Anacostia is a neighborhood in southeast Washington, D.C., located east of the Anacostia River. Anacostia is rich in African-American history and is perhaps best known for featuring registered national historic site Cedar Hill, home of Frederick Douglass. Douglass escaped slavery and became a statesman and nationally known abolitionist.
Especially in recent years, Anacostia has changed drastically into an area ripe for investment and business. “Anacostia is a gold mine,” said Stanley Jackson, president of Anacostia Economic Development Corporation. “It’s a gem.”
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Anacostia is part of the Southeast DC office space submarket. Average asking rents for office space hover around $60 per square foot. Southeast DC office space is not as popular or in-demand as Downtown or East End, which are home to most of the city’s office space inventory.
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Some people think Anacostia takes up the entire area southeast of the Anacostia River. This is inaccurate. Rather, Anacostia is a defined neighborhood within that area. The Anacostia Freeway borders Anacostia to the northwest, Good Hope Road to the northeast, Fort Stanton Park to the southeast, and Morris Road to the southwest. Anacostia’s downtown rests where Good Hope Road and Martin Luther King, Jr., Avenue intersect, and the neighborhood includes Anacostia Historic District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The following neighborhoods surround Anacostia: Navy Yard, Buena Vista, Woodland, Good Hope, Fairlawn, Knox Hill, and Skyland.
One key facility operating in Anacostia is Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, which gives installation support to military personnel, their families, and civilian employees. It formed in 2010 when Naval Support Facility Anacostia and Bolling Air Force Base combined into a joint base. The Defense Intelligence Agency Headquarters and the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General are located within Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling. The Coast Guard Station Washington, D.C., and the Naval Research Laboratory are both closeby.
Anacostia is known for its small-town feel, but developers have big plans for the area in the near future. In the next decade, the neighborhood is expected to see the addition of about six million square feet of mixed-use development. A&R Development, the DC Housing Authority, and Preservation of Affordable Housing are spearheading the 25.4-acre Barry Farm redevelopment plan to add residential units, retail space, an updated street grid, and a new central park. Four Points and Curtis Properties are working together to develop 1.6 million square feet of mixed-use development on a 9.5-acre site between U Street and Chicago Street. Redbrick is set to begin a 2.4 million square foot mixed-use project along Howard Road as well. A few large corporations are also planning to establish locations in the neighborhood. Starbuck’s, for example, will soon have a shop next to Maple View Flats. A Chase Bank will open on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE.
Most people in Anacostia get around using public transportation. Anacostia station, part of the Washington Metro’s Green Line, is just a 10 to 15-minute walk from the neighborhood. The DC Circulator also has several stops in Historic Anacostia. The neighborhood is somewhat walkable and offers several Capital Bikeshare stations. Travel by car on I-295 and DC 295, which make up the Anacostia Freeway. Find parking by the Howard Road entrance, at the intersection of Martin Luther King, Jr., Avenue SE and W Street SE, or at 1800 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave SE. Those who need to fly can reach Reagan National Airport in 20 minutes by cab or in 45 minutes by public transportation or reach Dulles International Airport in 40 minutes by cab.
To learn more about doing business in Anacostia, visit or contact the Anacostia Economic Development Corporation (AEDC). AEDC exists to support economic needs and improve quality of life for Anacostia residents. In particular, AEDC supports small businesses through its Business Development Center. Currently, many small businesses thrive in Anacostia, like online bookstore Mahogany Books, Grubbs Pharmacy, and New Creation Hair Salon. Some of Anacostia’s small businesses work out of The Hive 2.0. This coworking community is part of ARCH Development Corporation and seeks to revitalize the community. Small businesses in Anacostia are allowed to apply for grants to cover capital improvements; last year, some locations received up to $50,000.
Long before Europeans arrived in the area now called Anacostia, native Americans known as Nacotchtanks lived there. In 1608, Captain John Smith arrived and mapped the land. Soon after, English settlers began living in the area. Jesuit Father Andrew White referred to the native people they found as “Anacostines.” That’s where the name of the modern day neighborhood originated. In 1668, the Nacochtank Native Americans moved northward and lived on the Acasotine Island—thus named by explorer Augstine Herman—instead.
In 1854, the area now known as the Anacostia Historic District was incorporated as Uniontown and became on of the District of Columbia’s first suburbs. One of its original purposes was to serve as an affordable living space for the city’s working class individuals. In 1877, Frederick Douglass purchased the aforementioned Cedar Hill and resided in it until 1895 when he passed away.
On January 27, 1886, the House of Representatives Committee on the District of Columbia voted to change Uniontown’s name to Anacostia. The next year, Anacostia became part of the City of Washington.
Until the 1960s, the population of Anacostia was almost exclusively white. Around that time, many of the middle class residents left the area in search of newer housing. That’s when the population shifted to include a high percentage of African Americans.