From picking the right neighborhood to avoiding the pitfalls of leasing, The Hatchet has got the guide to help students find the perfect place for off-campus living.
The Good: Convenient location
The Bad: Stifling atmosphere
Downtown Washington is the venerable heart of the city, both in terms of its location and in what it has to offer residents. The host to many federal buildings, not to mention the White House, it is the undisputed center of political life and the nucleus of power – or at least all the power that matters.
But it is also more than just a place where many of the region’s politicos and figureheads work. Downtown D.C. provides a home for the United States’ treasured national monuments, which make up either the perfect study backdrop or running route, depending on one’s perspective.
Those looking for entertainment and shopping do not have to go much farther than the confines of the city’s central business district. Residents have access to clothing outlets ranging from Burberry to H&M, meaning that any impulsive spree can have its own distinct character.
At 7th and F streets is the Verizon Center (601 F St. NW), the perfect venue for catching a concert or sporting event. The center, which is accessible via the Gallery Place Metro station, is home to both the Washington Wizards and the Washington Capitals sports teams.
As far as the stomach is concerned, Chinatown – really a subdivision of the downtown area itself – offers several chain restaurants such as Legal Sea Foods, in addition to some worthy independent operations like Matchbox (713 H St. NW) and Acadiana (901 New York Ave. NW). And of course there is the timeless Old Ebbitt Grill (675 15th St. NW), located just steps from the White House and known to locals for its seafood menu.
The area is unquestionably dominated by tourist attractions, so a downside to living there is dealing with the school groups that more than occasionally clog the sidewalks. But for those willing to weather the crowds, attractions such as the International Spy Museum (800 F St. NW) and the Shakespeare Theatre Company (610 F St. NW) can prove worthwhile.
Downtown Washington has not traditionally been the top choice of young people seeking housing, as rents are expensive and food prices are high. Still, it is an area that can be attractive for another reason: It is conveniently located near Union Station and buses, which run in and out of the city daily.
In the way of architectural variety, this business-dominated zone is largely monotonous, save for Chinatown’s bilingual signs that the city government mandates in an attempt to make the area look authentic. But aside from Chinatown, the long distances between streets and wide sidewalks create a Spartan feel that can feel somewhat stiff and unwelcoming.
Still, of all the neighborhoods, downtown is among the closest to campus. At about a mile and a half from Foggy Bottom, the walk to GW takes less than a half hour. Of course, the Metro runs here as well.
Options for housing are considerably varied. Students can choose from locations in Chinatown, near the White House or in the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District, located between K Street, New Hampshire and Connecticut avenues. The Mass Court Apartments (300 Massachusetts Ave. NW) is one of the area’s better deals, with rents of $1,618 and up. Those who want to be closer to campus can check out The Woodward (733 15th St. NW), where studios located just steps away from the White House start at $1,850.
Even though downtown D.C. may not top most students’ housing radar, it is an option worth considering. Managing to overcome the high rents may be the most difficult obstacle, but doing so comes at the benefit of living in a convenient and central location.