American University Park (AU Park) is one of a handful of DC neighborhoods that are about as suburban as you can get and still be within the city’s borders. It is very residential (except for a short stretch of shops and restaurants along Wisconsin Avenue), largely populated by families and senior citizens and it boasts some of the best public schools in DC.
Residents say there really isn’t much to complain about—not even the type of neighborhood controversy that can erupt in higher-end city enclaves and clog listservs for weeks. As a result, though, the area is in such demand that houses on the market move pretty quickly.
Homes, Homes, Homes
While near American University, few of the college’s buildings are actually sited in AU Park. Located just west of Tenleytown, the neighborhood is bounded by Massachusetts Avenue to the southwest, Nebraska Avenue to the southeast, Wisconsin Avenue to the northeast, and Western Avenue to the northwest.
Although shopping zones lie to the northeast and southwest, the center of AU Park is completely free of commerce. It consists simply of street after street of well-manicured lawns and cute homes that are linked by back alleys. Unlike Chevy Chase DC, the residential architecture of AU Park isn’t particularly varied; probably three-quarters of the houses are center hall Colonials.
Still, the area’s housing values rose precipitously in the past decade, said Jamie Koppersmith, a real estate agent with Century 21 Redwood Realty, who also lives in the neighborhood. These days, the average property goes for close to $1 million, though smaller homes that haven’t been recently renovated might sell for $750,000 or $800,000.
DC’s Movers and Shakers
One thing that distinguishes AU Park from nearby areas like Spring Valley is the relatively small size of its lots, few of which come with driveways. As a result, the homes are fairly close to one another—and that lends a sense of closeness and safety, said Koppersmith. “People park out front, and it makes it more of a neighborhood,” he explained. “I wave to people all the time.”
The community vibe is an inevitable byproduct of the many young families in the area, who say they bond over school issues and watching their kids play in the park. Residents rave about the area’s public schools—Janney Elementary, Deal Middle, and Wilson High, all of which have just undergone major renovations—as well as large green spaces like Turtle Park.
DC’s intelligentsia (lawyers, professors, think tank analysts, World Bank employees, journalists, and federal workers) are represented well in AU Park. Many have lived in the District for years and moved to AU Park from places like Dupont Circle or Capitol Hill. The result is a super-educated, super-engaged population that keeps up with local, and even hyper-local, politics.
Retail Options Within Walking Distance, But Metro Close By
Two sides of the rough diamond shape that defines the neighborhood are lined with stores. The Spring Valley Shopping Center, a small strip mall, sits on Massachusetts Avenue; it holds the beloved Wagshals market and deli, a couple of coffee shops, a few banks, a CVS, and a Thai restaurant.
More shopping and eating options lie along Wisconsin Avenue, including Pete’s Apizza, which Koppersmith described as “a key neighborhood hangout,” as well as establishments like Matisse Restaurant and Public Bar. To the north is Friendship Heights, which offers a slightly more upscale, somewhat more corporate set of dining and gathering spots.
The Bottom Line
AU Park has a low-key, quiet and what some might consider boring, profile. But for those who live there—or would like to move in—it’s got a peaceful, community-oriented vibe that’s ideal for families, with urban amenities a stroll or quick Metro ride away.