Pat Kennedy - Your Washington, DC Real Estate Connection


Figuring Out The Next Great Neighborhood

When I was growing up in Topeka, Kansas, there was a most un-chic neighborhood with a lot of very thin at the elbows Victorian homes.  Most of them were run down boarding houses for students at the local university.  You know!  Peeling paint.  Saggy porches.  All the evils.

Years later, I came back for a high school reunion and my rented car sort of involuntarily turned onto the main street of this formerly funky community. 

And my heart skipped a beat!

The streets were lined with magnificently restored painted ladies, with English gardens in round-abouts at each intersection.  It was enough to make me think about moving back to Topeka, until later that night the tornado sirens went off!  But this place had come from incredible funk to totally hip.

And today, I was pondering - what elements have to be present to create the conditions for a neighborhood transformation? 

  • You have to have great housing stock.  The homes can be run down, but if they have their architectural integrity in tack and good bones, they can be restored.
  • In Washington, many neighborhoods have revived around new subway stops.  Other types of development can have a big impact on residential areas nearby.
  • The less perma-stone the better!
  • My bet is that this kind of transformation is more likely in a neighborhood closer than downtown than one in a far suburb.

And right now I'm looking for this neighborhood in Washington, DC.  It seems like they've all been taken.  Got any ideas?


Comment balloon 15 commentsPatricia Kennedy • April 06 2009 09:17PM


Hi Pat...Ah, that is how wealth in real estate is created. 

Hopefully there is a tiny corner somewhere and you get the scoop on it.


Posted by Kate Elim, Realtor 540-226-1964, Selling Homes & Land a (Dockside Realty) over 11 years ago

Pat - I think you just have to have THAT vision. I agree that the architectural integrity comes into play. Maybe finding out what the chances are that a neighborhoodcould pass for official historical status could get investors thinking of participating in the re-birth to a neighborhood. Good luck with that.    

Posted by Carol Culkin, ReeceNichols, Overland Park Residential Real Estate (ReeceNichols Real Estate) over 11 years ago

Kate, I'm looking for a client and clairvoyance would be a huge help right now!

And Carol, I think you're right about the historic status being a huge help - not to mention the tax breaks.

Posted by Patricia Kennedy, Home in the Capital (RLAH Real Estate) over 11 years ago

Hi Pat... the common thread I have observed in neighborhoods that have come back from extinction are that there is always hidden or tarnished grandeur that can be restored and that attracts the first pioneers back to the area... not to flip houses, but because they want to live in them!

Posted by Steve Shatsky over 11 years ago

Hi Pat!
I can't help you with the neighborhood issue, but we have that neighborhood in Sacramento.  The neighborhood has unusual names...Poverty Ridge and Alkali Flats.  But both have beautiful Victorians or old mansions. They are in historically designated areas so remodeling these homes is carefully overseen.  I agree...if I see one more newly built "Mediterranean", I am going to scream!

Posted by Paula Swayne, Realtor-Land Park, East Sac & Curtis Park -Dunniga (Dunnigan, Realtors, Sacramento (916) 425-9715) over 11 years ago

Hi Pat ~ That was a wonderful surprise! I know in my area transportation is key. We're hoping a proposed extension of the subway line actually materializes.  Sometimes as I drive through the neighborhoods where stops will be located I look at the turn of the century houses and think how beautiful the streets will be when it happens.

Aside from that, at least around here, I have trouble answering the question of where the next place is that will take off.  I figure that if a neighborhood didn't take off during the boom years it's actually one of the more vulnerable neighborhoods in a downturn. That is what's happening in those neighborhoods now. There are certainly great opportunities right now but you have to be prepared for a wait for things to turn around.

Interesting question and great story!


Posted by Elizabeth Bolton, Cambridge MA Realtor (RE/MAX Destiny Real Estate Cambridge, MA) over 11 years ago

Gentrification is the change in an urban area associated with the movement of more affluent individuals into a lower-class area. All of the above mentioned attributes are usually necessary. Good infrastructure, transportation, interesting architecture, historical significance and a once thriving neighborhood either residential or industrial.

Pat, no need for clairvoyance just look for signs of gay men in a run down neighborhood. They come first followed by yuppies then come the developers then come the baby strollers. Then the middle class is priced out of the neighborhood.

Posted by Mitchell J Hall, Lic Associate RE Broker - Manhattan & Brooklyn (Compass) over 11 years ago

Very very true Pat !! I am often surprised while driving through certain areas I remember from years ago, at how spectacular they have become !

For me in my area it's about the proximity to NY City - the surrounding towns keep getting developed and populated so it's spreading to some of the further away towns.

Cheers Pat !


Posted by Sheldon Neal, That British Agent Bergen County NJ (Bergen County, NJ - RE/MAX Real Estate Limited) over 11 years ago

Pat --- great post --- you are so right --- we see this in Charleston all the time. Wish I could help you with Washington, DC ---

Mama Liz's Signature

Posted by Liz Loadholt, Realtor--Broker-in-charge - Trainer--Relocation Director Covering SC (Liz Loadholt- AgentOwned Realty- Covering SC) over 11 years ago

Pat...we've got all kinds of these neighborhoods! From Cabbagetown to Reynoldstown! From East Atlanta to Kirkwood! And of course there is Midtown Atlanta!

On the flip side of that, it's still amazing how many of these areas can still be quite "scrappy!!"

I call them pioneers! Thank goodness I did not live in Christopher Columbus' time....the world would still be flat! LOL!  I'll stick to the established areas!

Posted by Thom Abbott, Midtown Atlanta GA Condos For Sale ( |770.713.1505 | Intown Atlanta GA Condo Living) over 11 years ago

Steve, ah, tarnished grandeur!  Sounds like my house!

Paula, I'm with you on the Mediterranean thing!  But here it's center hall brick colonials.

Elizabeth, you've seen tons of "gentrificaiton" in your area. I love the old homes throughout the Boston area.

Mitch, well du-uh!  So right!

Sheldon, a lot of the DC suburbs have interesting little historic districts.  And they're often surrounded by mid-century boxes which are becoming "historic" in their own right!

Liz, Charleston is on my list of places to see.  I'e seen some amazing photos of the lovely old homes.

Thom and Ray, Cabbagetown!  Where'd they come up with that name?


Posted by Patricia Kennedy, Home in the Capital (RLAH Real Estate) over 11 years ago

Pat - there has to be architectural integrity (often charm) and there also has to be a consistency in the neighborhood.

Posted by Sharon Simms, St. Petersburg FL - CRS CIPS CLHMS RSPS (Coastal Properties Group International - Christie's International) over 11 years ago

Pat, if you need something like that, we have plenty of those in Rhode Island.

Posted by real estate real estate over 11 years ago

What about Webster Street?   I wonder much about SW.  It needs a few things... time will tell.

Posted by James Downing - Metro DC Houses Team REALTORS®, CRS, GRI, ABR,MRP, MilRes, When Looking to Buy or Sell - Make the Right Move (Real Living | At Home) over 11 years ago

Great question!  I've lived in Mt. Pleasant and now Del Ray.  Not sure where to go next.  But one guess is that Potomac Ave. SE could become a nice, walkable, hot spot.  Though it seems to lack the inventory of classic homes you mentioned. And no gay men to speak of as far as I am aware. Where are you looking?

Posted by Shay over 9 years ago