I Moved to an Under-Construction Neighborhood in D.C., and Now I Can’t Picture Myself Anywhere Else

published Feb 14, 2020
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Dear Navy Yard, 

Where has all the time gone? In October, we’ll celebrate our fifth year together. When we first met back in 2015, I was at a completely different stage of my life. My then-boyfriend, Kent, had accepted a job in Washington, D.C., a place we knew little about. He and I had just a few weeks to pack up our lives, find an apartment, and make a new neighborhood our new home. Little did I know at the time, that you would end up being the backdrop for one of the most significant moments of my life.

It was complete randomness—mixed with a bit of luck—that brought you to us. Before our big move, I scoured the internet for apartment listings. Easy access to city life was important to us, but we knew it would cost a pretty penny. D.C. is consistently ranked among the most expensive cities to rent in nationwide. Still, I kept an open mind during our apartment hunt. I was determined to find a two-bedroom within our price range, but that meant all the D.C. hot spots—Adams Morgan, Dupont Circle, Georgetown—were simply out of our budget. 

Then, one day, I stumbled upon an available unit in a neighborhood called Navy Yard. It was you! Though I didn’t exactly know who you were at the time. 

“What do you know about Navy Yard?” I remember asking Kent. He shook his head. He didn’t know much other than the Nationals baseball team had built a new stadium in the area in 2008. The stadium, we would soon learn, had spurred a massive revitalization of the neighborhood, which for decades had supported shipbuilding and was home to some of the District’s more culturally and racially diverse communities. 

As it turns out, you’re about to become the most densely populated neighborhood in D.C. I can see why. Buildings and developments are popping up every day, and we’ve watched the neighborhood quite literally get built up around us. When we moved into our apartment, our 14th-floor view overlooked a giant hole in the ground. Within a year’s time, it had morphed into another high-rise building. I’ve heard some people call this wave of development cold or soulless, but I have to disagree. Being surrounded by the newness of you is invigorating. Those of us who call you home get to be there from the beginning. We have a role in shaping how you’re perceived and appreciated. I love bringing fellow Washingtonians to you and hearing them say, “Wow, I had no idea this was all down here!”

Still, it’s fun to joke around. When people ask where I live, I playfully say, “In a construction zone.” Some may find the flurry of activity and newness to be a bit much, and that’s fair. Navigating crews in hard hats and blocked-off roads can be difficult. But minor inconveniences like those are worth the opportunity to witness you, as a neighborhood, come into your own and establish your identity.

Perhaps what struck me most about you is how quickly you felt like home. We had taken a chance on you, signing a lease in an under-construction neighborhood. But the minute we unpacked our belongings and got the chance to walk around, we knew we had made the right decision. Over the years, we’ve welcomed friends and family to our home, celebrating birthdays, Thanksgivings, and Christmases. Some of my most cherished memories are of Kent and I simply going for a walk, grabbing ice cream at the local creamery, and seeing where you lead us. You offer an air of possibility that just feels good and comforting. We especially love strolling by the picturesque waterfront along the Anacostia River, or taking in an outdoor concert during the summertime.

Credit: Tasha James

Most importantly, you’re where I was able to make a true home for what feels like the first time in my life. You’re where I finally felt comfortable enough to put down some roots and say, “You know what? I like it here—I think I’ll stick around.” You’re where Kent and I became a family. A week before Christmas in 2017, he got down on one knee in the middle of the pedestrian bridge in Yards Park—underneath the giant mistletoe—and asked me to marry him. He explained that he had thought long and hard about where he would propose. He had entertained different options, but ultimately decided our own backyard was the perfect spot. 

“I know how much you love Navy Yard,” he told me. 

I sure do. 


Happy Valentine’s Day! Read more neighborhood love letters here.