New Businesses Spark Change in Historic Ivy City Neighborhood

William Taylor Potter and Ethan Smith

 

WASHINGTON — The Ivy City neighborhood, once known for its abundant warehouses and crumbling streets, is now gaining a reputation for breweries, distilleries and other small businesses.

Over the last several years, Ivy City — a small neighborhood in Northeast D.C. — has seen several new businesses, from a motorcycle shop to a smokehouse, move into its vacant warehouses. With those new businesses, new people have also flooded the area.

“It used to be a segregated community,” said Detrick Ealy, 42. “White, black, hispanic…Now we all get along.”

Ealy, who said he has lived in Ivy City his entire life, said the influx of businesses have changed the neighborhood for the better. He said crime has dropped over the last few years thanks to the redevelopment of the area.

In one part of Ivy City, decrepit houses line broken and narrow streets. Buildings are covered with the ivy that give the neighborhood its name, and many houses of boarded windows. But tall apartment buildings have started to move in, standing high above the short houses.

Alisia Hewitt, 22, who has lived in the area for about three or four years, said many of the houses are starting to get facelifts as well.

“They making the houses and construction better. Like that house right there, they have solar panels on there,” Hewitt said, gesturing to a house across the street.

Blocks away from the residential area is a bustling and growing shopping center. The black brick building is home to a motorcycle shop, a diner, a Nike store and a T.J. Maxx. Across the street on one side is an organic grocery. On the other, one of the area’s many distilleries.

Many of the businesses are small and local, such as the Dunn Lewis motorcycle store and Republic Restoratives, a women-owned distillery. Towering over all of them is the Hecht Warehouse — an old warehouse converted into a high-end apartment building and shopping center. Immediately surrounding the apartment is a Planet Fitness gym and Sip and Dry, a hair salon and cocktail bar hybrid.

The food and drink scene has been Ivy City’s more recent claim to fame. It’s part of the reason why The Washington Post called it “the next cool D.C. neighborhood you have never heard of” in 2015.

In addition to Republic Restoratives, the neighborhood is home to several other breweries and distilleries, such as Atlas Brew Works, New Columbia Distillers and One Eight Distillery. Near the Hecht Warehouse stands two of the neighborhood’s more iconic venues, the City Winery and Ivy City Smokehouse.

Courtney Edwards, who works at the Ivy City Planet Fitness and is the co-founder of D.C. nonprofit Modish Moms, said the neighborhood has changed before her eyes. Her mom used to work at the Hecht Warehouse before it became an apartment complex.

In her capacity with Modish Moms, which provides resources and support for young mothers, Edwards said the Ivy City redevelopment has allowed her to hold more events in the area because of the many available locations.

“It’s everything you need,” Edwards said. “You have the gym, you have your eateries, you have venues.”

 

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