Sales in D.C. continue to shatter records, both in the quantity and value of homes purchased, but also in the unbelievably low level of inventory of available properties. Some neighborhoods, like Georgetown, Dupont Circle and Logan Circle, have maintained this record for years—to the delight of sellers and the detriment of buyers. But one neighborhood in particular has become the newest epicenter of D.C.’s meteoric real estate shift: Shaw.
Shaw, an area that serves as an umbrella for smaller enclaves like Mount Vernon Triangle, Blagden Alley and the U-Street Corridor, was named for Union Civil War Colonel Robert Gould Shaw of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. The area was developed originally by freed slaves and was known as “Uptown” as it was then in the uppermost part of the federal city of Washington, within the larger District of Columbia (interestingly, Florida Avenue was then called Boundary Street because it was the upper limit of the city). The spirit of Shaw reached a high during the “Harlem Renaissance” of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a time when African-American culture blossomed with famous authors, poets, musicians and entertainers. Langston Hughes and Duke Ellington, two of the period’s most notable contributors, grew up in the neighborhood.
After a period of decline following the riots in 1968, the neighborhood has begun to flourish again. This is thanks to several factors: diminished inventory throughout the city, redevelopment of local landmarks like the Howard Theatre, creation of many large housing projects, and improvements in general infrastructure. But even as the area changes, a pervasive spirit continues to imbue Shaw with a special flavor all its own.
While the area was originally the uppermost limit of the city, it’s now considered to be at the heart of it all. Close to the geographic center of the District, it has three Metro stations and countless restaurants, bars and other entertainment venues. Two historic theaters and the O-Street Northern Market (which was originally similar to Capitol Hill’s Eastern Market) have been redeveloped within its bounds. Victorian row homes of every shape and size exist next to brand-new condominiums, and pop-up structures (like them or not) have also shaped the look of the neighborhood. In short, it’s a haven for diversity at the center of everything D.C.
The sales statistics reflect the renewed focus on Shaw. Shaw’s median sale price in the first quarter of 2015 was up more than 15 percent while the city as a whole was only up 5 percent. That same quarter Logan Circle was actually down 28.3 percent and Dupont/Adams Morgan was down 10 percent too. On the whole, the values are changing in Shaw faster than any other part of the city at the moment, with some units already selling at more than $1,000 per square foot.
Washington’s real estate trend has been ongoing for more than a decade, with only a brief and slight slowdown following the mortgage crisis that started in 2008. Unlike the rest of the country, and even unlike the rest of the region, home values exceeded their peak values of 2007 in 2010 in Washington. Most of the rest of the area has still not reached those peaks yet, even eight years later.
Shaw takes it a step further, increasing in median home value 28 percent since 2005. The median sale price in the neighborhood is now just about $600,000, compared to Washington’s $521,000. If trends continue, the neighborhood, recently thought of as only boarded-up homes and unkempt yards, may be as expensive as Georgetown. With the history, diversity and central location of the neighborhood, perhaps it ought to be.
David Bediz is an 11-year veteran Realtor and the leader of the Bediz Group, LLC at Keller Williams Capital Properties. He serves on the board of directors for both DCAR and GCAAR, the local- and state-level Realtor associations, and Bediz Group was chosen as Best of Gay DC this year. Reach him at 202-642-1616 or through Bediz.com.