eckington, for example, start at $1,600/month. The Lexicon, a new luxury condo building in the neighborhood, has started sales with prices beginning in the low $400,000s. 

Eckington: Industrial Past, Commercial Future: Figure 4
A sandwich at Yang Market.

Four Things to Do

  • Yang Market -- This neighborhood market is home to some impressive subs and sandwiches that make popular meals for Eckington residents and visitors. (Velasquez recommends ordering the “Jerry Gallo.”)
  • The Metropolitan Branch Trail -- Run, walk, bike—however you choose to enjoy Eckington’s stretch of this popular city trail, make sure to pay attention to the industrial buildings and graffiti art.
  • Qualia Coffee -- Eckington’s newest coffee haunt opened in July 2017 and offers the same curated coffee drinks as the flagship location in Petworth—plus a sleek vibe made to please teleworkers and coffee-breakers alike.
  • STABLE -- Likened by McKelvey to Alexandria’s Torpedo Factory, these new studios and gallery spaces opening in late 2018 will both support local artists and help them engage with the community through special exhibits and programs.   

In the Middle

Despite its traffic woes, Eckington is an extremely walkable neighborhood that offers immediate connection to other parts of the city.

“A lot of our neighbors bike to work,” said Holcomb. “We drive maybe at the most three or four times a month. On a day-to-day basis, our cars stay parked.”

“It’s close to everything,” added Velasquez. “A 10-minute walk to Union Market, a 10-minute Metro ride to downtown, and a 30-minute walk to the Senate-side of Congress.”

The neighborhood’s primary Metro stations are Rhode Island Avenue and NoMA-Gallaudet U-New York Avenue stations, both serving the Red Line. Bus lines along the city’s boundaries and through several of its major streets include the 80, the P6, the G8, the 90, and the X3.

The Bottom Line

To come back to Eckington and to have planted roots just a block from where his first apartment was, Robert Boyer is thrilled to be able to watch his neighborhood grow as successfully as the front gardens outside his home.

“We’ve been able to sit on our front porch or wander through the neighborhood and watch this, in my view, not rushed development,” Boyer said. “It’s amazing when someone asks where we live and we say, ‘Eckington,’ and they say, ‘You’re so lucky.’ It’s a gratifying feeling.”

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, eckington dc, eckington

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/eckington_industrial_past_commercial_future/14212

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 »