Are Brookland’s Rising Property Values Starting To Box Some Neighbors In?

There is no doubt that property values in Brookland have been going up in the past few years. While many of us view this as a good thing, there can be downsides for existing homeowners as well. For example, I have noticed that two plots of land that have sat dormant for years were sold recently. While this may not seem like a big deal on its face, I found it interesting because these plots aren’t your typical sprawling Brookland “wow, what a huge yard in the city!” kind of plots; but rather, narrow, smallish properties. I am left wondering what kind of homes can be squeezed onto these properties and how the adjacent homeowners feel about having new construction suddenly go up so close to their homes. In recent years there has been heated discussion in forums such as the Brookland listerv about how to deal with new construction homes. Some call them “McMansions” and “out of step” with the character of Brookland’s housing stock. I see what they mean to a degree. Brookland’s large lots, with a variety of styles of older homes seems to characterize our neighborhood. But I also wonder what people can realistically expect from new construction. I mean, what are developers supposed to build? Exact replica victorian or bungalow style homes? Buyer’s expectations for homes, let alone new homes, are very different that they were just 20 years ago. For example, when I was growing up, most of my friends and neighbors had one or two bathrooms in their homes, which by today’s standard is many times unacceptable.

So, here is the first plot, located  at 3712 13th St NE , which sold in early November for $197,340. As you can see from this DC surveyors report picture (below right), it is pretty narrow and long.

3712 13th St. NE Footprint

We noted the sale of this plot a while back, and now we are starting to see some  activity there. The trees (see picture on the left) were cleared on that property recently, which breaks my heart as a tree lover. I knew it would happen, as you couldn’t build around them, but it is still too bad. This property is especially interesting as sits on quite a slope, so I wondered what type of home will be built given that challenge.

 After passing by again after the trees were felled, I saw that they were doing some serious excavating. I can’t say I blame someone for wanting to build on that property despite its narrow dimensions, as it faces the beautiful (if neglected) Fort  Bunker Hill Park, and the rear of the home could potentially have fantastic views of the Basilica. Plus, that block of 13th Street is pretty nice, with well-maintained homes and mature leafy trees, and short walk to the Metro to boot. Here is a pic of the property taken just a few days ago (right). You can see a black mesh barrier on the right side of the property, and a white cinderblock barrier on the left hand side. We will keep our eyes on this one for sure.

This other plot was recently sold on December 1st for $50,999. Located at 1020 Kearney St. NE, and pictured below, it is also situated nicely, being close to the Metro and 12th St. On this very nice block in Brookland, all the surrounding houses are kept up very well. I suspect a long narrow home would have to be built here. As far as I can guess, this sale was not a welcome event on the block as there was a sign near the property, presumably placed by a neighbor, decrying the sale and development of the land while it was on the market. Almost immediately after the sale, a fence around the property went up. We will keep tabs on this one as well.


3 thoughts on “Are Brookland’s Rising Property Values Starting To Box Some Neighbors In?”

  1. Yes you are correct. It was not well received by neighbors and the way it was acquired wasnt exactly cool either. The word is its was bought by a developer to build and sell. What a shame.

  2. 1. Interesting that people are offering to buy your house! Has that happened to others as well?

    2. In these 2 cases, since the lots were originally zoned and platted for a house, there is absolutely nothing that can be done or should be done except to make sure that the builders are following code etc. If you see them doing something dangerous/stupid, which I hope they don’t, there are authorities that you can call. It’s not uncommon for building projects to have a ‘stop work’ order placed on them while something is checked out. Better safe than sorry.

    3. Given that the population (of DC, the US, the world) is in fact going up, I think it makes more sense to have as many as possible of these new people filling-in inside city or town limits and near public transportation, in a place where we already have roads, rail, bus, sewer, water, gas, schools and electricity available, as well as fire, emergency, and police services to boot. Yes, those services all get a little bit more wear when we get more people, and many of them need a lot of improvement….

    4. …but what’s the alternative? The other way of doing it is to have more and more exurban sprawl. We pave over what used to be cropland and pasture and woods. We build entirely brand-new sewage, water, electric and gas lines where deer and foxes and whatever used to be, every year surrounding DC and every other metropolis with a wider and wider circle of construction devastation, messing up the environment further. And so that every year, the average length of commute and Beltway traffic congestion gets a bit worse.

    5. (As an amateur astronomer, this bugs me in particular, because it’s harder and harder to see the Milky Way or anything else in the sky at night on account of the greater and greater light pollution due to exurban sprawl and poorly-designed, wasteful lighting. When I drive out to our group’s little member-built astro observatory near I-66 at Haymarket VA, it’s often like visiting a vast parking lot when I go anywhere during the EIGHT daily hours of rush-hour… And when I finally arrive, it’s indeed harder and harder to see stuff… Go see to see a really neat interactive map of how far light pollution reaches into the sticks.)

    6. Some countries and some states handle growth a bit differently. I noticed in France that many small towns come to a sudden end, after which it’s all cultivated farmland. Not so in the US! (*) But since we somehow keep making more and more people in the US, I’m more in favor of “infill” than I am of exurban sprawl. I don’t really mind building apartment buildings, as long as it’s well-planned and not too dense for the current neighborhood. One needs a certain density of population in order for brick-and-mortar shops to survive, if they are trying to cater to their local population.

    7. On the fifth hand, we shouldn’t let cities just become concrete jungles. Places like New York’s Central Park make Manhattan more human-friendly. Zoning boards and such do need to make decisions on what to keep green and what to allow to be built on, in ways that any interested citizen can know about in advance and have at least some say on. The 2 plots in questiom are not ones that need to be kept green for any special reason, IMO, and we are talking about new houses for families.

    8. Bottom line, and strictly my opinion: growth is going to continue. Let’s do it smart and not be wasteful: farms and out-of-production farms that are reverting to near-wilderness should be preserved; cities should get denser, in an intelligent way.**

    (*) ps, their suburbs, around large towns and Paris are for the most part godawfully hideous, much worse than ours! No prestige in living in most of those ‘banlieues’, in case you were wondering.
    ** I still don’t think the Franciscan monastery needed that parking lot. Merly nimyism on my part? Perhaps, but I’ve only seen more than 3 cars in it at any one time on ONE occasion so far since it opened (granted I don’t usually drive or walk that way . Waste of money, waste of green. It would have been much smarter of them to actually talk to the neighbors…

    Guy Brandenburg, Washington, DC
    From: Brooklander13
    To: “”
    Cc: Ward 5 Google Groups ;
    Sent: Wednesday, December 26, 2012 12:04 PM
    Subject: [Brookland] More Building in Brookland

    What a shame to learn that this amazing plot of land on Kearny St NE was bought by a developer who is going to build and turn around and sell. Not too happy about the way this deal went down and how it was acquired. There seems to be an epidemic of this nature. Also, not too happy about whats shakin down in our beloved Brookland with people chomping at the bit to build on every square inch they can find. I see developers riding around and have my fair share of notes on my door asking me to sell my home. Not a chance buddy. Go away.


  3. It’s great to see the concern and care that fellow neighbors have about the recent activity of builders and developers. I am the neighbor next to the lot on Kearney St, and I can’t even begin to tell you the headache this property has been since the day we moved in. For over 5 years we have been time and time again let down, and told this and that. Its a long story that gets as crazy, as we once had a man knock on our door saying give me $40,000 cash and “when” I am issued the deed it will be yours.

    I don’t know much about the other property listed but I do know that both are very small and in the case of the one next to my home, there never was a house on it. This was never a vacant lot, simply part of the estate that is my home. My home was originally built as a church directory and the lot was bought for the driveway and parking. From then on it was just the side yard and driveway to the home. A couple years back the whole property was subdivided into 3 sections and sold at tax sale.

    This was the start of my headache, tax sales. The situation with the lot was so crazy and something I was dealing with for years, when at a neighbors child’s birthday party I was talking to some others about the lot. The conversation was overheard by a gentleman that was in the same neighborhood social group and joined in. He told me that this what he does and interested him so he’d like to help out. Surprise, Surprise after me giving him all the information that I had known, he was the one who purchased the lot before it was even on the market for 24 hours. I didn’t even have time to get a call into the bank to make an offer. He called me that day saying “he was chosen as the builder”

    I know exactly who this “family man” as he puts it is and he lives around the corner. I don’t want to get any further into his situation as he has a family that I am not here to deface. But he is a local contractor/developer who does work throughout our neighborhood. They have the quick loan, quick money, to buy these properties and homes before hardworking families and people get to. They have the money and pull to build on land that others can’t, and twist the system. He hired a lawyer to defend his right to build on the property, and is looking to build a house and cash out. I called about every lawyer in the city for help, including the builders. He told me his client has every right to build. Most told me they do not represent home owners only builders and developers and those who did told me it would be $15,000 to $20,000 as an estimated cost. I could not put my family in this kind of financial burden, and was left to just voice my opinion on my own and hope that contractor follows the rules.

    During Thanksgiving break the current fence that stands was built, not only without a permit to build but without a permit to take my fence along the front yard down. I have been on the phone non stop with the city and according to their records he did not have a permit but the city ok’d it any way. I can only imagine what is to come.

    I believe construction has already started on the other lot but next to my home no permits have yet to be submitted. So I will continue to fight to keep my home what it was. To keep my block what it originally was, to keep Brookland what it is that has brought so many of us here and more importantly the reason why we have so many long term residents here. A quiet neighborhood with unique affordable homes, yards, respect for your neighbors, and a community. I want this lot next to my home to stay the yard that my kids and other neighborhood children played in, too keep our block from looking like a block of row homes but what it has looked like for a hundred years.

    Thank your for listening to my concerns, and thank you to those that have stopped by and expressed their feelings. Happy New Year to all!

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