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Washington Times
April 16, 1999

The lightness of being in new, open condo

When Jim Abdo sees an old, boarded-up house in the city he doesn't turn away in disgust or simply dismiss it from his mind. Instead, he admires the architectural beauty of the carefully mortared brick or the earthy tones of the brownstone used in the foundation.

Next, he'll begin to visualize what the building could be, with newly designed windows, the removal of interior walls and the installation of such modern features as a gourmet kitchen and skylights.

Mr. Abdo isn't simply a visionary. He has transformed some of Washington's worst properties into interesting and luxurious residences while maintaining the exterior integrity as representative of turn-of-the-century architecture. In the process, he has helped spur the rejuvenation of the Logan Circle/Dupont Circle neighborhood.

"It feels good to me to see the momentum happening in this part of the city today," Mr. Abdo says.

"I was the first of the developers from the Dupont Circle area to start building luxury housing east of 16th Street. And now, Fresh Fields has decided to build a 47.000-square-foot grocery store with two levels of parking right down the street from the homes I've developed. This just confirms that I was right".

Abdo Development specializes in the conversion of old and derelict buildings rather than their restoration, and Mr. Abdo and his architect, Greg Zahn, have a distinctive styIe.

"If I could build without walls at all, I would," Mr. Abdo says. I love to see open spaces and plenty of light in a home. We put in tall windows every place we can, and we put transom windows over every door, including even the bathrooms."

One of Mr. Abdo's recent projects began on a note of serendipity He was working on the conversion of an abandoned building that had deteriorated into a crack house, at 1517 P St. NW, and he often parked his truck in what he thought was an alley. That is, until he received a letter of complaint from an attorney representing the owner of what turned out to be a vacant lot. Mr Abdo promptly bought the lot, and when he finished with 1517 P St., he began the painstaking process of building 1515 P St., an all-new structure built to blend perfectly with its older neighbors.

The James condominium building is a grand Victorian/Arts and Crafts-style structure with a dramatic brick and brownstone facade with massive bay windows. As Mr. Abdo points out, the building has butter joints, or very thin mortar between the bricks. This labor intensive process results in a cleaner line for the facade and matches the mortar on 1517 p St. next door.

"Our goal was to look as much as possible like the other buildings of the same time period, so we spent an enormous amount of time on the butter Joints and on searching for brownstone to match the foundation of 1517.

Mr Abdo says "Eventually we found brownstone of the same color in Connecticut and had all the lintels hand cut and shipped here. Now it looks like it could be a century old, but it was cut less than a year ago."

The dramatic top-floor condominium in the James is now on the market for $465,000 because its owners are ready to move Into a slightly larger condominium by AbdoDevelopment as soon as It's completed. In keeping with this company's style, the main features of the condominium are soaring ceilings, open rooms and tall windows.

"I particularly wanted to take advantage of these homes southern exposure", Mr. Abdo says. So we put in 16-foot-high ceilings and l3-foot-high windows. We put in mullioned windows with black trim on the inside which gives a very dramatic appearance, and the side windows of the same height give a view up and down P Street while opening up the room even more."

The open living room and diningroom share the view out these tall windows. The open upstairs loft, used as a home office, also has a view straight out windows. A charming reading corner has been created in one corner of the loft, framed by built-in bookshelves and with a window directly in of it. Two sets of double-door closets have been built in the loft, which could also be used as second bedroom. At the rear of the living room and dining room area is an open kitchen, designed to blend with the black-trimmed windows and other design elements of the home. The counter is constructed of Luna Pearl granite, the appliances are all top of the line, and the European beech cabinets feature interior Lighting and glass doors.

A few steps down is the private bedroom area, which features an oversized master bedroom with 10-foot-high ceilings and a private iron balcony reached through French doors. There are two closets with overhead storage and an Italian marble bath with a two-person, glass-doored shower. A second bath features Italian marble and a .S-foot soaking tub.

Throughout this home and the others he builds, Mr. Abdo concentrates on adding storage in every possible space. The floors are select-grade white oak, and all interior doors are custom solid wood. This unit has a hidden wall of closets underneath the stairs to the loft and a set of built-in bookshelves near the master bedroom. A gas fireplace with a remote control warms the living room and dining room, and recessed lights with dimmercontrols can be found throughout the unit. Mr Abdo and his colleagues custom-build all the baseboards and moldings in their homes and take special pride in their beauty. Partly because of this, they decided to pre-instail phone outlets in every room with six-line capability for home offices faxes, modems and future technology. He says the idea of Bell Atlantic workers attaching wiring or cutting holes in the woodwork was too much to handle.

For safety, each home has an electronic security system and an advanced video entry system that allows the homeowner to see who is at the front door before answering. The building also has a fire sprinkler system. Two private parking spaces are available behind the building.

Mr. Abdo's clients tend to be people who enjoy the cultural excitement and diversity of city living who want an easy and sophisticated lifestyle. Most of his condominiums sell in the high 5300.000s; loft-level homes sell in the mid-S400,000s. He tends to work on three or four projects at a time, and has now restored more than 10 Dupont and Logan Circle properties since 1996. After each project is completed. Mr. Abdo has Torn Bucci, a local artist, paint two watercolors of the building. Mr. Abdo keeps one of the paintings in his office and gives the other to the new owners.

DETAILS

Address: 1515 P SI. NW Community: Dupont Circle
Age: Less than one year Price: $465000
Size: 1,450 square feet
Taxes: $3,200 (Estimated in 1998)
Exterior features: Victorian-style brick-and-brownstone town house with front wan of mullioned bay windows, thin mortar joints, ornamented metal stoop, built on narrow lot.
Interior features: Top-level condominium with 16-fool-high ceilings and 13-loot-high windows in the open living room. dining room: open kitchen with beech cabinets and granite counter tops; white oak flooring and custom moldings; oversized master bedroom with French doors to balcony. 1 0-toot-high ceiling. elegant Italian marble bath and two closets with overhead storage; second full Italian marble bath: loft for use as home office or second bedroom with two dosets and built-in bookshelves: additional storage closets alt over home.
AmenIties: Electronic security system with video phone entry system. gas remote-controlled fireplace, two private parking places,, phone outlets pre-wired for six lines.
Close by: Dupont Circle, Logan Circle.16th Street and Connecticut Avenue, Studio Theatre and soon-to-be-built Fresh Fields grocery store. Contact Abdo Development, 202/265-9393