Fort Totten: Five Years Could Make a Big Difference

by Andrew Siddons

Fort Totten: Five Years Could Make a Big Difference: Figure 1
Fort Totten Metro Station

For most DC residents, Fort Totten is little more than a transfer point for Metro’s Red, Yellow and Green lines.

But from the Red Line platform one might see a sign, slightly beyond the bus stops and parking lot, beckoning to “Live THIS CLOSE to the Metro.” That’s the other Fort Totten Station, three suburban-looking apartment buildings with approximately 300 units. The Fort Totten Station apartments were the first step toward bringing more high-density, transit-oriented housing to the neighborhood. Now, there are several massive projects that could completely alter the area’s subdued, family-oriented spirit, and perhaps turn it into a destination.

But in an area that prides itself on neighborly camaraderie, the apartment-dwellers are still seen on the periphery.

“They are kind of isolated from the rest of the community by the parks and train tracks,” Joe Finley, a neighborhood resident and writer of The Totten Life blog, said. It doesn’t help that the sidewalks surrounding the station’s land are crumbling or nonexistent, although WMATA has met with the community and is planning pedestrian improvements.

Whether it’s the broken sidewalks or the fact that there isn’t much around the apartments, it is too bad that there is a disconnect between the apartment residents and long-time inhabitants of the area.

“When I show properties, neighbors who are retired are out working in their yards, and they’ll talk to the people I’m bringing around,” said Tanya Slade, a realtor for Long & Foster who also lives around Fort Totten. “In some areas, we have what we refer to as block mothers, the ladies who have lived their the longest.”

Named for the nearby park that once encompassed a Civil War-era Union Army outpost, Fort Totten is technically bounded to the north by Riggs Road NE, North Capitol Street to the west, Hawaii Avenue NE to the south, and the tracks of Metro to the east. The Metro, however, is within walking distance of the Lamond-Riggs and Michigan Park neighborhoods, and the main intersection at South Dakota Avenue and Riggs Road – seen as the centerpiece of Metro-proximate development — is geographically part of Lamond-Riggs.

When Finley moved to Fort Totten eight years ago, he was initially attracted to the neighborhood’s reasonable prices. But he also had a sense of where the area might be headed.

“I knew that being by a Metro and the sheer amount of land the city owned at the Fort Totten station lent itself well to development,” he said. (WMATA owns two large parcels of land on each side of the station.) But for now, Fort Totten is mostly long, hilly streets populated with red-brick, semi-detached single-family homes built in the 1950s.

“Quite a few residents have been there for 30 years or more,” Slade said. “So, most of the houses that hit the market do need some updating.” She noted that a home in need of work runs around $230,000 to $250,000 when it hits the market, while houses in turn-key condition cost somewhere in the low $300,000s. Finley bought his home on Farragut Place NE in 2003 for just over $210,000.

Fort Totten: Five Years Could Make a Big Difference: Figure 2
Red-brick semi-detached homes

“It was definitely a fixer-upper,” he said. “But like most houses in the area, it had not been updated since it was built in the 70s.”

Antony Santiago bought his home on Emerson Street 18 months ago for around $200,000. He was attracted to the home prices in the neighborhood, but also noted that there “is virtually no crime.” (As of this writing, MPD’s crime mapping tool showed an overall decrease in violent crime in the area around the intersection of Riggs Road and South Dakota Avenue over the past year.)

“Everybody is really friendly, so you’re kind of living in the city, but also everybody knows you,” Santiago said of Fort Totten.

But Santiago also bought around Fort Totten in the hopes that more amenities would soon come to the area, something that hasn’t really happened yet.

“The only disadvantage right now is that there isn’t much around,” he said. “There are no true restaurants. You have to go to Brookland for that.”

If the neighborhood’s near-term zeitgeist is defined by a sense of potential, whether that’s a positive thing depends on when you moved to the neighborhood.

“Long-time residents who have been here for close to 50 years don’t want anything,” said Finley. “I think people fear that developers will just plop in massive apartments that loom over the neighborhood and really change its aesthetic.”

But Slade said developers have been consulting the Lamond-Riggs Civic Association for several years as new projects have been in the works. Neighbors have made clear that they want the “new things to reflect what the neighborhood looked like,” Slade said, adding that Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser, who lives nearby, has been a strong ally in echoing residents’ concerns. “Anything that happens in that area, she’s on top of it.”

Fort Totten: Five Years Could Make a Big Difference: Figure 3
Rendering of Fort Totten Square

Less than a 10-minute walk from the Fort Totten Metro station is a giant, barren field wedged north of the highway-like intersection of South Dakota Avenue and Riggs Road NE. Currently, its neighbors to the east are a store specializing in African movies, a KFC-Taco Bell, and a liquor store. To the west across Riggs Road is a Chinese carryout and another liquor store. But by the fourth quarter of 2013, Joe Carrol of Lowe Enterprises told UrbanTurf that “the streetscape will look totally different than it does today,” as it will be the site of the massive mixed-use development Fort Totten Square.

The plan is for the first phase of the project to include between 260 to 300 apartments, totaling 240,000 square feet, around 20 percent of which will be rented at below-market rates, according to Carrol. There will be a retail component totaling 70,000 square feet fronting Riggs Road, the majority of which will be for an as-yet unconfirmed grocery store. Phase two of Lowe’s plan calls for around 400 more apartments and more retail, although planning on this aspect of the project isn’t very far along.

If you head south a few blocks, there’s another fenced off section of land between Hamilton and Galloway Streets. On this land (owned by the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation), three apartment buildings stand off-set from the street, waiting to be razed. This will be the first section of the Art Place and Shops at Fort Totten, another mixed-use residential and retail project. The foundation’s Jane Cafritz said that the initial phase will have approximately 530 residential units, 100 of which will be reserved for seniors.

Fort Totten: Five Years Could Make a Big Difference: Figure 4
Rendering of the Art Place and Shops

The foundation owns almost 17 acres near the Fort Totten Metro station, so eventually, almost all the land bounded by Riggs Road, South Dakota Avenue, the Metro tracks and Galloway Street could be developed. According to the website of project architects Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn, the plan is for the site to eventually have a total of 929 residential units, including 171 affordable and 358 multifamily homes, and about 250,000 square feet of retail. But Cafritz told UrbanTurf that in addition to new housing and retail, she hopes that the Art Place will contribute to the neighborhood’s quality of life in other ways.

“We plan to create a children’s museum and other art opportunities — which are not clear at this moment — but we want a heavy emphasis on availability of art in this project,” Cafritz said.

A few weeks after UrbanTurf’s interviews with Cafritz and Carroll, DCMud reported that both developments had been put on hold, citing the dismal experience Clark Realty Capital had with Fort Totten Station, which it ultimately sold to real estate management and development firm Greystar.

In response, Lowe Enterprises’ Carrol told UrbanTurf that Fort Totten Square is still going ahead as planned. “We think that the mixed-use place-making project that we will deliver will be successful in this market.”

See other articles related to: hoods, fort totten, dclofts

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/fort_totten_five_years_could_make_a_big_difference/3324


  1. Adam said at 4:04 pm on Wednesday April 20, 2011:
    We moved to Fort Totten (North Michigan Park) in 2007, and have already noticed dramatic improvements to the area. But what I hope never changes is the quiet, friendly atmosphere that we've come to love in the neighborhood. Neighbors look after each others' houses when they go away for a few days. They stop and speak on the sidewalks. They help you dig out your car when it snows. Living in the neighborhood has been one big pleasant surprise, and I'm very glad to call it home.
  1. Sivad said at 5:17 am on Sunday June 19, 2011:
    I must say this article brought a sigh of relief after reading the one in DCmud. After reading I was dumbfounded. Why go through the trouble of having apartments condemned only to just stop a project based off of demographics? That did not make sense because all of that is done before a project is started anyway. There are areas in the city that make absolutely no sense demographically to have development there yet it is there anyway. There is a saying that everyone is well familiar with: If you build it they will come. No different for this project. Besides one of the most friendly, convenient, safest areas of the city deserves this kind of high quality development. Its the final piece of the puzzle.

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

Looking to Give People A Reason to Stay Past 6pm
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?
Hitting Its Growth Spurt
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
The Quiet Neighborhood By the Beltway
Old Town
Mayberry By The Potomac
132 Commerical-Free Acres
Downtown Falls Church
Staying the Same in the Midst of Change
Tysons Corner
Radical Change Could Be On The Way
Real Estate Primer: Northern Virginia

See more Northern Virginia »


Profiles of 14 neighborhoods in suburban Maryland

Small-Town Living in the State Capital
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
A Suburb on Steroids
Rockville Town Square
Despite the Dynamism, Still Somewhat Generic
Takoma Park
More Than a Little Bit Quirky
A Foodie Magnet on the Verge of Change
Capitol Heights
Kudzu, Front Porches and Crime
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
Where (Almost) Everyone Knows Your Name
AU Park
One of DC’s Last Frontiers Before the Suburbs
DC’s Northern Neighborhood on the Cusp
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?
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
History, Hoyas and H&M
Glover Park
One of DC’s Preppier and More Family-Friendly Neighborhoods
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
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
Getting a Vibrancy of Its Own
The Duke’s Former Stomping Ground
Shepherd Park
DC’s Garden of Diversity
Spring Valley
A Suburb With a DC Zip Code
Not To Be Confused With Takoma Park
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

New Development Could Shake Up Pastoral Peace
A Little Bit of Country Just Inside the District’s Borders
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
The Northeast Neighborhood That Few Know About
Michigan Park
A Newsletter-On-Your-Doorstep Community
Evolving from a Brand to a Neighborhood
Ripe for Investment Right About Now
The Difference 5 Years Makes
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
Notable for Its Neighborliness
Historic Anacostia
Future Promise Breeds Cautious Optimism
Eastern Market
A More European Way of Living

See more Southeast DC »