Living High But Not Dry

Rooftop pools keep tenants cool in summer — but can come with higher rents

August 16, 2013

Erica Kunkel says the rooftop pool with amazing views of D.C. is one of the amenities that drew her to Residences on the Avenue in Foggy Bottom.

Stifling heat and humidity drive most D.C. urbanites indoors for the summer, but for some apartment dwellers, relief is up on the roof — where a glistening pool awaits.

The best rooftop pools offer inviting waters, scenic cityscape views, a retreat-like atmosphere, a social scene and late-evening hours for hardworking D.C. residents.

Erica Kunkel, 27, was lured to Foggy Bottom’s Residences on the Avenue (2221 I St. NW; 888-670-1175) by the pool and rooftop deck. Kunkel, a nurse, has lived at The Avenue since it opened two years ago.

“It’s almost like an oasis in the city,” says Kunkel, who can be found on the pool deck once or twice a week with a magazine and music. “I love the fact that it’s right downtown — you would never know it’s there. It’s kind of like a hidden gem.”

High Luxury

A beautiful rooftop pool was a major selling point for Aaron Tidman, 33, an attorney, when he was looking at apartments in the Archstone First and M (1160 First St. NE; 877-242-9963) last year. At that time, pool construction wasn’t yet completed, so he based his decision to rent there on a computer-generated rendering of what the pool would look like.

The finished product is just what he expected: The 75-foot-long pool has chest-high water and two lap-lanes. The water is tempered, building manager Larry Brown says, which means it uses excess heat from the building to warm the water enough to extend the swimming season into spring and fall.

It’s flanked by a 10-person, jetted hot-spa where residents can gather when the weather gets cooler.

“It’s not just a little kiddie pool, and the design is beautiful,” says Tidman, who lounges poolside every summer weekend with a good book. “It has the feel, smell and look of a spa.”

Social Networking

An alluring rooftop pool can create social spaces to mingle with neighbors.

Brown says that on Saturdays, it’s not uncommon to have 100 people hanging out on the Archstone First and M’s pool deck. The building has 40 lounge chairs as well as couches, club chairs and three dining tables. Extended evening pool hours — until 11 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and until midnight Thursday through Saturday — offer tenants time to enjoy the private retreat after work.

“It’s actually been a great social hub,” Tidman says. “I’ve noticed that everyone in the building seems to know each other because everyone meets at the pool.”

Many apartment buildings host parties on the roof for Independence Day and plan other roof-deck events for tenants.

Kunkel and her boyfriend celebrated July Fourth poolside, and “we were in the pool the majority of the time and watched the fireworks from up there,” Kunkel says.

Tenants also use the pool deck to entertain. “More and more, it’s become popular for people to have an extension of their own home, and they like it to be an outdoor space — they want to have a grill, they want to lounge by the pool,” says Noelle Sharbaugh, vice president for Bozzuto Management Company, which manages Residences on the Avenue.

There are not one, but two pools at the 425 Mass Apartments (425 Massachusetts Ave. NW; 866-220-8312).

The apartment is really two buildings, connected at the rooftop. There’s a pool on each building: One is a 245-square-foot lap pool, and the other is a 600-square-foot lounge pool.

Both of 425 Mass’ roof decks have sitting areas — including a covered area with an outdoor television — plus tables with chairs, couches, club chairs, gas grills, a wood-plank pool deck and landscaping. “There are a lot of different areas for people to have their own private hang-out,” says Megan Beaman, general manager of 425 Mass.

Inviting Vistas

What’s the thing a great rooftop pool simply has to have? A killer view.

From Washington-area rooftops, views can include such landmarks as the Washington Monument, the Capitol and the National Cathedral. Archstone First and M’s glass-paned railings allow for panoramic views that extend out to Fed Ex Field, Brown says.

To see Northern Virginia and the bridges all lit up, make friends with someone at The Avenue, where clear glass-paned railings such as the ones at Archstone allow for sweeping cityscape views. Beaman claims a 360-degree view from 425 Mass’ pool deck.

No matter what the view, it’s what’s up close that makes a pool an alluring private retreat from the hustle and bustle down below.

“I can go during the day, whether it’s a weekday or during the weekend, and always have a chair,” Kunkel says. “It’s never super crowded.”

A Costly Amenity

Maintaining a pool isn’t cheap for buildings, and those costs are passed on to renters.

Beaman says the costs to keep up the pools at 425 Mass run about $2,000 a month. Tenants pay a one-time $150-per-person amenities fee at move in, where rents run from $1,700 to $6,000 a month.

Those costs are typical. The 30-foot-long pool at Residences on the Avenue costs the building about $23,000 annually for maintenance and lifeguards, Sharbaugh says.

Renters there pay a $500 amenity fee every year. That’s in addition to already hefty rents, which run from $2,500 to more than $10,000.

A Selling Point

One reason for those high upkeep costs is that, though the Avenue’s pool is only open in summer months, the water is kept sparkling year-round for showcasing to prospective tenants.

That’s because marquee amenities such as pools are the kinds of things that persuade renters to pay more for an apartment.

“It’s our biggest selling point, honestly — the rooftop and the rooftop pool,” Beaman says. “It’s just what people are looking for.”

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