Condominiums Will Bring New Life to D.C. Neighborhoods

The sight of new condominium properties in many neighborhoods of Washington, D.C. worries some, but others see the new dwellings as evidence of long overdue renewal that will bring both economic and social revival to the communities.

Construction cranes are in the skylines of the city from Petworth in Northwest to Capitol View in Southeast. “Coming Soon” banners and signs advertise these luxurious dwellings, some that stand out oddly in neighborhoods where crime and violence are not uncommon.

Some new dwellings boast great views and almost all promise wonderful amenities. Developers of the Jefferson Condos, located at 9th Street and Jefferson in Northwest, assure potential buyers that the location is in “a community with exciting changes on the way” on their website. About a block east, on Georgia Avenue sits the Macombo Lounge, an exotic dance club. About half a block west from the condos is a utility pole surrounded by burned candles and empty liquor bottles to commemorate the slaying of a young boy three years ago, whose photograph remains affixed to the pole.

Betty Tait, of DCRealEstate.com, who is handling the sales of Jefferson Condos, believes that the neighborhood is “moving in the right direction.” According to Tait, the community will see more Mom and Pop stores and other retail that will not only help boost the life of the area, but will also open up some opportunities for small business ownership.

The Lofts at Brightwood, located at the corner of Georgia and Missouri Avenues, are also meant to help bring prosperity to the neighborhood.

However, Marquis Marshall, 23, of Northwest does not see it that way. “They [are] really building D.C. up for these white folks,” Marshall said, convinced that blacks are being forced from their neighborhoods to accommodate developing condo properties.

Gerard DiRuggiero, a broker and managing member of UrbanLand Company, which handles the sales of the Lofts at Brightwood, disagrees.

DiRuggiero said that the properties his company has handled, including the Lofts at Brightwood, are areas that have been vacant or commercially zoned. He said there has not been an instance, in his experience, where residents were pushed out of the community.

The site of the Lofts was once a nightclub called Ibex, which was immediately closed following a shooting that ended in the death of a police officer outside of the club in 1997. So, DiRuggiero said he sees no wrong in the acquisition of that property for “positive residential development.”

According to DiRuggiero, this development will bring “new life” to the community and anyone who owns in the area will enjoy higher property values as a result.

Tait and DiRuggiero share the belief that the emergence of these condo projects, at a time when interest rates are so low, affords first-time buyers an opportunity to participate in the market.

Condominium properties such as Jefferson Condos and the Lofts at Brightwood are popular among young professionals and recent college graduates, according to Tait and Buwa Binitie, Development Manager of the Lofts at Brightwood.

Binite said that 16 of the 32 units at the Lofts at Brightwood have been sold or are under contract and that the units have been selling well at their original prices from the low $200,000s to low $400,000s.

“A mix of renters and owners is a good thing, because condo owners will hopefully be more involved in increasing the vitality [of the community],” Binite said.