Park Connecticut: Head and Shoulders Above the Rest

By Susan Straight
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, April 16, 2005; Page T05

The Park Connecticut rises six stories above Connecticut Avenue in the Van Ness neighborhood of Northwest, but it also plunges five stories down from street level in the back, where balconies provide residents views of Rock Creek Park from their luxury apartments.

The 141-unit building, which celebrated its fifth anniversary last month, was the first new rental construction on Connecticut Avenue in 10 years when it was built. "We wanted to create a new, modern, high-end product," said Chris Ruffolo, operations manager at Archstone-Smith's Charles E. Smith Residential division, which constructed and runs the property. The exterior of the building is stone and brick and the interior is outfitted with granite, tile, French door balconies, crown molding and nine- and 10-foot ceilings. Some units have separate bath and shower stalls.

Tracey Quinn enjoys the Park Connecticut's rooftop terrace as a gathering place and for its view of Rock Creek Park. (Susan Straight For The Washington Post)

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The Park Connecticut's rents are some of the highest in the neighborhood, going up to $3,500 for a short-term lease on a penthouse two-bedroom unit. Longer-term rental rates are significantly lower, topping out at $2,640 for a standard 12-month lease, management said. When the building opened in March 2000, the upper limit for the two-bedroom units was listed at $2,795.

Competitors in this price range in the immediate vicinity are the Kennedy-Warren, the Ambassador and the Saratoga.

Many residents who also looked at those other properties said they chose the Park Connecticut because it's a relatively small building compared with such giants as the Kennedy-Warren.

All visitors to the building have to walk past the concierge's desk to get to the elevator once they have been buzzed in by their host. The 24-hour desk and the staff's attention to knowing each resident by name are just a couple of the reasons resident Tracey Quinn feels safe in the building.

Quinn said she had looked at about 50 apartments before choosing the Park Connecticut. She was afraid she would not be able to find the same kind of apartment she had previously in New York, with good lighting and a view of Central Park. "I looked at so many dark, dusky places and then I saw this one," she said.

Quinn enjoys the rooftop pool and spa, for their social aspects as well as for the tranquility of overlooking the expanse of treetops stretching out behind the building. Because none of the buildings in the neighborhood is much taller than the Park Connecticut and none stands between it and the Rock Creek Park, the rooftop patio receives full sunlight with unimpeded vista over the forested expanse. "It's an oasis," she said.

Like many of the building's residents, Quinn likes to walk in the park with friends. Residents can reach the park through the public street entrance. There is no direct access to the trails from the back of the building.

The Park Connecticut is just steps from the Van Ness Metro station, about a 15-minute walk from Cleveland Park and a 15-minute trip to Dupont Circle via Metro, including the walk to the station. It's a block from a grocery store, next door to a large furniture store and directly across the street from a drycleaner, video rental, Gold's Gym and the University of the District of Columbia's tennis courts. Residents on the upper floors can see from their balconies whether the courts, free and open to the public, are available for play.

Quinn wasn't sure about the Van Ness neighborhood before she moved in -- it wasn't the trendiest of D.C. addresses. But she liked the building so much she was willing to give it a chance. Now she says she likes the location, halfway between Cleveland Park and the Politics and Prose bookstore, about a 15-minute walk north on Connecticut Avenue.

Resident Trevor Tompson said he likes that the neighborhood is not as well-known as some others nearby. "There's no Starbucks in the neighborhood, which I actually consider a good thing -- it's not too crowded or overhyped," he said.

Tompson found the Park Connecticut through Archstone's relocation program. He was renting in one of the company's Chicago buildings and was able to maintain his lease when he was transferred to Washington. "It saved me a lot of money," he said.

While Tompson says his view of Gold's Gym is not the most scenic, he enjoys the sunlight that streams in through the French doors that open to his balcony. "It's very bright in the afternoon. The apartment is nice," he said.

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