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The Rise Of DC's Penn Quarter

Quick – which hottest of the hot neighborhoods largely didn’t exist before the 1990s?  Anyone lucky enough to reside in Penn Quarter knows the answer. Penn Quarter is the new “IT” community and a great symbol of the revitalization projects taking shape across the District.  Named for its proximity to Pennsylvania Avenue, including the White House and the Capitol, the neighborhood encompasses much of the downtown/Chinatown area north of Pennsylvania between 5th Street and 9th Street, NW.  Fun fact – in Chinatown, the storefronts all have their names spelled out in Chinese characters as a requirement of doing business in the area.

Verizon helped put Penn Quarter on the map with the opening of the Verizon Center in 1997.   Since then, the area has expanded to include a wealth of dining options, cultural venues and distinct shopping hotspots.  Incredibly, Penn Quarter is home to nine theaters, some of which are still in the final stages of construction.  Most notable is the Ford Theater, where President Lincoln was shot.  The Presidential box is still preserved as it was on the night of the murder and draws tourists from around the world.  The Quarter also hosts the National Gallery of Art, the FBI Headquarters and the International Spy Museum.  The National Archives which showcases the Bill of Rights and other famous documents, is another popular attraction.

Given its posh surroundings, it’s no surprise that Penn Quarter is a favorite of many senators (at least Democrats).  A young senator from Illinois named Barack Obama lived there before he went on to win the Presidency.  Currently, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and newly elected Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) call the Quarter home.  The area claims 10,000 residents who live in the apartments and condos intermixed with offices and above restaurants and shops as a true “work, live, and play” environment.

With a dizzying array of eateries, there’s always a choice of what to eat -- from takeout to Latin specialties at Zengo to the Ham Bar at Graffiato’s to venerable landmarks such as The Old Ebbitt Grill, a favorite of the District’s movers and shakers for generations.

At the heart of everything, Penn Quarter is also home to three Metro Stations – Gallery Place-Chinatown, Metro Center, and Archives Navy Memorial - Penn Quarter.  Zipcars (headquartered in the ‘hood) and Smartbikes abound, offering additional transportation options.

At the end of the day, Penn Quarter is all about location, location, location.  When you’re in the middle of just about everything, it’s easy to lay claim to being the most vibrant and hip area in the District.

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