Moving into CityCenter DC has caused Wendy Rieger to channel her inner millennial.
The 58-year-old NBC4 news anchor has been rejuvenated by taking up residence in the tony new downtown D.C. condominiums.
“It’s actually nice to be around people in their 20s and 30s,” Rieger said. “Some of us baby boomers used to roll our eyes at the millennials. They’re tedious. They don’t know anything. But when you come and live among them, you start feeding off their energy. . . . It’s really been like an awakening for us older people because you come back to your own youth.”
Rieger was one of the first to move into the new mixed-use development, the largest such project built in the District. Constructed on the 10-acre site of the former convention center and bounded by New York Avenue on the north, H Street on the south and Ninth and 11th streets on the east and west, CityCenter is comprised of a pair of office buildings and four residential buildings — two condominium and two apartment.
Designed by London-based Foster and Partners, the 216 condos have a sleek European feel to them. The open floor plan — walls are reserved for bedrooms and bathrooms only — the nine-foot ceilings and the floor-to-ceiling glass doors that open to a balcony and flood the main living area with natural light help make the space feel less cramped. Northern European white oak hardwood flooring, bleached walnut cabinetry and white Caesarstone countertops continue the cool, crisp theme.
The condominiums cater to an upscale resident. Among the amenities are a 24-hour concierge, a fitness center with a separate yoga studio, two landscaped roof-top terraces with outdoor kitchens and dining areas, a fire pit, wine storage and a wine-tasting lounge.
Prices start at $500,000 for one-bedrooms that run between 689 and 1,003 square feet. Two-bedroom units are between 1,033 and 2,158 square feet and start at $800,000.
Rieger, who also owns a home on the water in Anne Arundel County, had been renting an apartment in Bethesda to avoid long commutes in winter. She mulled the advice of her accountant to buy rather than rent last summer, then opened a magazine with an advertisement for CityCenter. She immediately went to its Web site.
She told a salesman that she needed southern exposure and snapped up the last one bedroom in the configuration she wanted that faced south.
“I bought it without even seeing it, because it was under construction,” she said.
In December, Rieger became the 14th owner to settle and move in to the building. Other notable owners to buy there include U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and his wife, Sharon Malone, and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).
Since moving into CityCenter, Rieger can’t get over the transformation of an area she remembers from her days as a night reporter at WTOP.
“It was desolate,” she said. “This place was crawling with hookers. This was just a blighted no-man’s land. . . . It’s been stunning seeing this thing come to life. It was wild to move in and start walking the neighborhood. That’s what was wild, seeing the renaissance of this area. It has been mind-blowing.”
Rieger loves exploring downtown. She’s discovering parts of the city she never knew existed.
“The other thing that’s amazing is to see this city as a pedestrian,” she said. “I’ve lived in this city for 35 years. I’ve gone through it in a car. To see it as a pedestrian is divine. We have beautiful architecture. . . . These churches, on Sundays, there’s the pealing of the bells. You’re only going to hear that if you’re out walking the street.”
In contrast with her colorful river house, Rieger has chosen a clean, mid-century modern style for her D.C. pied-a-terre.
“This is my white period,” she said. “My father is Swiss-German. I feel like this is my Swiss-German DNA coming out. Friends who know my other place say, ‘Are you going to paint?’ I say no. I like it this way. It’s cool. It’s clean.”
Rieger has kept her dwelling from being monochromatic by adding splashes of color, such as the butterfly mobile she picked up at Caspari in Charlottesville and vintage travel posters.
Rieger has eschewed cable and live television in favor of a smart TV with apps. She points out that, as an employee of Comcast, she has the full cable package at her Maryland house. But in the city she tends to watch less television (she admits to binge-watching ’90s sitcoms “3rd Rock From the Sun” and “Wings”). She says the only show she misses by not having cable is the “Real Housewives” series.
“My boss said, ‘What are you going to do if there’s breaking news?’ I said if there’s breaking news, I’m in the TV station,” she said. “If there’s breaking news, it’s coming out of my mouth. I don’t get to watch breaking news. I am breaking news.”
One thing she has learned living among millennials is that they don’t own corkscrews. Twice since she moved in, a millennial has knocked on the door to ask to borrow her corkscrew.
“They’re a cocktail generation,” she said. “Somebody brings a bottle of wine, and they don’t know what to do with it.”
Another thing she discovered living in downtown is that more people want to visit her, even though they’ll most likely end up sleeping on the floor.
“I have a house on the water,” she said. “It’s like putting together a polar expedition to get people to my house. . . . People have to plan months in advance. They bring food. People are [at the condo] constantly. I can’t get people there. I’ve got guest rooms at the river. Here, I can’t keep people away.”
Rieger seems different downtown than at her house on the water. Her D.C. persona is the yin to her river personality’s yang.
“I’m more engaged here,” she said. “The river does what it’s supposed to do. The river is supposed to relax you. . . . There’s something invigorating about being around young people and being in the city.”
Although she plans to spend a lot of time along the river this summer, she expects to stay at her condo quite a bit as well. Home is wherever her two Maine coon cats, Rudy and Buddy, are.
“I used to close up [the Bethesda apartment] and I’d never go back [during summers]. This place, because it’s so active and because it’s such a great spot, I think I’m not going to close this place up. I think summer is going to be very fun here.”
Now that she’s moved downtown, the Penn Quarter neighborhood has become Wendy Rieger’s playground. Here are a few of her favorite neighborhood hangouts:
Casa Luca “An Italian bistro with a fancy flair. Good plates of food and lots of wines by the glass. A cool vibe with great lighting. I’m 58. It’s all about lighting now. And wine . . .”
Churches “The old churches standing their ground in the flashy spectacle of Penn [Quarter]. They are dwarfed by the rising tide of glass and concrete but their ‘view’ far exceeds anything these modern rooftops can provide. And they chime. The calls to worship . . . Heavenly.”
Graft tree sculpture by Roxy Paine, Sculpture Garden, National Gallery of Art
“The chrome tree near the skating rink on the Mall! Wow. Just . . . wow. I felt I had slipped into another dimension when I first came upon it. I wanted to fall asleep under it just to experience the dreams it would provide. Stunning.”
E Street Cinema “I love the small, poignant or quirky cinematic jewels that come from lesser-known artists. This theater always has a respectable menu of films. And stadium seating. It’s also closer than the West End cinema, which helps because I’m always running late.”
Walgreens “Hear me out, you suburbanites! It’s got three floors. Three. It’s a sundry wonderland. It has a frozen yogurt stand, sandwich and salad bar, groceries and a nail salon, plus all that drugstore stuff. Three floors, people!”