When people in the District of Columbia think of Ward 8 neighborhoods, Anacostia usually comes to mind first because of its close location to the river that bears the same name and its growing arts community, business corridors and economic development projects.
There are some who will think south into the ward to Congress Heights, nicknamed the “Soul of the City” with its St. Elizabeths East campus that includes the Entertainment & Sports Arena, market price housing developments that are being planned and the small and franchise businesses occupying both Alabama and Martin Luther King Jr. avenues.
However, farther south from Congress Heights along South Capitol Street SW, not far from the Prince George’s County line, lies Bellevue, a neighborhood that has for many years been residential but considered unsafe by some.
“I remember when my mother moved our family to Bellevue in 1994,” said Joseph Goings, who lives in Montgomery County. “My mother had the chance to buy a house in D.C. and she selected Bellevue. When we got there, Bellevue was a little dangerous but, fortunately, I lived on one of the quieter streets.”
Bellevue lies in the District’s southeast and southwest quadrants, the only Ward 8 neighborhood with that distinction, and encompasses a block of Atlantic Street SE and First Street SE and Southwest to the north and east; Joliet Street SW and Oxon Run Parkway to the south; Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE, Shepherd Parkway, Second Street SW and Xenia Street SW to the west. African Americans make up over 90 percent of Bellevue’s population.
The median income of Bellevue, $31,725 and while 87 percent of its residents possesses a high school diploma, only 12 percent have graduated from a college or university.
While Anacostia and Congress Heights have received a lot of attention in Ward 8 for its economic development projects, Bellevue’s commercial portfolio has also emerged. A 3,800-square-foot Good Food Markets grocer will open this year in the redevelopment of the former South Capitol Street Shopping Center site and this happened partly because of $880,000 from the city’s Neighborhood Prosperity Fund.
Plus, the newly redone Trinity Plaza has 49 apartments and 6,000 square feet of retail space that includes the Bellevue Pharmacy. The William O. Lockridge/Bellevue branch of the D.C. Public Library has added to the aesthetic look and value of the neighborhood along with the BridgePoint Hospital National Harbor that sits on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in Southwest.
At the May 4 meeting of the Bellevue Neighborhood Citizens Association, residents expressed their concerns about illegal dumping to city and police officials at there.
“Something must be done about that,” said Jacqueline Kinlow, treasurer of the group.
The association members noted with interest that Bellevue’s homicide rate stood at four slain as of May 4 in the D.C. police’s Public Safety Area 706, from Nov. 4, 2018. Residents credit good police relations and neighborhood awareness to keeping the homicide number low, compared to other areas in the ward.
Similar to Anacostia and Congress Heights, whites have been moving to Bellevue although in smaller numbers and percentages. Eugene DeWitt Kinlow, brother of Jacqueline and longtime resident of Bellevue, noted that some whites are really “coming back home.”
“In 1960, 90 percent of Bellevue was white,” he said. “But by the 1970s, massive change came to the community. Remember there were the riots after the assassination of Martin Luther King and people started leaving neighborhoods in the city like Bellevue. This ‘white flight’ also occurred because of the changing school system and people had access to other areas in Maryland because of a thing called the Beltway.”
Kinlow said he noticed whites starting moving back 15 years ago but some reclaimed their parents or grandparents property instead of buying outright.
“Some people in Bellevue were renting their houses instead of owning them,” Kinlow said. “Some of the whites who are moving in are living in their families’ houses.”
According to real estate website Trulia, the median price for a Bellevue home is $288,000 compared to the overall median price in the District of $570,000.
Goings, who said his mother has been in Bellevue for 25 years, noted that property values “have gone up.”
Kinlow said Bellevue has “great potential for development.”
“There is a beautiful view of the city high on the hill,” Kinlow said. “I can see the river, the Potomac River, from my backyard.”