Ivy City: The End of the Line

Ivy City ride detail
Ivy City ride detail

I originally only knew Ivy City as the end of the line, the final destination of the D4 bus that I would sometimes ride downtown. “Ivy City – wonder where that is?” I would think to myself as the bus chugged its way through K Street traffic,

If you live in Northwest DC, vast sections of the city exist only as vague and mysterious notions, sort of like that infamous view of the world from New York poster. Of the other quadrants of the city, you know Southeast as Capitol Hill, Southwest as the place with the brutalist architecture and Northeast… what the hell is in Northeast?

But it’s a big city, bigger than you imagined, sprawling north and east into neighborhoods that look like suburbia and others that look like Newark.

The best way to discover it is by bike. As Hemingway said:

It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best

On a bike, you have a chance to look around in a way that you can’t on a car. It was by bike that I first encountered Ivy City, during last year’s Plaid Ride, sponsored by BicycleSpace. Cyclists dressed in plaid biked down 18th Street, then east across the city on K, before a gentle incline on West Virginia Avenue past Gallaudet University.

When we got to Ivy City, it was an industrial zone of razor-wire fences and and buildings that were being repurposed. BicycleSpace wanted us to see where their new space was going to be.

I recognized the old Hecht’s Warehouse and my mental map of the city reoriented itself – we’re off New York Avenue, I realized. The Hecht’s building is a landmark if you’re driving on New York Av.

Ivy City is being redeveloped. According to the Washington Post, it’s the next cool neighborhood you haven’t heard of.

Hecht's Warehouse

This pocket-sized industrial district is now home to a brewery, a gin distillery and hot yoga. You can also pay a fortune for a loft in the old Hecht’s building too.

It’s also home to a new BicycleSpace store. I biked into Northeast to check it out and Ivy City.

I was also tempted by bike deals. They had a Jamis Commuter on sale which was sadly gone by the time I got there. No major loss – my Specialized Sirrus is really similar to the Jamis, even if it isn’t as cute.

interior of BicycleSpace - Ivy City

seats

pretty little bikes all in a row

I ogled the Bromptons, as I do, lusting after these British folding bikes, but then was massively distracted by the Salsa Marrakesh. Such a solidly-built bike, it looks like it could survive the apocalypse. If I ever drop out of society, and travel the world on two wheels, I will do it on one of these bikes.

Ivy City may be the next cool neighborhood but it’s still the end of the line to me. Not near the Metro, and hemmed in by busy New York Av, I don’t get the attraction – there’s a lot of concrete and not many trees. And paying Logan Circle prices to live there? Doesn’t make sense to me but DC real estate left the territory of rational explanation a long time ago.

At BicycleSpace, I bought socks. Figured I had come this far, may as well get something. Then I headed back downtown, where I could get lunch and coffee.

Author: Joe Flood

Joe Flood is a writer and photographer from Washington, DC. He is the author of the mystery novel Murder on U Street, as well as articles, short stories and screenplays. In his spare time, he likes wandering about the city with a camera.

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