If living in a city means enjoying a walkable neighborhood, having retail and public transportation around the corner, and being able to rent an apartment in a high-rise building, then Friendship Heights meets all those criteria. But despite those attributes, the upper northwest DC neighborhood feels more like a suburb than a bustling urban center.
Upscale With a Slightly Varied Population
Friendship Heights is roughly bounded by River Road to the southwest, Willard Avenue and Western Avenue to the north, 41st Street and Reno Road to the east and Fessenden Street to the south. It sits right at the border of DC and Maryland, and many consider the neighborhood of Friendship Village across the border to be closely connected.
The neighborhood is upscale, with a median household income that exceeds $100,000,according to the Washington, DC Economic Partnership. A mixture of age ranges can be found, from school-age children to empty nesters.
“The neighborhood is full of long-time residents who actively chose to live in DC instead of moving to Maryland and Virginia,” Ricky Lourenco, a DC resident who grew up near Friendship Heights told UrbanTurf. “This means you get a neighborhood of people that truly love the city and have brought the comforts of suburban living to them instead of moving to the suburbs.”
They Come For The Shopping
Most DC residents know Friendship Heights for one thing: shopping. Stretching up Wisconsin Avenue for blocks is the full spectrum of the retail ecosystem, starting with discount retailers to the south and ending with the swankiest of the swanky designer stores just over the Maryland border.
The retail district is anchored by two malls: Mazza Gallerie, which houses Neiman Marcus, Williams Sonoma and an AMC movie theater, and the Chevy Chase Pavillion, home to stores like J. Crew and World Market as well as an Embassy Suites hotel. To the south are T.J. Maxx and Loehmann’s, the fashionistas favorite discount shopping destination. Bloomingdale’s, near the corner of Wisconsin and Western Avenue, marks the beginning of a strip that quickly becomes extremely high-end. Dior, Gucci and Louis Vuitton stores sit just north of the Friendship Heights Metro station, looking slightly untouchable, with the rare customer browsing through sparsely stocked racks.
These national chains are a fairly new development; Friendship used to be home to more mom-and-pop shops, with the larger stores taking over in the past two decades. Recently, some of the chains have closed their doors, including Border’s, Pottery Barn and Filene’s Basement, leaving vacant storefronts.
Overshadowed by the shopping scene, there are a few restaurants along the strip as well. While chain restaurants like The Cheesecake Factory and Maggiano’s exist, popular DC-born staples like Chadwicks, Booeymonger and Rodman’s market (on the edge of Tenleytown and Friendship) have a loyal following. The relatively new Whole Foods on Willard Avenue is now a destination for many residents, and the bulletin board in the eat-in area was recently covered in neighborhood related postings.
People Do Live Here, Too
While bursting with retail, Friendship does have a few streets of detached, single family homes, some townhomes and several tall luxury condo and apartment buildings. The streets in the neighborhood just east of Wisconsin Avenue have a very suburban feel, with kids coming home from school in the afternoons and minivans parked on the street.
The condos are more popular with both young couples and empty nesters who require proximity to the Red Line, but want a quieter experience than neighborhoods closer to downtown offer. A quick look at crime statistics show a smattering of theft incidents and a couple troubling “robbery with gun” events, but the numbers are much lower than the rest of DC.
The houses listed for sale get snapped up fast, according to Juliet Zucker, a real estate agent who covers the area and lives nearby.
“Homes generally go on the market and go under contract very quickly,” Zucker said. “[Residents] may have a smaller footprint, but they have the convenience and are willing to pay for it.” Single family homes generally sell for above $700,000, with prices sometimes reaching up to $2 million. Right now, there are just over a dozen for-sale options, most listed above $900,000.
Several new condo projects joined the neighborhood in the past five years. In 2007, PN Hoffman built the 107-unit Chase Point Condominiums at 5401 Western Avenue. The seven units for sale there now range in price from $484,990 to $1.995 million. The most recent project to deliver was The Harrison, an infill development at 5201 Wisconsin Avenue that went up in late 2010 and sold its 49 units fairly quickly.
Now Owned By Pepco
Late last year, a property at 5220 Wisconsin Avenue NW was sold to Pepco, raising the ire of more than a few residents. Former owner real estate firm Akridge had been planning to build a mixed-use development that would bring 71 apartment units to the neighborhood, but they never started construction and sold the property to the utility company for $14.5 million; since Akridge bought the property for $3.95 million in 2003, perhaps the profit was just too tempting. (The firm had also been facing some opposition from community members who didn’t want a high-rise.) Pepco plans to turn the space into a substation.
Red Line Accessible, But the Traffic is Tough
Between the shoppers, the commuters and the buses, traffic on Wisconsin Avenue can be road-rage inducing. For residents, access to the Red Line is definitely convenient, but traffic can make it feel like less of a cohesive neighborhood. Capital Bikeshare hasn’t made it up to the neighborhood, and the presence of bicyclists in the area is minimal.
The Bottom Line
The overbearing shopping options give the epicenter of Friendship Heights a decidedly sterile feel. However, once off the main drag, the streets are filled with single-family homes, offering a walkable suburb for residents who are willing to pay for it.
- Zip Code: 20016
- Friendship Heights real estate data from Redfin
- Schools: Janney and Lafayette Elementary Schools, Deal Middle School and Wilson High School