Prime Perks, Special Touches

Buildings lure residents with valuable amenities

February 24, 2012

Blaise Warren, left, and Sarah Hawkins relax on the roof of the Clara Barton condo building in Penn Quarter. Warren proposed to Hawkins there last year.

Everyone knows the feeling: It’s the end of a long day and all you want to do is come home, have the valet park your car, put your feet up, and call your building’s masseuse for an evening spa treatment.

OK, maybe that doesn’t sound like your life — but it is a reality for some lucky people.

With steep competition in the local real estate market, new condo and apartment buildings are luring residents in with perks and amenities — the more indulgent, the better. Newer high-rises include features such as pools, rooftop decks, manicured courtyards, high-end gyms and plush party rooms to give prospective buyers the feeling of a full-service community in the city.

High-end condos

At the high end of the luxury spectrum is Arlington’s Turnberry Tower (1881 N. Nash St., Arlington; 703-243-3000) where a concierge is available free of charge to help residents make restaurant reservations, book air travel or plan parties in either the on-site party room or the 12-seat movie theater. The building’s health club has a spacious studio for Pilates, Zumba and yoga classes, as well as an indoor pool, a hot tub and an outdoor sunning terrace. The 26-story high-rise was completed in 2010.

Homeowners can opt to have any of the health club’s spa treatments performed in their condos. A one-hour massage costs $90, whether you choose to have it in the health club or in the privacy of your own home. Luckily, every unit’s marble-tiled bathroom is large enough to accommodate the masseuse’s table, along with scented candles and oils.

“They transform the bathroom into a little spa,” said Anne Blakeman, a member of Turnberry’s sales team.

Blakeman said top-tier amenities help her sell condos, even with steep price tags. The one-, two- and three-bedroom units that are still available for sale at Turnberry Tower range from $750,000 to $4.5 million. “With the price range of the condos we sell, everybody’s looking for a full-service amenities package,” she said.

Turnberry’s amenity fees are rolled into condo association fees, which run from $600 a month for a one-bedroom apartment up to $1,300 a month for penthouse condos.

In Foggy Bottom, the Residence at 22West (1177 22nd St. NW; 202-333-3313) has a concierge to help homeowners with tasks such as making restaurant reservations. A porter is on hand to run errands, including picking up prescriptions and dropping off dry-cleaning. “Basically anything you need they can pretty much facilitate for you,” said Tyler Jeffrey, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker’s Dupont office who sells units in 22West and in Turnberry Tower.

Prices for one-bedroom condos at 22West, which was completed in 2008, start around $750,000. Condo association fees are higher than at other buildings — about a dollar per square foot of individual living space — because the building includes charges for electricity, Internet and 300 cable channels. Bundling bills is yet another service available. “The concept for this building is that people might have homes elsewhere so they don’t want different sets of bills in different cities,” said Mei-Mei Venners, a broker at 22West.


Sarah Hawkins and Blaise Warren relax in the Clara Barton’s movie theater, which has an overhead projector, big screen and 12 cushy seats for residents and guests.

Mid-range condos

For those who can’t (yet) afford luxury spots, there are plenty of amenities to be found at lower prices.

Sarah Hawkins said her top priority when buying a condo was location. The 30-year-old attorney wanted to be able to walk to her law firm and to be a part of the vibrant downtown community. The Clara Barton (616 E St. NW; 202-347-0803), built in 2004 in Penn Quarter, fulfilled those needs, but its extra perks, including a 24-hour doorman, made her confident it was the place for her. “The amenities become a tipping point once you have your other categories taken care of,” Hawkins said.

In addition to its security features, the Clara Barton has a sprawling rooftop deck with a pool, and gas grills. A small, indoor prep kitchen on the roof allows easy access to grab marinade from the fridge or to wash dishes. Residents have free access to computers in the building’s business center, a large conference room and a movie theater with 12 plush leather chairs. There’s also a party room residents can use for free at any time (reserving it for exclusive use costs extra).

Amenities like these come at a cost for developers, who pay more to install them, but condo sellers say they’re worth it in the long run.

The Clara Barton’s property manager, Alberto Ramirez-De-Arellano, said it’s unlikely the building would have sold out as quickly in the competitive Penn Quarter area without its extra perks. “When you want to compete with other condos in the area, our amenities by far close the deal for everyone,” he said.

Apartments

When Natalie Kalas, 22, went searching for her first apartment after graduating from American University, she was looking for the basics: the right location and the right price. She and her roommate found the Axiom at Capitol Yards (100 I St. SE; 866-658-2490) and were wowed by the 2008 building’s free fitness center, business center and courtyard. They especially loved the rooftop deck, which has a pool, grills, dining areas and a panoramic view of the city. “We really got more bang for our buck,” Kalas said.

Two-bedrooms units like theirs start at about $2,300 a month (studios start at $1,595 per month, one-bedrooms at $1,965), and the Axiom offers six weeks free for signing a 13-month lease.

Although Kalas’ job at an accounting company keeps her from grilling on the roof as often as she’d like, she has a new appreciation for the other perks of living in a high-rise, including the convenience of the free English muffins and pastries for breakfast and Starbucks coffee that the Axiom provides every weekday morning.

“It really emphasized how great a deal it was,” Kalas says. “Normally for the price you get a room, and that’s about it. It’s just added value.”

The Axiom charges a one-time $100 administrative fee when renters sign leases, says Jen Paige, a property manager who oversees the Axiom. Other apartment buildings charge an annual fee per resident or per apartment.

Whether in an apartment or a condo, many residents say the fees are worth it.

“The level of services are high, so you’re getting what you pay for,” Hawkins says. Her condo’s rooftop deck turned out to be the scene of some of the most important moments of her life.

Two years ago, she invited Blaise Warren up to her rooftop deck for beers — their first date. Less than a year later, he proposed in the same spot.

“He took me up at sunset last May,” she remembers. They’ll be married in March and live together at the Clara Barton.

Beth Marlowe is a senior editor at Washington Post Express. She has written for The Washington Post, the Associated Press, Bloomberg Television and other publications.
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