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Downtown Deluxe
By Anne Groer

Marble in the foyer and bathrooms. Granite counter tops, hardwood cabinets and stainless-steel refrigerators and dishwashers in the kitchen, where stoves are always gas—never electric. High ceilings, oversize windows, elaborate moldings, floors of mahogany, maple or oak. Doors (often French) opening onto balconies or decks. A fireplace in the living room, dining room or master suite. Two or more rooms wired for cable TV, high-speed Internet access and up to eight phone lines.

Downtown deluxe has never been so well accessorized.

Empty nests from Maryland and Virginia, pioneering hipsters, affluent out-of-towners and locals eager to savor the city, all have fueled a recent mini-boom in high-end apartment and condo construction. And, like restaurateurs wooing well-heeled foodies with caviar and fine wines, some developers have gone into amenity overdrive, simultaneously creating and satisfying the demand for luxury living.

To charge $2,500 to $7,000 a month for a two-or three-bedroom rental and to sell condos from $500,000 to $5.25 million, developers know they must offer far more than laminate counter tops, white-on-white appliances and wall-to-wall carpeting. At these levels, even the best is almost not good enough.

And it’s happening even in downtown areas like Shaw and Logan Circle, considered downright dicey for decades after the ’68 riots. In those neighborhoods, especially Logan, former crack houses and bordellos are being restored to the magnificent Victorian mansions they once were, with 14-foot ceilings and intricate woodwork. And, yes, it will cost you a bundle to live in one....

...Just ask developer Jim Abdo, who meticulously transformed a derelict Logan Circle flophouse into six condos, one per floor costing $500,000 to $600,000. "Some are close to 2,000 square feet, others around 1,750. The penthouse has a spectacular roof deck. The second floor unit has a 45-foot deck. We want people to recognize that all the trim is hand done, not pre-hung moldings off the shelf. We do custom window skirts and sills. We pay attention to detail in terms of finish work," said Abdo, who even found someone to replicate the original curved windows....


... Abdo speaks expansively about another of his projects, The Emerson at 1220 N St. NW. A key operated elevator will open directly into each condo. Both penthouses, at $867,000 and $899,000, will have 21-foot ceilings....


Excerpts from "Downtown Deluxe" in Washington Post Home Section January 4, 2001