DC area ok for Chinese students?
September 28, 2011 10:53 AM   Subscribe

(Passed on from an ESL teacher friend of mine, who got the question from one of her students...) A group of Chinese businessmen will be coming to DC to study at Georgetown. Their company is arranging accommodation on Michigan Ave. NE, and they're 1) worried about safety, and 2) wondering what the area is like.

The Chinese student of a friend of mine has asked her, and she asked me, so now I'm asking you--I've just moved to DC, and unfortunately don't have actual knowledge yet that might help. Thus I throw myself on the mercy of the DC-Mefi subset (and you can bet I'll be asking my own DC questions later)!

This delegation of Chinese businessmen (older than typical college students) is coming to DC to study at Georgetown. Their company is arranging for them to live in the 100 block of Michigan Ave. NE. Their English is not excellent (that's part of what they'll be studying). And like many of her other international students, they're extremely worried about crime and 'bad neighborhoods'. What can I tell them about this area?

I got some crime stats for the address via this handy tool from an earlier question about DC neighborhoods. But while I have the crime score for the specific building/its immediate area, I don't know how to judge it very well. It scored 8 violent crime, 34 property crime, for a total of 42, on the rise from last year. I did compare it to an address said to be very sketchy (also from a previous question here), which scored a 25 violent/72 property/97 total. How else can I contextualize the score?

And really, any impressions of the 100 block of Michigan Ave. NE would be helpful. I'd love to be able to reassure them that it's not such a wretched hive of scum and villainy (or warn them off it, if it is).
posted by theatro to Society & Culture (13 answers total)
Best answer: I wouldn't worry much about safety in that area (though in 7+ recent years in DC I never really felt unsafe in any neighborhood, YMMV) but there's really nothing to do in that area. It's basically a big parking lot for the medical centers and CUA campus. It also isn't particularly convenient to Georgetown's main campus.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 10:57 AM on September 28, 2011

Best answer: I live adjacent to that area, but I wouldn't really call it safe. It is pretty far from the metro, there aren't really any services available, and for someone without any "street smarts" (I have lived in China, and the skills you need to do well in urban settings there are pretty different) I could easily see it working out poorly for them.

If anything I would suggest trying to find them accommodation near Wheaton or Rockville, its a bit desolate out there, but there is a pretty healthy Chinese community, and it should be safer and possibly more affordable.
posted by BobbyDigital at 11:07 AM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Getting to Georgetown is a huge pain. Figure out how to get there first.
posted by k8t at 11:35 AM on September 28, 2011

Best answer: Getting to Georgetown from there won't be very easy, I don't think. Getting to Georgetown is the key, as k8t says. Without a car, I usually take that to meaning getting to Dupont Circle (from there the Circulator or some WMATA routes like the G2 will get you close) or Rosslyn. Moreover, from those stations, you can use the Georgetown bus as well.

And, as BobbyDigital said, neighborhoods like Wheaton or Rockville would probably make them more comfortable when it comes to cuisine and other Chinese culture. Both of those are on the Red Line (which leads to Dupont Circle), though Rockville is much more direct (Wheaton's on the "other" arm of the Red Line).
posted by Fortran at 11:46 AM on September 28, 2011

Best answer: I live not far from 100 Michigan Avenue, Northeast and have for many years. Like all parts of DC crime is present in the Brookland/Catholic U area, but not as much as in other parts of the city, especially the supposedly tonier parts of town like Georgetown or Capitol Hill. I'm not sure where they are going in Georgetown (main campus? law school?), but the H1 bus goes directly from there (via Dupont) to/from Washington Circle in front of GW University Hospital, the same place the Foggy Bottom Metro comes out. Also the Red Line goes straight from both nearby Brookland and Ft. Totten stations.

Having also lived in China, I can say that to me, I wouldn't trade Brookland for the Bund, but to a swinging Chinese businessman it may not be so fabulous. There's definitely not much nightlife. That said it may not look like much, but it is a nice neighborhood!

If it is any consolation to them, Yu Ying, the Chinese emersion charter school is just up the street.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:53 PM on September 28, 2011

Best answer: It's basically a big parking lot for the medical centers and CUA campus.

Actually, if it is the one residential complex on the street that I think it is, it is a secured, gated complex and very seperate from the schools and hospitals in the area (almost restrictively to development in fact grumble, grumble!).
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:57 PM on September 28, 2011

Best answer: I live a few blocks from the corner of North Capitol and Michigan Avenue, and to echo the points of other DC MeFites, transportation would be a bigger concern than crime. If they won't be driving and relying exclusively on public transport, walking, or biking to get around, then I can see that being a big point of frustration, especially if they're concerned about personal safety.
posted by evoque at 1:42 PM on September 28, 2011

Best answer: If anything, that neighborhood's issue is that it's extremely disconnected from the rest of the city. It's sandwiched between a hospital, cemetery, two universities, and a tiny 6-block residential neighborhood (which is similarly isolated). It's hard to get anywhere without a car, and the surrounding roads are all way wider/faster than they really need to be for some reason. There's just not a whole lot of "there" there. .

Also, stay away from crime maps. Crime patterns shift quickly enough that they're a poor metric to judge the relative safety of one area to another. (There are a few exceptions for consistently-dangerous areas, but this neighborhood isn't one of them)

Also, working-class neighborhoods tend to have a higher incidence of acquaintance crime (ie. domestic disturbances), which get lumped into those statistics, but have absolutely no bearing on the actual safety of those neighborhoods. DC's murder statistics are nothing to be proud of, but random killings are extraordinarily rare.

You're far more likely to be hit by a car speeding along Michigan Ave than you are to be a victim of a random crime. Fortunately, uh...the hospital's right there...

I don't even know where you'd go to shop for groceries...I imagine it's a hike (and hopefully not the RI Ave Giant, which is icky).

It's not a wretched hive of scum and villiany, but I wouldn't want to live there.
posted by schmod at 1:45 PM on September 28, 2011

Response by poster: Thank you very much! All of these answers are extremely helpful--they neatly demote the crime-worries and focuses on more important issues, especially regarding the question of transportation. I'll pass it along!
posted by theatro at 4:25 PM on September 28, 2011

Best answer: If they are going to Georgetown their best way of transportation is to just get to the Georgetown University Law Center in between Union Station and Judiciary Square - there is a university shuttle to the campus from there, and it's free for them as students. I believe there are several bus lines that run straight up and down North Capitol St. So take a bus to the Law Center, and then get the Georgetown free shuttle bus straight to campus. The shuttle probably only runs a couple times an hour so it will require some planning to arrive at places on time, but it's not impossible. Also as students I'm sure services at the Law Center campus will be available to them so they may be able to do some things (use computer labs and the gym and such) without going all the way across the city - I am not completely sure about that, but if they are students they can definitely take the shuttle bus.
posted by citron at 5:59 PM on September 28, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks, citron! I've passed that along too.
posted by theatro at 5:41 AM on September 29, 2011

Best answer: There's also the Circulator Bus which goes from the vicinity of Georgetown Law (Union Station) to Georgetown for $1, and runs every 15 minutes or so.

However, it's not a fast trip, and there will still be some walking on the Georgetown end. As you probably know, Georgetown isn't directly served by Metro, and although Foggy Bottom Station is only a few minutes from the eastern end of the Georgetown neighborhood, the University is all the way on the west end of Georgetown.

Google Transit suggests a number of alternate transit routes, each of which takes over an hour, and involves several transfers, which are risky -- although the D6 does indeed take you directly to GU, it doesn't run all that frequently. If your connecting bus gets held up in traffic, you could be stuck waiting half an hour for the next one.

If you're not going to drive, the fastest way (by far) to get to GU from that part of town is by bike. It's about a 5.5mi/35min trip each way, and moderately hilly. Capital Bikeshare doesn't yet serve 100 Michigan Ave particularly well, although that should improve sometime this fall. Be warned that usage fees do kick in for trips longer than 30 minutes.

DC is a bicycle-friendly city, and there are lots of bike lanes throughout town. The east-west routes up by Stronghold and GU aren't the *best,* but they're being worked on in the very near future, and IMO, are perfectly acceptable as they are for 95% of their route.
posted by schmod at 9:28 AM on September 29, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks, all! I marked these all as best answers, because they gave the students a lot of good food for thought, and solid on-the-ground information for them to take back to the people arranging their accommodations.
posted by theatro at 6:26 PM on October 29, 2011

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