Please convert Chicago neighborhoods to DC equivalents for me
December 19, 2012 10:38 PM   Subscribe

Where in the DC area might I find my kind of community? Would love if you can explain the vibes of DC's neighborhoods in terms of the vibes of Chicago's neighborhoods.

I live in Logan Square in Chicago and have absolutely loved it here since I moved to apt #1 9 years ago (I'm now on #4.) A career opportunity has opened in Washington DC and I am considering making the move, but truly conflicted about finding a neighborhood within the city that offers the same vibe I am used to here.

What I love about Logan Square: the progressive vibe; the Dill Pickle Food Co-op and LS Farmer's Market; proliferation of housing co-ops; deep sense of community; gorgeous boulevards providing lots of green space and a really pretty neighborhood to walk in; the variety of interesting/involved people that live here; funky, vintage apartments (my current building, a housing co-op, is 115 years old and right on the boulevard), and until recently, decent rents.

What I'm meh about Logan Square: the recent influx of young art school hipsters. I'm 43, and I like older hip folks that don't try too hard - just very cool, chill, non-pretentious people, artistic/creative, activists, artists, do-ers, smarties, into out-of-the-ordinary arts (For example, I'm a huge improvised jazz fan - Ken Vandermark, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Frank Rosaly some huge faves), what have you. I have little patience with theorists and pontificators - I really dig people that get their hands dirty and DO things or CREATE community infrastructure.

I've lived in Humbolt Park, at Washtenaw & Evergreen (WAY too sinister for my taste, though that was 10 years ago) and worked in Lakeview/Wrigleyville (hated dodging puddles of puke following home games when I worked late nights), River North near the Merchandise Mart (felt too boutique-y and sort of dead), and the South Loop (it's ok, wish there was more going on/it was a shorter commute than my current 2 trains/45 minutes.)

I like the little shops in Lincoln Square, not so into its proliferation of double wide strollers. Love Hyde Park's beautiful old housing stock, hate the elitist vibe and the inescapable presence of the U of C, though I appreciate its cultural amenities like Doc Films. I love the MCA, Hyde Park Art Center, the Siskel, Green Mill, the Hideout, and the tiny independent arts spaces around the city. I don't hang in Wicker Park as much as I used to when I first got to Chicago.

I've been to DC several times - I love Busboys & Poets, that feels like my kind of folks, and I make it a point to visit there whenever I am in town but have no idea what 'hood that is (14th & V?) From what I have seen I could maybe live in that area (enthusiastically ok with diverse neighborhoods; not ok with unsafe ones.) The two DC metro stops closest to where my office would be are McPherson Square and Metro Center, so it seems that a neighborhood along the blue, orange, or red lines makes the most sense. I don't currently have a car (though that could change once I get there) so I'd like to find a 'hood that's public transit commutable without it being crazy. Have no idea what my salary would be for this gig but let's say after a quick back of the envelope calculation that I would like to keep rent in the range of $1250-1450 if possible. I would want a 1BR and will be living there by myself. Where should I look?
posted by deliciae to Home & Garden (20 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You will have a difficult time finding a 1BR in your price range in the U Street/Busboys area. A studio apartment is more likely. Add about $150 for garage parking, if you plan on having a car.
posted by Nomyte at 10:41 PM on December 19, 2012

LeDroit Park down the road might be more your style and close to U Street. A
posted by parmanparman at 11:31 PM on December 19, 2012

Best answer: You might want to look into Tacoma Park. It's in Maryland, just over the border, and on the Red Line-- it would be a fast commute to Metro Center. City website, farmer's market, parks and gardens. From Wiki:
Takoma Park is known for a variety of cultural events, most notable of which is the Takoma Park Folk Festival, which attracts an audience from across the Mid-Atlantic region.

The Takoma Park Folk Festival is a music festival held annually in the city. It has been in existence since 1978, founded by Sam Abbott, former Mayor of the city and civil-rights activist.[22] In addition to hosting concerts on several stages by musicians from around the world, the festival also celebrates cultural diversity of the region, with a wide variety of ethnic food and crafts.

The festival features numerous varieties of music from local and national artists, including blues, klezmer, bluegrass, Celtic, and hip-hop, and traditional music and dance from around the world. Other performers specialize in traditional and progressive folk music. In addition to music and dance, the festival features traditional storytellers from around the world.[23]

Takoma Park is notable for being the home of Takoma Records, a nationally-known blues label started by blues guitarist John Fahey, who (together with other local music institutions) popularized the city as a haven for folk musicians. Mary Chapin Carpenter, Al Petteway (composer of Sligo Creek) and many other prominent local and national artists have made their home in and around Takoma Park. Root Boy Slim and Goldie Hawn are from Takoma Park.

Other annual festivals include the mildly countercultural Takoma Park Street Festival, the Takoma Jazz Fest, the Takoma Park Independent Film Festival, and the Takoma Park Fourth of July Parade, which is attended by residents and neighboring politicians from across the metropolitan region.[24] The parade typically includes ethnic musical troupes representing a wide variety of global cultures, neighborhood performance troupes, and groups supporting causes, such as LGBTQ and fair trade, reflecting Takoma Park's historic reputation for activism.
There are other DC neighborhoods that would fit your criteria, but with that budget it will be tough to find a 1 bedroom (or even a studio).

I've never lived in Takoma, but it immediately jumped to mind when I read your question. Happy hunting!
posted by charmcityblues at 12:28 AM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

I would suggest Takoma Park as well, but it's not as urban as most of the Chicago neighborhoods I've visited. The neighborhood around Busboys and Poets doesn't really meet what you're talking about very well, although I do like the place itself.

You might consider Bloomingdale DC, which is a bit down the road from there, but I'm not sure it has quite as much going on as you seem to want.

But I would also suggest that there are many neighborhoods here, and you are likely to find one you would like to live in, as long as you let go of your hope that it will mirror where you currently live. In my experience, the people most unhappy in a place are usually those who can't stop comparing it to someplace else.

You may have to adjust your rent hopes upward depending on where you choose to live.
posted by OmieWise at 3:07 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Which is not meant to suggest that you shouldn't look for a neighborhood that you will enjoy for all the reasons you listed, but you may never find one that meets all your criteria in this new place.
posted by OmieWise at 3:43 AM on December 20, 2012

Best answer: Try Columbia Heights or Mt Pleasant. I like Takoma (with a k), but they're much more urban and diverse and younger.

Bloomingdale and Eckington (basically the area centered around North Capitol and Rhode Island) is definitely up and coming, still a ways to go in terms of some of the amenities you're looking for, but close enough to U to be worth considering.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 5:18 AM on December 20, 2012

I have to agree with some folks above who are saying Takoma's about what you're describing (it's basically on the border with Maryland, in case some of the above comments were confusing).

You may want to up your rent budget, though. Even a studio in that range is going to be dicey.

Might want to start following some of the local blogs to get a feel for the town - Prince of Petworth is usually good start.
posted by General Malaise at 6:12 AM on December 20, 2012

I've lived in Mt. Pleasant for almost 14 years - while we're a leafy, walkable, and generally friendly neighborhood, cheap rents, racial and economic diversity, co-op/group houses, and progressive values are quickly being scrubbed away by gentrification. This is true of Columbia Heights and Petworth as well. Takoma DC is worth investigating, but there is very little affordable housing on the Maryland side.

Mount Rainier, MD and Cottage City, MD, which are just over the District line, are worth looking at seriously - a great food co-op, a small but vibrant arts scene (thanks to community stalwarts like Joe's Movement Emporium), lots of group houses and NGO/non-profit/arts folks who have been priced out Mt. P., Takoma, and elsewhere, and still affordable. If you don't mind taking the bus, both neighborhoods are about a 15 minute ride from Metro's Rhode Island Avenue (Red line) and West Hyattsville (Green line) stations.
posted by ryanshepard at 6:21 AM on December 20, 2012

Might be a stretch, but Tenleytown could work. You'd have to check it out to be sure. Could be pricey, not sure of the current rental scene.
posted by Citrus at 8:09 AM on December 20, 2012

Best answer: Having lived in both Chicago and DC, I would also recommend Mt. Pleasant and Columbia Heights as being similar to Logan Square, and I would also add Petworth to that list. If you go to the suburbs it's much less neighborhood-y and much more, well, suburb-y.

Keep in mind that DC is not the same as Chicago. For one thing it's much smaller, and the cost of living is higher, at least in the neighborhoods that we're talking about. Put those together and I think it's hard to find the authentic things you like without the pretentious things you're meh about. That being said, DC can be a very fun place to live if you embrace it for what it is.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 8:27 AM on December 20, 2012

You might also want to check out the H Street neighborhood (H st. NE from 9th to 15th-ish), although it can be a pain to get to and from.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 8:29 AM on December 20, 2012

Above comments have covered the basics. You might also find this neighborhood guide from the City Paper useful, though it's a few years old and only covers DC (so excludes Takoma Park MD and Mt. Rainier). And the neighborhood blog directory. C
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 8:32 AM on December 20, 2012

Might be a stretch, but Tenleytown could work. You'd have to check it out to be sure. Could be pricey, not sure of the current rental scene

The OP wants current, informed local knowledge - Tenleytown is neither affordable or anything like the Chicago neighborhoods she is describing.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:40 AM on December 20, 2012

From what I have seen I could maybe live in that area (enthusiastically ok with diverse neighborhoods; not ok with unsafe ones.)

Based on what I have heard from people that have lived in U street for a while, stuff like robberies and muggings have actually gone up since it's started gentrifying. A lot of people from outside of the neighborhood are moving in with lots of money and not very much street sense.
posted by empath at 8:53 AM on December 20, 2012

Best answer: Busboys is a franchise. The one on 14th is actually near the Lancaster Farms store where you can get your artisinal pickles but the midcity/U Street area otherwise doesn't sound like your speed. Conspicuously missing from suggestions here is Eastern Market -- affordability will be a trick but I don't think it's impossible and it clicks on all of your other points. I will second Takoma Park, and Mt Pleasant (although the cute groceries in MP are Latino bodega-y places, not co-ops). I live in Adams Morgan for the late night falafel but I aspire to live in Mount Pleasant for the pleasantness.

Atlas District/H Street and Columbia Heights have the worst gentrification pains in the city. The border of Adams Morgan and Dupont might also be your speed. Rent rates are super depressing. You could get a 1 BR for your budget in 2009 when I moved here but rent goes up every year and I recently helped a friend apartment search and it was all studios. Sigh.

The DC side of Chevy Chase is also missing from suggestions. It has an old fogey vibe on the surface that renders it hipster proof, but there are some gems: Broad Branch Market, Avalon Theater, Magruders grocery, and a hop, skip and a jump from Politics and Prose. None of Chevy Chase is that dense, though.
posted by Skwirl at 9:13 AM on December 20, 2012

Best answer: For example, I'm a huge improvised jazz fan - Ken Vandermark, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Frank Rosaly some huge faves.

I recommend getting on the dc-improv-announce mailing list - it's largely below the radar, but between DC and Baltimore, there's a pretty rich improvised music scene around here.

I have little patience with theorists and pontificators - I really dig people that get their hands dirty and DO things or CREATE community infrastructure.

Some projects to look into (there are lots of others, too):

Knowledge Commons DC
Anacostia Watershed Society
The Bike House
DC Dance Collective
DC Writers Group
Wangari Gardens
We Are Family
Sierra Club DC (very active chapter, lots of work on environmental justice issues)
posted by ryanshepard at 12:03 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nthing Takoma Park. Sounds exactly like what you're looking for, and you should be able find something in your price range fairly easily.
posted by jaksemas at 10:40 PM on December 20, 2012

Uhh I like Tacoma Park and grew up near it, but it's really nothing like what you're looking for and is way outside the city. It's not a city neighborhood at all--it is a suburb.

Anyway, Columbia Heights is cool as is Mt. Pleasant and Petworth, though those have lots of hipsters, but if you're interested in cute, quiet, and cheaper for 1 bedrooms I must suggest Southeast Capitol hill (as I've done on askme many times). Especially around (my namesake) Potomac Avenue station stop, and the Barracks Row neighborhood. Not the hippest part of town, but really great and lots of fun, near many parks and activities and rich communities of diverse folks and you can get a fantastic 1bedroom for well within your price range.

If you can afford it, Dupont Circle is lovely (or further south down to Logan Circle). Cheaper is Bloomingdale or Ledroit Park near Howard, though those have limited (but growing) cool shit to do they are relatively close to everything. But seriously, I didn't name myself this for nothing--check out Potomac Ave.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:50 AM on December 21, 2012

Best answer: A friend of mine has lived in the Capitol Hill neighborhood near Lincoln Park for several years and really likes it.

That neighborhood used to be rough -- you'll see bars on some windows and doors, left over from rougher days. But it's no longer that way. I feel quite safe walking with my friend at night. (Both of us are women, for reference.)

Once you get north of Lincoln Park, it's a long walk to the metro for a daily commute. However, there are buses. And there is also the option of commuting by bike, which is what my friend does. She cycles every day down to the other end of the Mall. Takes her maybe 20-30 minutes. She is happily car-free.

It's a chill neighborhood with diverse people going about their daily lives, not trying to be super-hip or trendy, but still a sense of being part of a community rather than suburban detachment. Not super studenty. Lots of old, pretty row houses and trees. Bunch of chill places to go eat and drink around Eastern Market and up on H St.

It seems like the kind of feel you're going for, and it also seems like rents are at least in shouting distance of your range. (Obviously, the closer you are to the metro, the more expensive.)
posted by snowmentality at 12:44 PM on December 21, 2012

Anyway, Columbia Heights is cool as is Mt. Pleasant and Petworth, though those have lots of hipsters.

Do we even live in the same city?
posted by ryanshepard at 10:30 AM on December 23, 2012

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