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The Washington Times Home Guide -- June 18, 2004

Convenience Fuels Condo Boom In D.C.
By Michele Lerner
SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Published June 18, 2004

Condominiums were once viewed as the poor relation of the housing family, as the consolation prize for buyers who could not afford a town home or single-family home.

Young first-time buyers were the most frequent purchasers of condominiums, and many viewed them as real estate to own only until they could afford the "real thing." Those notions now seem to have gone the way of disco dancing and leisure suits.

Condominiums, especially those in the District or the close-in suburbs, are hot.

Anyone trying to buy a home in recent years in the Washing-ton area knows that the real estate market is hot, but what isn’t so well-known is that the condo market is even hotter.

Apartment buildings are being renovated and converted to condominium ownership, and new buildings are being developed around the city to accommodate the new interest in condominiums.

Where condos once were attractive to buyers because of their low prices, today’s condominium market draws buyers because of location and lifestyle preferences.

"The average one-bedroom condominium in D.C., at least for those in newly constructed buildings, is above $300,000," says John Fitzgerald, part-owner of the Tenacity Group, who also is a Realtor with the Condominium Network of Long & Foster Realtors.

"So obviously, it’s not price that’s pushing people to buy condominiums," he says. "What’s driving this market now is the convenience. More and more people, especially empty-nesters, are deciding that they don’t want to deal with the hassles of a house. On top of that, people want the convenience of living in a good location.

"More people are opting to live downtown, where they can walk instead of dealing with the gridlock which is happening everywhere," Mr. Fitzgerald says. "We’re seeing more pedestrian-conscious building happening in D.C. People are beginning to buy like they buy in European cities, nesting into their own quarter where they can walk to everything they need. I have friends who say they have lived in Dupont Circle so long they aren’t sure they can move to the West End, which is just two blocks away." One of the larger developers of condominiums in several neighborhoods in the District is PN Hoffmann Construction and Development. Well-known for its loft-style developments in Adams Morgan and Logan Circle, the company also builds more traditional condominiums in other D.C. neighborhoods and in nearby Bethesda.

"We recently completed construction at Adams Station in Adams Morgan, and we still have two penthouses available there," says Sarah Guthrie, marketing specialist for PN Hoff-man. "One is priced at $733,900, and the other is at $833,900, and both are loft-style homes.

"Sometime this winter, we expect to finish building Adams Row, which is also in Adams Morgan," she says. "We have about five or six homes still available for sale there, priced from the mid-$500,000s to the mid-$700,000s." Adams Row has 68 units with one and two bedrooms; some are duplexes with lofts.

"In Logan Circle, we expect to finish the Metro this fall," Ms. Guthrie says. "There, we just have two units left, each of them a penthouse unit with one bedroom, one bath and a loft, priced from about $615,000." PN Hoffman hopes to begin sales this summer or fall at the Alta at Thomas Circle, which will have 120 units ranging in size from studios to two-bedroom homes. Prices at the Alta are expected to begin in the mid-$200,000s, and the building should be ready for its residents in 2006. "This fall, we’ll start selling homes in another large project, with about 250 condominiums at 14th and V streets Northwest," Ms. Guthrie says. "These will also be priced from the mid-$200,000s, including studios up to two bedrooms. We’ll also start sales this fall for Chase Point in Friendship Heights, which will be a more traditional project for us with elegant, upscale homes. At Chase Point, we’ll be selling one- and two-bedroom homes priced from the mid-$500,000s." Two other upscale condominiums in Northwest include the Residences at the Ritz-Carl-ton in Georgetown and the Residences at the Ritz-Carlton in the West End.

Both projects offer hotel-style amenities and concierge services to their residents.

In Georgetown, about 15 homes are still available, priced from $1,995,000 to $9.1 million. At the West End location, one- to five-bedroom homes are available with prices ranging from $575,000 to $5.3 million.

An upscale condominium project in Georgetown, at 3303 Water St. NW, is now under construction and more than 90 percent sold.

Just five units are still available of the 72 homes at Water Street, ranging from $848,000 to $1.3 million. This development features a glass-and-brick facade with a two-story lobby on each residential level, plus a secondary pedestrian-only entrance at 33rd Street just below M Street NW. In addition to 24-hour security and front-desk staff, this building includes a rooftop terrace, a swimming pool and a fitness center.

Mr. Fitzgerald says conversion projects in the West End will soon add to the availability of condominiums in the city.

"Some buildings have started sales now, and others will be starting sales in 2005," Mr. Fitzgerald says. "The old Congressional Quarterly building is being converted to condominiums; plus Georgetown Overlook, next to 2501 M Street Northwest, will be on sale sometime next year.

"The Columbia Hospital project has started sales but won’t be ready for moving in for a while," Mr. Fitzgerald says.

"A new trend is for developers to take commercial buildings and get them rezoned for condominium development, which makes the city have more of a New York feel," he says. "Instead of entirely residential neighborhoods or entirely commercial areas, we’re going to start to see more of a mix." Mr. Fitzgerald’s company, the Tenacity Group, assists with tenant-driven conversions of apartment buildings to condominiums.

"We sold out the first phase of Cathedral Court at 3010 to 3100 Wisconsin Avenue Northwest, but we expect a few more to be available in July and August as some lease agreements become available," Mr. Fitzgerald says.

"I think we have six or seven homes available at the Pasadena at Adams Mill Road, where the price range runs from $189,000 to $329,000. We developed 1439 and 1441 Euclid Street Northwest, but about half the tenants in those buildings chose to buy their places. I think we’ll have about 20 or so available there, priced from about $159,000 to $269,000." Among the larger projects widely anticipated in Washingtonis the Columbia, on the site of the former Columbia Hospital for Women at 25th and Pennsylvania avenues in the West End.

Out of the 225 units initially opened for sale, 182 have already been sold. Prices for the one- to three-bedroom homes at the Columbia range from $500,000 to $3 million.

The development will incorporate the renovated original structure with two new sections, and residents can expect a lower level of convenient retail services.

The Columbia will include 24-hour staff; underground parking; a fitness center; fully furnished guest suites for overnight company; and the Columbia Room, which will offer dining facilities, a billiards room, a lounge and a catering kitchen for entertaining.

Mayhood Co. is handling sales for the Columbia and for City Line at Tenleytown, a group of 204 condominium homes on the top levels of the old Sears building on Wisconsin Avenue, now occupied by Best Buy.

These studio to three-bedroom homes range in price from the $300,000s to more than $1 million and will likely be ready for occupancy in spring or summer 2005. During the first few days of sales, 80 homes were under contract.

In the Logan Circle area, Metropolis Development has already sold all of its cutting-edge loft-style homes at Lofts 14. Two units remain at the nearby Cooper Lewis Condominiums at 14th and P streets NW, each starting in the $700,000s.

Metropolis Development is eagerly looking forward to its next project in the area, at 1515 15th St., at P Street NW. This will be a flagship project for the company, with about 90 to 100 units. Metropolis is still in the design phase for this project.

Walnut Street Development is selling loft-style homes in its conversion project nearby, the former Rainbow Auto Shop. Known as Rainbow Lofts, the 21 homes at 1445 Church St. NW have 12-foot ceilings and access to a rooftop deck. Prices range from the $200,000s to the mid-$400,000s.
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Downtown in the Penn Quarter section of the city, Mayhood Co. has eight homes left at the Lafayette at Penn Quarter, priced from the $300,000s to the $800,000s.

Similarly priced condominiums are now available in the adjacent Clara Barton Condominiums, formerly the apartments known as the Jefferson at Penn Quarter. Of the 255 units in Clara Barton, about 50 have been sold.

Buyers interested in Penn Quarter are eagerly awaiting the Artisan, a new condominium at 915 E St. NW, with one-bedroom homes priced from the mid-$300,000s and two bedrooms with a den in the $500,000s. This building should be completed in 2005 or 2006.

Bozzuto Homes, known more for town homes and single-family homes, is now entering the Washington condo market. The Fedora at Meridian Hill, on the north side of Belmont Street between 14th and 15th streets Northwest, will have 103 one-and two-bedroom homes priced from the high $200,000s with underground parking.

Two distinctive facades will cover the buildings, each in Victorian architectural style with brick, columns of bay windows and a mansard roof to blend with the rest of the neighborhood. The Fedora will include a two-story lobby with a wet bar and floor-to-ceiling windows, a rooftop deck, and a courtyard with a pond and waterfall.

At 1419 Clifton St. NW, the Maxwell, a Wardman-designed building built in 1909, is being converted to 18 condominiums with 16 parking spots. These two and three-bedroom homes are priced from the mid-$300,000s to the low $600,000s.

Not far away, at 1700 Kalorama Road, the 1700 Kalorama Lofts have already been 80 percent sold. With 8-foot windows, gas fireplaces and wide-open entertaining areas, these lofts also offer a location within walking distance of Adams Morgan and Dupont Circle.

One-bedroom homes, which have about 1,000 square feet, are base-priced from $439,000; two-bedroom homes, with about 1,500 square feet, start at $639,000.

The Bush Cos. are building lofts at 12th and U streets Northwest, known as 2020 Lofts, with 10-foot ceilings, exposed duct-work, hardwood flooring and garage parking.

The 146 homes range in size from one bedroom up to two bedrooms and den, with base prices starting in the $300,000s. The 2020 Lofts will be within walking distance of the U Street-Cardozo Metro Station.

Donatelli & Klein is beginning development of mixed-use projects near two more Metro stations in Washington.

According to Chris Donatelli, president of Donatelli & Klein, “We expect to begin sales late this summer or in early fall on Kenyon Square, at 14th and Irving streets Northwest, next to the Columbia Heights Metro station.

“We’ll have the entire first floor as retail space, with 153 condo units above, which we expect to price from the $200,000s to the $400,000s,” Mr. Donatelli says.

“We’ll have one bedrooms, one bedrooms with dens, two bedrooms, two bedrooms with dens and even some two-story units.”

Next summer, Donatelli & Klein will begin sales on another mixed-use development, which will include first-floor retail and 148 condominiums at the Georgia Avenue-Petworth Metro station.

Walnut Street Development is developing two upscale condominium projects, including Georgetown Heights at Wisconsin Avenue and Calvert Street and Meridian/Crescent near Meridian Hill Park at 2200 17th St.

Georgetown Heights will feature homes for sale priced from the $600,000s to more than $1 million. Meridian/Crescent will include both one- and two-bedroom town-home-style condominiums and English-style flats in buildings that echo the historic architecture of the White-Meyer and Meridian House mansions across the street.

Prices for the 29 homes in this development range from the $400,000s to the $700,000s.

Condominiums in the District sell so quickly that new and conversion projects are often sold out before construction begins, a situation that means buyers interested in condominiums should be prepared to make a fast decision if they see something they want, then settle in to wait as much as a year before they can actually move in.