Neighborhood Love: My Move From Connecticut Ave NW to Southwest DC by Johnna Rowe

Johnna Rowe is the author of the great food blog Johnna Knows Good Food.

Living in DC for over 10 years now, I thought I knew everything there was to know about each and every neighborhood. Funny, but I found out just a little over a year ago how little I really know about this town. Having spent many of my years on Connecticut Avenue in the upper Northwest neighborhood of Vann Ness/UDC, I had developed the kind of comfort level that made me never want to leave that area. Quiet, young professionals everywhere and a few Metro stops from work…why would I ever leave?? That was my mindset until I began the house hunt in the District of Columbia.

For a little over a year, I visited every neighborhood in the District looking for my dream home. My journey began with my upper Northwest neighborhood but I soon got a tip to branch out my search to the Southwest quadrant of D.C. My reluctance stepped in because Southwest is still in the transition phases of becoming a more vibrant neighborhood. The minute I stepped in my new place, all of that reluctance went right out the window. Besides the bang for your buck, the neighborhood is close to practically every major destination in the city. The National Mall, The Wharf, Arena Stage and Eastern Market lie right at your fingertips.

There were so many pluses to living on Connecticut Avenue, but I soon found out Southwest has its own handful of wonderful new experiences in store. Offering a quiet, serene vibe where you are literally minutes away from the bustle of Downtown DC, the neighborhood has attracted residents from all cultures and ethnicities. Apparently, someone else sees my vision for this neighborhood because there is a massive renovation plan set in place for the Southwest waterfront in 2013.

At this point, I know I sound like a cheerleader flaunting the SW letters but I am truly in love with this quadrant. Perhaps it’s the nights I am walking from Downtown DC and look up to find The Capitol standing on my left hand side and the Washington Monument on my right. Perhaps it’s the tingly feeling I get when I realize I can walk to a Nats game and avoid the parking or Metro crowds. It could be a host of reasons, but one thing is for sure: I made the right decision.

If you’d like to share some love of your neighborhood – send an email to princeofpetworth(at)gmail with the ‘neighborhood love’ in the subject line.

22 Comment

  • I’m curious to know how long Johnna’s lived in SW and in what part. I shared her sentiments when I moved to SW in 2007, but the crime eventually broke me down. It’s bad enough when you’re being constantly threatened by people loitering by your stoop, and even worse when someone bends your window bars to break into your home. When the officers who responded insisted I must have had drugs in the house (because apparently that’s all people do in that neighborhood), I knew I had to break my lease and get the hell out of there.

    Of course, things have gotten a lot better and you certainly can’t beat the convenient location! At one point I was seriously considering buying in SW, but after my experiences I ended up getting a place near Eastern Market. It’s probably not as good of an investment but I feel much safer there.

    Great food blog, by the way!

    • I have been in SW for about 3 years now (first as a renter, then as an owner), and I haven’t had any of the problems you describe. I’m north and west of the Waterfront Metro, so that probably has something to do with it, but I also follow the crime reports every day for PSA 105, and there is really relatively little crime in the neighborhood as a whole.

      Are there things that could be improved about SW? Sure. But on the whole I also love this neighborhood, and I can’t wait to see what they do with the waterfront redevelopment.

      • It’s very block-by-block in SW. West of the metro is generally very nice, but east of it (especially southeast of it) is truly awful.

        • I also live in SW–was a few blocks due south of the metro and am now 2 blocks north. I agree there is a big divide on 3rd street, where the east side is public housing and the west side is expensive apartments (I know and have visited people in both sides). I don’t walk past third alone at night unless it’s right after a Nats game; not because there is a lot of crime (there is some, but it’s fairly evenly dispersed on both sides of the metro and comprable to most areas close to a metro station) but because there aren’t as many people on the street to intervene or dissuade a criminal.

          With that said, I love SW and feel as safe there as other parts of the city (less safe than when I’m Cathedral Heights, more safe than Columbia Heights). Walking to/from the Mall, Nats games, Arena Stage, etc. is great. People are friendly and there is a nice mix of ethnicities, classes, and ages.

          We may buy in the area (with the hangups that it’s a bit more expensive and with less good schools than other places we’re considering) and if we don’t I’ll be sad to leave…I think SW is a hidden gem and I like living some place most folks don’t visit. I think the neighborhood will only get cooler over the next decade.

  • I’d like to ask Johnna what kind of housing opportunities there are for rentals. Are there apartments that are open to pets (dogs specifically)? How far away is the nearest grocery store to where you live? I live in SE right now, which is great, but dogs aren’t allowed in my apartment complex, unfortunately.

    • I rented a full rowhouse for $1600 a month. We had cats but I think the landlord would have been cool with dogs. Again, this was in 2007 so adjust for rent inflation.

      The Waterfront Safeway is right there and a Harris Teeter is supposed to be coming soon (plus you have the Fish Market for seafood, and Eastern Market’s not too far away).

    • A Safeway is at the corner of 4th and M (right next to the metro stop shown in the photo). Don’t know much about dog friendly rentals (we own), but we have 2 dogs and have found SW to have lots of dogs and be very dog friendly.

    • MsNesbitt

      I lived in a dog-friendly building in SW, about a block and a half from the Safeway and Metro. The building is 350 G Street, and is attached to Potomac Place Towers. Residents get to use all the amenities in PPT, which are plenty since it’s a fairly large complex. I really loved the neighborhood, and I think that if I moved back to DC, it’s the first place I would look.

    • Carrollsburg and Potomac Place are the 2 buildings I’ve lived in. Both are condos where many units are rented out by their owners, and both allow pets (PPC has a cap on how many pets–I think it’s 2 cats or 1 dog). However, individual landlords might not allow pets even if the condo itself does. The main all-rental buildings are Waterfront Towers, Capitol Park Towers, and the View…they advertise very heavily on Craigslist so you’ll have no trouble finding them! I found both of my rentals on CL and have been happy with them too. Prices have definitely gone up. I paid $1200 for a 1br (including utilities, no parking) in 2009 and when I moved out in 2011 the landlord rented it back out for $1450. My current building is a bit newer (it has a gym, washer/dryers in all units, better windows, etc.) and 1brs there are renting in the $1600-1800 range, I think.

    • thanks for all the great info, everyone!

  • As a native DCer, the monuments no longer give me tingles.

    • that’s sad, but i bet when you get older, it will come back to you. this is a very special city. the monuments are a symbol of it.

      don’t let life jade you out of it.

  • Johanna, I loved your post! Congrats on finding a great home in SW – I’m so excited about what is developing in that area. I have had a lot of clients that had similar stories to yours: lived in NW, never left NW (some rarely crossed east of 14th), discovered other quadrants and really fell in love with SW. They still love it! I hope to bump into you at Cantina Marina!

  • I am retired and thinking about moving to SW. Do they have Zoomba classes?

    • There are free Yala dance classes weekly at the Wharf: http://district365.com/yala-dance-workout/ is one guy’s review of them.

      There is a gym in Waterside Towers nonresidents can join but I don’t know if they have classes. Someone was teaching Zumba in the gym at Potomac Place for a while but I don’t know if they still are or if it was only for residents. You’re also not far from the Gold’s in Federal Center SW or the Results in Eastern Market.

  • Ha, made a somewhat similar move–from a condo in Cleveland Park, to SE (near stadium-armory metro), because we got more house for the money. Plus we liked the neighborhood’s diversity. Some trepidation about leaving quiet, safe NW for area with some remaining rough edges but we’ve loved learning a DC we had largely ignored. Good to switch things up.

  • Love your blog!
    This area is still really rough though. I agree with the first post-er.

  • Allison

    Been living here since June and I love it so far!

  • Glad to see all the feedback! To the initial comment, I do live in the “safer” part of SW so I have not had to venture out to the rougher areas where the safer parts i.e. The Wharf, the local Safeway and Nats Stadium have been my centralized social/personal needs areas.

    SW is very much in its developmental stages but it will be the gold mine Chinatown turned into after only recently developing into a social center (Non-Washingtonians, Chinatown was not like it is now 10 years ago).

    The neighborhood is extremely pet friendly, I see many dog walkers on my way too and from work. Additionally, Potomac Place Tower does offer Zumba on Tuesdays and Saturdays, please email me @ johnnaknowsgoodfood@gmail.com if you want additional information on the class contact.

    As in any big city, location is the key. SW is one of those places that is so close to everything but has not been saturated by the same attention other neighborhoods in the city have. If you want someplace on the rise, especially once the ground breaks for the new Waterfront, SW is it.

    Thanks to all for reading this post and my blog!!

    • oh god, i’m going to get slammed for this, but the ‘van’ in ‘van ness’ only has one ‘n’ ;)

    • My sister and I are considering moving behind the ballpark on p st sw. We are a bit concerned about the safety and noise of living there. Any advice?

      Thanks so much,

  • I lived in Waterside Towers ($1,950 for a huge 2 bedroom corner unit). Then I bought a 1960’s town home. I can’t say enough about SW. It’s awesome as is but what it lacks the DC Wharf project will deliver! Restaurants are lacking. A great organic grocery store like Yes! would be awesome.

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