DC's Living in a Youth Quake

Text and Photos for the Wall St. Journal's OWN Magazine

Start fanning yourselves, dowdy old Washington has burst into paradise found for the young and hip, a multiculti kaleidoscope of sound, color, food ...and cool. 

14TH AND U - Logan Circle

Studio Theater bustles, Whole Foods is packed, nouveau Audrey Tautous skirt by on candy colored Vespas, and black clad hipsters loll at the sidewalk cafes. Restaurants like Le Diplomate are nearly impossible to get into.

Meet DC's epicenter of cool.

At the exceedingly popular restaurant/bookstore/performance space Bus Boys and Poets, north of U Street, 20 and 30-somethings parallel play on laptops at communal tables, while others subtly browse the mating possibilities along with the books. The rest head straight for the bar and cushy sofas in the lounge.

The turf south of U is fast displacing Georgetown as design central for both the haute and hot, combining Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams gloss with treasure hunts like Miss Pixie's--for furnishing one's first loft.  The Washington Design Center will seal the deal when it slinks into its new space at the end of this year.

Poodles now prance about what was recently the purlieu of prostitutes; once seedy town homes and derelict mansions around Logan Circle are among the most coveted houses in the city. These mingle with pre-war and new condos sproinging terraces, with prices that range from around $200,000 for a studio in an older building, to the million range for a home that's, as they say, livable.  

Adams Morgan

Riotously colorful and mural bedecked, Adams Morgan boasts hookah bars, tattoo parlors, botanicas (for your basic spells), and fortune tellers, coupled with coffee shops, dive bars, and 100 or so high and low end restaurants of every ethnicity, some possibly invented.

This place is positively raucous on weekends, with partiers jostling the sidewalks and jamming the pubs and clubs, music crashing the air. 

(Just step aside for the Secret Service, ear pieces in tight, clearing the way for the president to dine at three star Mintwood Place, where the wood-grilled swordfish will set him back $34. Pull up a chair across the street at El Rincon and enjoy this bit of Washington dinner theater. It goes well with Dos Equis and Zarzuela De Mariscos ($14).)

The homes and condos around here are mostly large, Victorian, and elegant. A small studio, should you be so lucky, runs around $350,000.  If you're handy, there might be a house to tackle for under a million.

Developers are banking big time on this 25 block area north of Massachusetts Avenue and Union Station, with a billion bucks, give or take, invested in hotel, office, residential and retail space.
Convenient to everywhere, thanks to two METRO stops, Amtrak, the now ubiquitous bike share racks, and the 8-mile Metropolitan Branch Bike trail that runs from here to Silver Spring.

Food for thought is newly refurbished Union Market, near Gallaudet University, with its wine bars, polished radishes, and summer movies in the parking lot. It's part of a warehouse warren that includes premier Italian market, A. Litteri, cases filled with fresh mozzarella, pastas, and a fantastico array of imported olive oils and vinegars with display worthy labels to jazz up a kitchen. 

There's a smattering of town homes and condos, and some grand Victorians on adjacent streets, but most apartments in NoMa are rentals with an aggregate of amenities unlike any others in the city: roof top pools, club and party rooms with kitchens, hang out lobbies, private screening rooms for films, even self-service dog salons and, in at least one instance, a rehearsal studio for musicians.
Still a relative bargain to buy in, $550,000 scores a condo in a new high rise or a townhouse fixer-upper on a tree-lined side street.

Capitol Hill

Hill central is Eastern Market, the grand daddy of Farmer's Markets, offering everything from fresh sausage to flowers throughout the week. Weekends take on a carnival atmosphere with farmers and food trucks, and a mad mix of Polish pottery, Hawaiian shirts, French posters, and beaded Tibetan jewelry.

The flip flop and stiletto set mingle on the roof-top patio of Pacifico, overlooking the action on 8th Street, also known as Barracks Row. Dozens of bars and restaurants have sprouted here and along Pennsylvania Avenue in recent years, including one that sells only rarefied hot dogs, and a sweetery with chronic lines of pre-diabetics out the door.  

The streets are lined with Victorian-era row houses, some so small the living room is a mere arm span, and others towering four stories featuring roof decks and backyard pools. Cleverly converted churches and schools with lofty ceilings provide most of the condo stock.

Few leave the Hill once entrenched. Start with a condo, move to a house, a bigger house, back down to a condo and then off to tighter quarters at Congressional Cemetery-- Motto, we kid you not, "The cheapest rent on Capitol Hill," to rub coffins with J. Edgar.  Houses start at about $700,000 in the historic district, $350,000 for a condo.

The Atlas District
On the Hill's north side, the Atlas District includes the eponymous theater and arts center on H Street, art galleries, and some of the city's liveliest restaurants and night spots--all one offs like the Rock 'n Roll Hotel and Granville Moore's, where the blue cheese mussels that beat chef Bobby Flay in a throw-down a few years back requires a several hour wait at the bar for a table. 

Neat porch front homes with pocket gardens dominate the housing. The south side of H Street, as it heads for the Hill, is pricier than the north where single family homes start at around $500,000 and condos average $350,000.

Coming down the pike: a trolley line trundling residents and visitors to and from Union Station and METRO opens at the end of this year.

Hop off METRO at the Navy Yard Station and swing over to the Hill's south side, where the Trapeze School of New York maintains a high flying branch and Washington National's Stadium recently hosted Paul McCartney.  A soccer stadium for DC United is on the drawing boards.

Watch for stratospheric growth with the opening of the Boilermaker Shops and the Lumber Shed, two historic glass pavilions repurposed to include a fitness center, Harris Teeter, and a dozen or so youth centric  restaurants and pubs, including Osteria Morini, Nando's Peri Peri, and the Blue Jacket Brew Pub, a new venture by the owners of U Street's James Beard award winning Birch and Barley.

Spiffy town houses with stellar river views start at about $550,000, terraced condos at around $300,000. Residents are in strolling distance of the beautiful new Riverwalk, the Capitol, and the hubbub of the Hill's Barracks Row.

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