DC Alleys, Something Old Becomes Something New Again

Posted by Andre Perez on Tuesday, May 28th, 2013 at 5:41pm.

DC Alleys, Something Old Becomes Something New Again

The redevelopment of DC's alleyways has become a hot button topic in recent years. With available space at a premium, it only makes sense that city planners and developers would start taking a harder look at the many available spaces that exist just slightly off the beaten path. Often abandoned and in a state of neglect, there are numerous small warehouses, former factories and old livery stables that could be put to better use.

It's already happening. In Logan Circle, an old livery was recently repurposed as Fennessy Lofts. In a similar vein, Naylor Court Stables in Shaw offers three townhomes in the seven-figure range. For those who think the idea of converted stables is just a designer-driven novelty act, consider this – DC began as a horse and buggy city and alleys were filled with structures that by practical purpose, served those who worked and lived on the main roads.

Stables lost their appeal during the 20th century of course but the zoning code created in 1958 posed redevelopment challenges – alleys had to be 30-feet wide to qualify for residential building permits. And so, old abandoned buildings remained old and abandoned. It wasn't just stables and blacksmiths of course. Bakeries, mechanic garages and industrial spaces have existed off 15-foot alleys for years. Recently, the Office of Planning began an extensive survey of DC's historic alleys as part of a four-year effort to rewrite existing code.

While current restrictions are still on the books, entrepreneurs are finding ways to put alley space to good use. Cady's Alley is a hip new retail and residential redevelopment community on both sides of a cobblestone alley in the heart of Georgetown. There has also a grassroots organization run by longtime alley residents, the DC Alley Dweller's Association (DADA), committed to a safer and better way of living off the gird.

When it comes to DC alleys, something old is indeed becoming something new again. This isn't experimental or a far-off pipe dream, but a move toward expanding and using existing space. Its proponents include developers, city officials and ordinary residents. The movement is here to stay.

Andre Perez | District One Properties LLC | Realtor/Agent/Owner

1305 Leslie Ave, Alkexandria, VA 22301

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