CityCenterDC condos begin to sell

It isn’t Central Park living, but it’s as close as it gets in D.C.

CityCenterDC, the 10-acre, $950 million downtown development built on the footprint of the city’s former convention center, is nearing completion, and the development team is beginning to market what are expected to be some of the most luxurious and expensive downtown condominiums in the District.

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Bounded by 9th and 11th streets NW to the east and west and by H Street NW to the south, CityCenterDC is one of the largest mixed-used developments and construction projects of any kind currently being built in the country. Its first phase includes six buildings: two for offices, two for apartments and two for condominiums.

The project has been heralded by three mayors — Anthony Williams, Adrian Fenty and Vincent Gray — as a critical step in expanding the District’s traditional downtown eastward. That migration has already begun in earnest: More than 55,000 people now live within a mile of the intersection at 9th and G streets NW, according to the Downtown Business Improvement District, up from 38,000 in 2000.

To build momentum for the project’s 216 luxury condominiums, developer Hines has opened a sales office across the street, on the the third floor of 901 New York Ave. NW, that it will formally open on Feb. 28. In it, the firm built a miniature model of the entire project and a life-size sample two-bedroom condominium that allows interested buyers to walk through the kitchen, bathrooms and living space, the real versions of which won’t be ready for occupancy until October.

A hint of Manhattan

Dubbed the Residences at CityCenter, the condominiums make up the two eastern-most buildings of the project. Though built to conform to the District’s legal height limit, the buildings’ efficient design and focus on air and light are likely to remind condo buyers more of high-rise buildings in Manhattan or Chicago than anything in D.C.

Designed by London architecture firm Foster and Partners (which also designed the offices) the condos feature floor-to-ceiling-windows that, if they are facing to the west or south, will be equipped with sliding six-foot-wide solar shades. The kitchen appliances are made by Italian furniture maker Molteni and may be clad completely in oak, walnut or white lacquer. “The concept is it’s a piece of furniture, it’s not your kitchen,” said John Mullin, a director at Hines.

Every condo includes private outdoor space — some large enough to accommodate a couple of small trees, decks of Cumaru wood and outdoor kitchen areas with gas grills. Downstairs, a 24-hour concierge will welcome guests. Other amenities include a fitness center, yoga studio, spa, wine cellar and an open-air rooftop fire pit.

CityCenter condos are not for penny pinchers. One-bedrooms units range from 689 to 1,003 square feet and start at $500,000. Two-bedroom units range from 1,033 to 2,158 square feet. They start at $800,000 and run as high as $5 million. In all, the prices average more than $700 per square foot.

Howard Riker, Hines vice president for development, stressed that despite the prices, CityCenter would not be an isolated community in the middle of the city. As part of its agreement with the District, approved by the D.C. Council, Hines and its partner, Archstone, will restore and maintain a public park along New York Avenue NW and hold public entertainment at a courtyard between the four residential buildings. I Street NW will be re-opened and a long pedestrian corridor, dubbed Palmer Alley, will run through the center of the project. “It’s a part of downtown,” Riker said.

Will they sell?

The condo and apartment markets have dramatically swayed since Hines began working on the project nearly a decade ago. Although Washington’s apartment market has been red hot in recent years, “there were originally people that complained to us saying, ‘Why isn’t it all condos?’ ” Riker said. There will be 458 apartment units, which Jason Jacobson, senior vice president for Archstone, said the company will begin marketing later this year.

Will the condos sell? McLean condo sales guru David Mayhood has long been part of the development team and now has at his disposal a chic sales showroom that shoppers of Apple Stores — a retailer long rumored to be opening a location in CityCenter — will find familiar. Six side-by-side flat screen televisions display video animations of various portions of the project, controllable from an iPad.

Mayhood said he has “several” City­Center units under contract at this point. However sales proceed, they should be easier than they were for one of his previous major condo projects in the Washington area, the 247-unit Turnberry Tower Arlington, which was completed smack in the middle of the recession.

Mayhood said the lack of new condo building since then will benefit CityCenter. “There has not been any major condo project [construction] starts since 2007 or 2008,” he said. “We think the timing could not be better.”

 
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