Petworth: where the development climate is anything but Frosty.

In a district of rapidly escalating land values, the natural tendency is for extrusion. Buildings start to inch upward, growing taller and taller to cram value into a space that, even absent an edifice, is worth a lot. Despite the legal limitations to building heights, Washington DC still demonstrates this phenomenon perfectly. It is a city where the land costs a fortune, and, as a result, we encounter street walls with bigger and bolder profiles.

In many respects, this shift is most visible in neighborhoods that, until recently, lacked many buildings of great size, like Petworth.

In its own way, Petworth operates as a sort of bedroom community to the denser, more commercialized Columbia Heights to the immediate south…which is both a blessing and curse. Columbia Heights is unaffordable to most single individuals looking for a modest rowhouse; Petworth, until recently, served as a lower-cost reprieve. But its close proximity to metro stops, the quality of the housing stock, and its general convenience within the DC metro as a whole have made it one of the most desirable neighborhoods in the city. It’s not quite cool, but it’s a notch down (which in some ways makes it cooler.) And the formerly blighted commercial district along Georgia Avenue is manifesting this rising demand with a slew of new apartment buildings.

The escalation is has been so rapid and extreme, in fact, that it’s hard to know how to react to this outlier.

A standalone Wendy’s with drive-thru and parking lot. A holdover from when Petworth could barely attract any investment. The Wendy’s is that much more remarkable when one considers the context.

Of course it’s next to a big new multi-family. Of course it sits on a corner parcel along the prominent commercial street. Of course it’s the only single-story building left in the area. Of course there’s another big mixed-use apartment directly on the opposite corner.

With a grocery store no less!

And of course the owner of this specific Wendy’s—presumably a franchise—is sitting on a gold mine. What seems like a wasted opportunity is just brilliant speculation on this person’s part: this owner can continue to wait it out a bit longer, then sell when the going’s great, and he or she knows it. Within five years—probably less—the Wendy’s will be gone, and we’ll witness a continuation of the visual style already present in the buildings that abut it.

At this point, it’s minor amusement for passers-by. So obvious that we’re dealing with speculation that you don’t have to be a blog-wonk to notice it. But you can rely on the fact that a blog-wonk fussbudget will take the time to point it out.

This article originally appeared in the author’s personal blog, American Dirt. All photos taken by the author.

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