B.F. Saul wraps up Kennedy-Warren renovation

You can predict two things about B. Francis Saul II, 79, the patriarch of B.F. Saul Co., the local real estate and investment firm: He won’t like publicity and he’ll rarely ever sell a real estate property.

Take the Kennedy-Warren Apartments, the grand dame address on Connecticut Avenue that recently underwent a $50 million renovation — and has been in the Saul family since 1931.

The 81-year-old building, nestled between the National Zoo and Rock Creek Park, has long been known as a home to celebrities, including FDR confidant Harry Hopkins, Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, H.R. Haldeman, baseball player Frank Robinson, former Obama economic adviser Larry Summers, the parents of Hillary Clinton, humorist P.J. O’Rourke and assorted senators, ambassadors, financiers and other bigwigs.

B.F. Saul Co., the local real estate/investment firm that three years ago sold its Chevy Chase Bank to CapitalOne Financial, bought the property when the owners went bankrupt in the Great Depression. The firm added 114 rooms in its new south wing in 2004 at a cost of $70 million.

The building’s 425 apartments rent from $2,000 a month for a studio to $8,650 a month for a three-bedroom penthouse with private elevator and six parking spaces, quite a leap from the $65- to $259-a-month range when the building opened in 1931. There’s a pool, gym, library and piano club — complete with seasoned bartender — for kicking back.

Benjamin Francis Saul established the family’s real estate business on upper 16th Street NW in the 1890s, according to “Best Addresses: A Century of Washington’s Distinguished Apartment Houses,” by James Goode.

The company eventually got into banking, which led to it taking over the mortgage to the Kennedy-Warren.

Saul II still runs the company day-to-day from its Bethesda headquarters at the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and East-West Highway.

The Buzz Hears . . .

• Falls Church-based SmithGifford advertising snagged a three-year contract to make locals feel good about Washington Gas, the District-based utility that serves 1.2 million customers in the region. That’s three in a row for SG, which is run by Karen Riordan. The firm signed NISH, a job-help group for the disabled, in April and Jose Andres’ ThinkFoodGroup in May.

Capital Teas opened its Dupont Circle store June 4, the fifth bricks-and-mortar location for the Annapolis-based chainlet. The Dupont shop, on Connecticut Avenue, is 500 square feet.

• The Ritz-Carlton on M Street is getting into the swing of things for the U.S. Open, which starts this week at Congressional Country Club. The Ritz is offering a Palmer’s Handicap cocktail (sweet tea vodka, homemade lemonade and ice tea) for patrons at its Lobby Bar who want to kick back and watch the action on flat-screen televisions. Palmer’s Handicap is $14.

Salamander sighted offshore

Sheila Johnson’s Salamander Hotels & Resorts, a Middleburg, Va., hospitality company, has signed an agreement to manage the 302-unit Fishing Lodge Cap Cana luxury resort on the eastern tip of the Dominican Republic starting in October.

“We are thrilled,” Johnson said in a statement, adding that Salamander plans to hire its employees from within the Dominican Republic.

Salamander’s portfolio includes ownership of Innisbrook resort near Tampa and the under-construction Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, a 340-acre equestrian-themed resort. The company also manages the Woodlands Inn near Charleston, S.C.

‘Congo’ on the move

Congressional Country Club doesn’t just manage a championship golf course, host to this week’s U.S. Open, it also runs a quiet little hotel for out-of-town guests. Or it did.

Landover-based Kane Hospitality employed 25 movers to empty the upper apartments at “Congo,” as its members call it, in preparation for this week’s competition. The rooms were needed for hospitality and business entertainment, and all the beds, dressers and chairs filled 10 trailers.

Kane went about the work as discreetly as the club cares for its guests.

“The only reason people should know that we were there is because the furniture is gone,” said owner John Kane, who e-mailed us from the United Kingdom. “We tell our team to be quiet as a mouse, smart as a fox and strong as an ox.”

Thomas Heath is a local business reporter and columnist, writing about entrepreneurs and various companies big and small in the Washington Metropolitan area. Previously, he wrote about the business of sports for The Post’s sports section for most of a decade.
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