River Park: A Mid-Century Vision of the 21st Century

by Shilpi Paul

River Park: A Mid-Century Vision of the 21st Century: Figure 1
Gated entrance to River Park on 4th Street SW

Behind a gate at the southeast corner of 4th and N Streets SW (map) not far from the Southwest Waterfront, you’ll find one of DC’s most unique looking co-ops.

Designed by Hollin Hills architect Charles Goodman in the 1960’s, River Park Mutual Homes looks like a mid-century vision of the 21st century: shiny silver, curved lines and vaguely pod-like homes. The most notable features of the development, which is comprised of two high-rises and 130 single-family homes for a total of 518 units, are the barrel-shaped roofs on many of the townhomes and the aluminum trim on the facades, which create a decidedly futuristic vibe.

While the design of the project is one draw, many residents have also been attracted by the below-market prices. Some studios sell for south of $100,000, and the townhouses usually sell in the mid-to-upper $300’s (with some particularly nicely renovated townhouses selling in the low $400’s). Right now there are a couple dozen units on the market (you can find more info here).

However, the fee structure of the co-op means that the monthly outlay for owners may not be as low as the prices indicate: co-op fees start at $390 and can get as high as $1,000. The fee covers everything from utilities to property taxes to a full-time maintenance staff, as well as use of a gym, outdoor pool, playground and even a wood and metal shop. While the residents we spoke with felt that the fee was reasonable, some potentials buyers are deterred by high monthly costs like these that don’t contribute to equity.

River Park: A Mid-Century Vision of the 21st Century: Figure 2
River Park entrance

Though development in Southwest is now starting to pick up speed, with The Wharf about a five-minute walk away, River Park was developed at a time when not a lot was going on in the neighborhood. One of the big draws was political as it was one of the first developments in DC to be racially integrated. “In the 60’s, lots of social liberals moved in to show that integrated communities can exist,” resident Ryan Zalaskus told UrbanTurf. Zalaskus lives in a 650 square-foot one-bedroom with views of the Capitol and Nationals Park, and has co-op fees are $596/month.

The racial and socioeconomic diversity remains, as well as the open-minded vibe. “At a board meeting you’ll see young and old, black and white, gay and straight, rich and poor,” Christopher, another resident, told us.

Christopher, who lives in one of the four-bedroom townhouses with his family, was drawn in by the price. “It’s an incredibly affordable way to buy a lot of home if you like modern architecture,” he said. The third floor of his abode is under one of the cool barrel-roofs and has 13-foot ceilings, and the back of the house is essentially all windows. Along with its modern feel, Christopher appreciates the efficient use of every inch. “There is almost no dead space in the house.”

River Park: A Mid-Century Vision of the 21st Century: Figure 3
River Park studio on the market for $90,000.

Unfortunately, the maintenance in the community is not the best, and the slightly deteriorating exteriors detract from the charm of the development, though Christopher tells us that a new management team has been making more of an effort. Some residents also complain that the consequence of the co-op board is a slowly moving community in the midst of a neighborhood that is changing rapidly.

Still, residents like Zalaskus can’t believe the prices, amenities and unique architecture available in a neighborhood with such a bright future. Using an often-used phrase of people that love where they live in this city, he referred to River Park as “DC’s best kept secret.”

See other articles related to: southwest waterfront, southwest, river park, dclofts, co-ops

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/river_park_a_mid_century_vision_of_the_21st_century/5253


  1. Mary said at 9:37 pm on Wednesday March 7, 2012:
    Oh, cool - I'm glad to see a profile of one of my favorite developments in SW. They're really neat units - both the townhouses with the little walled gardens and the apartment units with the screened porches. I'd always wondered why prices are a lot softer than in the other big coops on that street, Tiber Island and Harbour Square. Is it just the deferred maintenance thing and the flat out prohibition on renting out your unit? Because, it sure is a cool and friendly community to walk aronud.
  1. Ryan said at 9:47 pm on Wednesday March 7, 2012:
    Mary - renting is restricted but not flat out prohibited. If you move out of the DC area, you can be approved to rent your unit for up to three years.
  1. RP Resident said at 5:21 pm on Tuesday March 13, 2012:
    I have a 1BR with awesome views of the Capitol and Nats Park, an enclosed patio and lots of closet space. My monthly cost is less than what some of my friends pay per month for a studio in this city and the quality of life is just a good (actually better considering Cantina Marina is two blocks away). The board election is this week, and if some of the newer members get elected, I'm optimistic things at River Park will start to turn around. Having some fresh perspective on the board might also prompt more of the new class of River Parkers to get involved. I know I would reconsider...
  1. River Parker said at 2:55 pm on Friday March 16, 2012:
    Just to give an update on RP Resident's post. River Park just elected three awesome candidates to the board who are committed to making River Park a truly wonderful place to live. I have full faith that they will lead our community very well.
  1. Ex-River Parker said at 9:15 pm on Tuesday May 1, 2012:
    The no-rent policy is a major deterrent for many younger buyers. Last year, they posted notices to owners to evict renters since it was against the rules. They went as far as deactivating the electronic keys for the gate to renters already living in that co-op. The higher than normal condo fees also takes care of property taxes. Other than that, I miss that area and am looking to buy hopefully this year or next. 😃
  1. Matt said at 8:53 pm on Friday May 2, 2014:
    Until you allow owners to rent, even if they don't move out of the DC area, young buyers will continue to be discouraged as the investment opportunity lessens greatly.

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