Washington Ave. housing is a rare find

Washington Avenue apartments are desirable for the location and price.

Jared Roddy

It takes a lot of good luck, or the right connections, to end up in one of the highly sought-after apartments that line Washington Avenue Southeast.

Hard to differentiate from offices and businesses, the apartments above Harvard Market East, Stub & Herbs and the Village Wok are, infrequently, available for rent. But it takes a sharp eye, a close friend or a good rapport with the owner to get them.

The apartments available in the heart of Stadium Village are few and far between. There are 14 of them, with a total of 31 bedrooms among them and three efficiencies, owners said.

“In the 25 years I’ve owned them, I’ve never once had to put an ad in the paper for those apartments,” said Stub & Herbs owner Sue Jeffers. Jeffers owns the four apartments above the bar.

Psychology sophomore Rachel Knaak is one of the lucky ones, she said. She saw an advertisement for one of the apartments above Harvard Market East and called the landlord, Harvard Market owner Brad Mateer.

“It was built in the (1920s), so it’s nice considering that,” Knaak said. “But it’s definitely not brand new.”

Eschewing comfort for convenience is one of the things Jeffers said her renters are willing to do.

“I think plain and simple, people live in my apartments because it’s dirt cheap,” Jeffers said.

Though the apartments, which range from $300 to $400 a month, have no amenities aside from heat and water, Jeffers said it is a desirable place to live because of its proximity to campus, bus lines and her bar.

“How handy, food and beverage right below you – just stumble up the stairs at the end of the night,” Jeffers said.

Pete Lyngholm rents one of Jeffers’ apartments and said they were a bit run-down, but they were very convenient.

“It’s quite interesting,” Lyngholm said of the location. “You see a bum’s life, you see a student’s life, you see people going to work. It’s very diverse around here.”

One of Lyngholm’s complaints was constant bus noise from the street.

Knaak also complained about the noise. She is awakened once a week by noisy bar patrons from across the street, she said, citing bar fights and fire engines as the culprits.

But it’s a trade-off she copes with, she said.

“With the location, it’s worth it,” she said.

Bill Chan owns Village Wok and the apartments above it on the 600 block of Washington Avenue Southeast. His units are much larger, with three and four bedrooms renting for $1,000 to $1,200 a month.

For the others, it’s very difficult to find a vacancy, he said.

“We’re always occupied,” Chan said. “Most kids stay through graduation.”

Chan said most of the tenants have a friend lined up to live in the place right after they leave.

“It’s convenience, you know, because we’re by the ‘U,’ and everybody’s happy about that,” Chan said. “And the price is not bad compared to other places.”

Averaging approximately $300 per bedroom, Chan’s apartments are as inexpensive as they are ill-equipped. Like those above Stub & Herbs, there isn’t a washer or dryer in the building, there is no advertising when they become available and they look “like old apartments,” he said.

Unlike Jeffers, who said she hates paperwork and usually rents the units on “a handshake,” Mateer’s rentals are by the book.

Applicants must file an application with Mateer which includes a credit check and references, he said.

“I’ve learned not to base things on a gut feeling – that usually turns out to be a bad idea,” Mateer said.

Unlike Jeffers and Chan, Mateer will run an advertisement when an apartment becomes available, and he will also post signs in his stores. But he said there won’t be an opening until next fall.