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Revitalization keeps growing in the District
By Michele Lerner

Many of Washington’s neighborhoods are bursting with spring optimism as developers restoring historic residential buildings and creating new ones branch out into nearly every part of the District.

Revitalization of the city’s neighborhoods has been an ongoing process since the 1930s, when Georgetown’s venerable structures needed revamping.

Mount Pleasant, Adams Morgan, Capitol Hill, Dupont Circle and neighboring Logan Circle all have undergone revitalization in the past few decades, a process that continues in many of these areas today.

While Columbia Heights is attracting the most attention at the moment from some builders who see this neighborhood as ripe for revitalization, other areas in the city attracting residential development include streets near the District’s new convention center, Capitol Hill, Southeast and Shaw....


...James Abdo, founder of Abdo Development and a leader in residential revitalization projects in the city, is also speculating on Columbia Heights’ potential, and expects to see some momentum there in the next 12 to 24 months.

“I’m big on taking risks, and I want to be ahead of the curve when it comes to finding areas in transition,” he says. “I try to look for the potential for an area to ignite, and I like to create an impact on a whole area. So I look for assemblages of lots or buildings together which can have an impact on a whole block. This creates momentum and the potential to be able to make a bigger change for a neighborhood, not just one row house on one street.”

“I like to make a long-term investment in phases, and right now investing in housing in the District is great almost no matter what the location,” Mr. Abdo says....

...Abdo Development has concentrated much of its work along P Street and the Logan Circle neighborhood.

“We’re still connected to the 14th Street corridor and the neighboring enclaves, which I see as a sleeping giant just starting to wake up,” Mr. Abdo says. “I’m interested in not only residential development, but also retail development, which is necessary to keep the momentum of revitalization going. Services need to be available and keep pace with the residential growth of a neighborhood. We’re still excited about Logan Circle and Dupont Circle, and we still have projects in those areas we’re working on, but these neighborhoods aren’t considered transitional anymore.”

Abdo Development was instrumental in transforming P Street between Dupont Circle and Logan Circle, which now includes a Fresh Fields grocery store and the Studio Theatre, which add to the momentum of a changing neighborhood....

...For the first time, Abdo Development is starting a project in Southeast, where the company is in the process of buying a historic school building that will be converted to condominiums.

“These will be true luxury loft homes with spectacular views of the Washington Monument and the Capitol building,” Mr. Abdo says. “Another developer is building town houses on the adjacent land, and we’re allowed to put in as many as 30 condominiums, but my style is ‘less is more.’ We want to keep these as big and dramatic and open as possible.”

Other areas in which Abdo Development expects to create housing in the next few years include projects east of 14th Street into Shaw and areas near the new convention center.

“Right now, we’re working on the Willison, which was a 72-unjt condominium building from the 1920s on Rhode Island Avenue between 14th and 15th streets,” Mr. Abdo says. “We’re putting just one or two units on each floor, so there will be just 22 units in the building.”...

...Most builders credit the current D.C. leadership with the encouraging residential development and providing a positive environment for the city. While direct government aid hasn’t been part of the process for these builders, they cite the $5,000 tax credit for first-time buyers in the District with helping them to attract buyers....

Developers working in Logan Circle, Columbia Heights, Southeast and elsewhere in the city are optimistic about the future of the District and confident about the role their work can play in the continuing success of the city.


Excerpts from "Revitalization keeps growing in the District" in Washington Times, Friday Home Guide March 8, 2002