When young people in DC couple up and start a life together, many start looking towards the suburbs for homes that give their families some breathing room. But in recent years, Shepherd Park, a neighborhood with suburb-quality homes, leafy streets, bicycling kids, neighborhood picnics, and a great elementary school, has become an affordable destination within the city borders.
An Interesting Integration Story
Shepherd Park is located at the top of DC’s diamond and is roughly bounded by Eastern Avenue to the north, Georgia Avenue to the east, Fern Street and Alaska Avenue to the south, and 16th Street to the west. Some extend the western border a few blocks further, to Rock Creek Park.
Even for ever-shifting DC, Shepherd Park has had a particularly fascinating integration story. “Shepherd Park’s unofficial slogan is The Garden of Diversity,” Tim Shuy, a neighborhood resident and current president of the Shepherd Park Civic Association, told UrbanTurf.
Originally a largely Protestant community due to covenants that banned Jewish and African-American citizens, in the 1940’s and 50’s Shepherd Park opened its arms to the city’s Jewish population, which, according to the Ohev Shalom National Synagogue website, came to comprise about 80 percent of the neighborhood during those decades. Though many of those families have moved away, the neighborhood still has two active synagogues and a moderate Jewish population.
The next change in population occurred in the late 1950’s and 60’s, when African-American families moved to the neighborhood. Amidst the civil rights activity going on around the nation, an organization called Neighbors Incorporated (NI) aimed to keep Shepherd Park and the surrounding neighborhoods intentionally interracial and to achieve a balance of white and black residents. From an academic paper written by Catholic University:
“The organization saw neighborliness as fulfilling the newly expressed national commitment to racial desegregation. By choosing integrated housing, the NI white families gave up the white privilege of ignoring the racial inequalities created by segregated housing markets; they experienced what could happen in black neighborhoods: city agencies cutting services and public schools declining.”
The area still prides itself on its diversity, and residents speak proudly of having neighbors of all races. Along with ethnic diversity, the community has age diversity, as in recent years, the area has become a favorite destination for young families, who have moved in alongside families that have been there for multiple generations. “My next door neighbors work for the government, two doors down is the Ambassador to Malta, next to them is a family who has owned the home for generations,” Shuy explains.
A Lack of Retail…For a Few More Years
Perhaps because of activist roots, you can still find a lot of civic activity in Shepherd Park. ANC meetings, community meetings and various hearings are full of vocal citizens.
Recently, plenty of civic action has surrounded one of the city’s biggest development stories, which is happening right at Shepherd Park’s southern border: the redevelopment of Walter Reed. The expansive plans on the boards feature 3.1 million square feet of development, including 90 townhomes, 1,864 multifamily units and more than 100 homes for homeless veterans. Retail is also planned, including perhaps a Wegman’s, and the site will have two bilingual charter schools (one Spanish-English, one Chinese-English) and a Howard University ambulatory care center.
Though the retail portion won’t be built for several years, the neighbors have been actively participating in the community meetings surrounding the reuse plan. “A lot of neighbors are involved,” said Shuy. “It’s a unique opportunity to shape the neighborhood character and provide jobs and amenities.”
Until the development is complete (the project will arrive in stages over the coming decades), residents travel to Silver Spring for necessities and occasionally to the shops on Georgia Avenue. Shepherd Park’s relative proximity to downtown DC—compared to the outer suburbs—is a selling point: Shuy and his family actually move to Shepherd Park from the suburbs in order to be closer to the city. That said, the lack of retail may be the biggest reason that Shepherd Park is not talked about as much as other neighborhoods.
Chevy Chase Homes, Shepherd Park Prices
Shepherd Park’s location at the northern point of DC also gives it an interesting “two-world” position—closer in than the suburbs and ruled by the DC government, but still full of large family-friendly homes.
The housing stock and atmosphere is spacious, leafy and family friendly. On streets with names like Iris, Hemlock and Holly, the large single-family homes sit on big lots surrounded by mature trees. Many were built within a short time frame in the 1920’s and 30’s, but they look varied, with brick, stucco and stone facades on Tudors, Colonials and Spanish Haciendas. Most families have at least one car in their garage, though the Silver Spring Metro is within a mile of most homes and bus lines run up 16th Street and Georgia Avenue.
The young families are likely drawn in by one very important factor: a very good elementary school. Shepherd Park Elementary is in the neighborhood and is spoken of highly. Students are also served by San Miguel Middle School and Coolidge High School. A few private schools are nearby as well, including the Lowell School and St. John’s College High School.
The Bottom Line
With a history of intentional diversity and the upcoming development project at Walter Reed, Shepherd Park has the stability and know-how to accommodate change while maintaining the essence that it has had for decades.
- Zip Code: 20012
- Shepherd Park real estate data from Redfin