Compared to DC’s suburban-like neighborhoods in upper Northwest, Michigan Park’s vibe is notably more modest and a bit slower. With a physical newsletter, long-time residents and monasteries all around, the quiet atmosphere of the Northeast DC neighborhood feels like a step back to simpler times. However, those that live in the rarely-mentioned residential area need to be willing to live at a distance from retail, restaurants and mass transit.
Where Is Michigan Park?
For the purposes of this profile, UrbanTurf is covering both Michigan Park and the neighborhood next door, North Michigan Park. Those areas are roughly bounded by the District line to the east, Taylor Street and Michigan Avenue to the south, the railroad tracks and Puerto Rico Avenue to the west, and Galloway Street to the North. While the neighborhood feels set apart from the action in DC, it’s not too far from Hyattsville.
Homogenous Housing Stock
While some are tempted to lump Michigan Park in with nearby Woodridge, Fort Lincoln and Riggs Park — neighborhoods full of bungalows, craftsmans and other rambling homes — Michigan Park actually has a different and very unified housing stock. The oak-lined streets are full of red, boxy, brick colonials. Michigan Park’s homes are on the larger side, while North Michigan Park has smaller homes, some semi-detached. One exception to the homogeneity is Bunker Hill Road, according to real estate agent Laura Bowman Pimentel, which has a couple dozen gems in the mid-century modern style, with big windows, high ceilings and contemporary trimmings. Many were designed by prominent African-American architects like Lewis Giles and Robert Madison.
In the past 12 months, homes in Michigan Park sold on average for $312,000, but the inventory of properties on the market, like the rest of the city, is fairly low. “Only 20 homes have sold in the past year, and only 10 single-family homes are currently on the market in the entire neighborhood,” agent Kymber Menkiti said. “The majority of owners have occupied their homes for 20 or more years and have thoughtfully maintained and updated them over time.”
As a result, it is not a neighborhood full of fixer-uppers. While North Michigan Park has a few distressed properties, most of the homes in Michigan Park are in move-in ready condition, although buyers may want to update the styling. “A lot in these homes often have the original Pepto-Bismol pink or mint green tiles,” said Pimentel.
A Community Bound By a Newsletter
Dedra Owens moved to Michigan Park after spending 11 years in Logan Circle. The yard, ample closet space, finished basement and multiple bedrooms drew Owens to her current home, and the care with which the former owners maintained the house was appealing for sentimental reasons.
“They put so much love into taking care of the house,” said Owens of the past owners, who raised their four children there. “It has its original hardwood floors, and the father made wooden valences for all the windows — I actually have them up in all my bedrooms. At the closing, the father and his daughters cried, not out of sadness, but because of all the wonderful memories they had here.”
Predictably, Michigan Park has a very active civic association; a newsletter is distributed door-to-door on a monthly basis that provides community updates and even lets residents know who might be under the weather. For urbanites used to anonymity, the attention may come as a surprise. “Don’t move here if you don’t want to be part of a community,” warns Owens, who appreciates the watchful eyes. “As a single woman, I feel very safe and know my neighbors keep a close eye on my house when I am traveling for work.”
Sacred Spaces and a Rec Center
Contributing to Michigan’s Park’s quiet atmosphere are the religious institutions in and around the neighborhood. Saint Anselm’s Abbey, a Benedictine monastery, sits on 40 acres of land within Michigan Park, and the Carmelite Sisters have an outpost in North Michigan Park. St. Anselm’s Abbey School and the Washington Jesuit Academy are also in the neighborhood, and Howard University’s School of the Divinity and the Mount St. Sepulchre Franciscan Monastery are just to the south.
The neighborhood recreational center is the one semi-public space in Michigan Park, although strangers are easily identifiable in the tight community. When UrbanTurf stopped by on a weekday afternoon, there were toddlers, grandparents and nannies making use of the jungle gym and other amusements. Like in most of the city, crime can be a problem here. Watchful neighbors help, but car thefts and muggings occur.
Retail Options: Zero
“You pretty much have to have a car here,” said Pimentel. The Metro is a mile away and retail and restaurant options are almost non-existent. There is one strip mall on Michigan Avenue that has a handful of options, including a Dollar Tree, a market and Flip-It, the DC-born diner and bakery.
Nearby Brookland, just to the south of Michigan Avenue, offers an ever-increasing number of taverns, restaurants and activities. Some residents drive to Hyattsville, which is about ten minutes away, for groceries.
The Bottom Line
As Brookland continues to develop, Michigan Park residents will increasingly enjoy the close proximity to burgeoning retail. For home buyers who value a quiet, suburban atmosphere and don’t mind driving, Michigan Park’s brick colonials offer a still-affordable way to raise a family in the District.