Culture and retail, side by side: this is the neighborhood in a nutshell. A key part of the revitalization efforts for this neighborhood included the creation of DC USA, a three-level, 890,000-square-foot shopping complex. Because DC USA has the only Target store in the entire city of Washington, D.C., the neighborhood attracts a lot of visitors from elsewhere in the city.
A lot of people who actually live in Columbia Heights don’t bother getting a car of their own because they just don’t need it. Most of the area is walkable and the metro station at 14th and Irving Sts. NW gives you access to get anywhere else in the city by train or bus. You’ll see a lot of people walking or biking in this busy neighborhood.
Columbia Heights is the perfect mix of urban and residential. Live in one of the multi-colored row houses and you’ll feel like the shopping areas are miles away, even though they’re within a short walk. Even the stores don’t look like the typical big-box strip mall blocks that you’d find in a sprawling suburb. You can walk to a yoga class at BloomBars or chow down on authentic Mexican tacos and tortas at Taqueria Distrito Federal.
The area’s most popular streets are Park Road and 11th Street, where new businesses are cropping up all the time. Meridian Pint is a great place for a modern twist on the classic burger and a beer. The Blue Parka is a non-profit, volunteer-run venue that hosts occasional shows by great blues artists.
When you feel like an upscale night at a wine bar, Room 11 has you covered. But if drinking a micro-brew among the young and tattooed is more your style, you’ll feel right at home at Wonderland Ballroom. The Looking Glass Lounge is the kind of old-school neighborhood bar where you can chill after work without having to impress anyone.
Columbia Heights has seen its fortunes rise and fall and rise again over the past 100 years. It was home to some of Washington’s wealthiest and most powerful people in the early 1900s. By mid-century, Columbia Heights was the stomping ground for notables like Duke Ellington (who bought his first home here) and Marvin Gaye, an alumni of Cardozo High School. It was one of the most welcoming neighborhoods for successful African Americans, since it was just next door to Howard University.
When you say “Columbia Heights” to someone today, a few people still remember the area’s negative rep from decades ago. The neighborhood had some rough years during the civil rights era and some people got scared away. Once people saw its potential again, developers hit the ground running to bring it back to life. You won’t be the first to discover the many treasures to be found here, from the Mexican Cultural Institute to vegan goodies at Sticky Fingers Sweets & Eats.
You can still see signs of the neighborhood’s glamorous past when you look closely. The Tivoli Theatre was originally built for a cost over $1 million, which was an astronomical sum in 1924. With ornate Italian Renaissance architecture, it was one of the city’s most elegant movie theaters until it closed in the 1970s. But like the rest of the neighborhood itself, the Tivoli has made a comeback. Today it’s home to the GALA (Grupo de Artistas LatinAmericanos) Hispanic Theatre, a group celebrates Hispanic heritage through the arts. The Tivoli building is also home to a few retail and restaurant storefronts.
Quickly growing into a destination neighborhood while still being up-and-coming enough to be affordable, Columbia Heights welcomes those whose budgets are suited to sharing a basement apartment with a roommate as well as those who want a million-dollar condo on 15th Street. You’ll brush shoulders with your neighbors at the Columbia Heights Farmers Market on Saturday mornings as you sample wares from local artisans and food trucks. There’s a sense that everybody belongs.