When one searches for Hill East on Google, the third result the search engine spits out is an article from 2010 about development in the neighborhood scaling back.
That Washington Business Journal article focuses on the stalled grandiose plans for the parcels around RFK Stadium, which envision a town center-style future atop the prime real estate. That rebirth is currently held up by numerous factors, including D.C. United’s stadiumsearch and indecision about what to do with the stadium. So while some previous Washington General Hospital land was recently cleared, the article is spot-on. Really nothing doing in that part of the neighborhood.
But closer in on 15th Street, right on the border with Capitol Hill, the neighborhood is quietly getting more dense and my wishing/hoping for progress on the perpetual construction site of the future Crepes on the Corner is even reaching completion ( see ground-floor of the picture to the left).
There is no better example than the rapid transformation of two lots at 15th and Constitution NE — blink and you missed it. I have lived a couple blocks from this spot for nearly eight months and have been shocked at how quickly I saw a four-story modern mid-rise apartment complex sprout out of the shells of a couple of old stores. Consider the most recent Google Streetview on the right, hard evidence of what this corner looked like about six months ago. Then one day a construction crew showed up and got right to work.
I have written previously that this low-key one-way street for cars and bicycles functions as the neighborhood’s commercial spine — speckled with unfortunately a lot of crappy corner stores right now, though I still find crappy stores more useful than no stores when I need a Sunday sixer or an individually resold stick of butter for $1 (thanks D.C. Express Market!). But 15th Street is also evolving organically, with a nice chunk of new buildings gradually rising and even the Express Market undergoing heavy renovation (the jury is still out on if that means a better store).
If the development near the stadium ever does proceed, it will be an interesting contrast to the heart of Hill East’s plodding pace of new construction andr efurbishing. For someone like me, new to the neighborhood, the handful of modern, taller buildings at 15th and C SE which are depicted throughout this post were here before I moved in and are as familiar a part of greater Capitol Hill as are the 100-year-old rowhouses that dwell in the structures’ shadow. The same will soon go for the sleek building off Constitution, just another in the gradual changes taking place all over even the city’s sleepier neighborhoods, which are constantly being reinvented before our very eyes. You just need to know where to look.