Neighborhood Profile: Columbia Heights

The Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, DC is the city’s model for urban revitalization.  With more than half a billion dollars of development since Metro’s arrival in 1999, the city is attempting to maintain diversity and affordability, while attracting new business and residents.  If the increased foot traffic since the opening of DC USA, the city’s largest retail complex, is any indication then the investment has paid off. 

Columbia Heights Real Estate
There is a complete menu of real estate options in Columbia Heights, from affordable to luxury; fixer-upper to renovated; and historic to modern—sometimes all within the same block.

Real estate values vary widely, with new and renovated properties near the 14th Street retail and Metro station commanding the most. Prices range from $140,000 for a studio to over $700,000 for some of the new, luxury condominiums.  Townhomes range from the upper $100’s to over $1M.

Columbia Heights is a very walkable community with a Walk Score™ of 77 out of 100.  Fourteenth street boasts big box retail, national chains, a health club, grocery store and a number of restaurants that attract residents from adjacent neighborhoods.  With a few notable exceptions like Coopers Hardware on 14th, the local businesses are being drawn to 11th Street where Columbia Heights Coffee and Wonderland Ballroom made pioneering investments.

One indication of the walkability and “smart growth” success of the neighborhood is a trip to the city-owned parking garage under the shopping center, where 80% of the 1,000 spaces go unused on any given day as shoppers rely on Metro, bicycles and their walking shoes.  The latest neighborhood news is chronicled by Columbia Heights News.

History of Columbia Heights
Originally located outside the City of Washington and the site of a horse track, Columbia Heights was first developed after the Civil War.  The advent of the streetcar along 14th Street in the early 1900’s provided 20 minute access to downtown and lead to the “suburbanization” and rapid popularity of Columbia Heights.  Renowned Washington developer, Harry Wardman, built 650 rowhouses in the neighborhood between 1902 and 1913.

The construction of several large apartment buildings increased the population density and 14th Street developed into a bustling center of shopping and culture with multiple five-and-dimes and theaters. 

Riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr in 1968 devastated Columbia Heights leaving vacant lots along 14th Street where shops, restaurants and nightlife had flourished.  The Tivoli Theatre, which was completed in 1924, is one of the few remaining landmarks.

It took nearly 40 years, but the retail and commercial hub has finally returned to 14th Street, spurred by the opening of Metro’s green line in 1999 and culminating in the opening of DC USA in the Spring of 2008.  The population density is also on the rise again with construction of a number of large condominium and apartment buildings.

Columbia Heights is defined by 16th Street to the west; Spring Road to the north; Georgia Avenue to the east; and Florida Avenue to the south.

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