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In the Lofts of Luxury

Condo Marketing Capitalizes on High Costs

By Sandra Fleishman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 14, 2004; Page F01

The postcard that arrived in thousands of Arlington County mailboxes recently looks a lot like many condo promos these days: "Fine Condominium Residences," "1 Block from . . . Metro," "Rooftop Terrace," "Concierge."

That is, until you hit the kicker: "From $1,000,000 and Down."

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Could that be a typo? Would a builder really emphasize how expensive his product will be?

He would if he wanted to distinguish his luxury condos from all the other luxury condos out there, said Christopher Ballard of McWilliams-Ballard, the Alexandria firm marketing units at the yet-to-be-started Monroe at Virginia Square Metro.

The project, planned as a nine-story building with 79 units, will be different from competitors, Ballard said. The units, for instance, will run up to 1,950 square feet, almost as big as the average U.S. single-family house.

And the building will sit right next to new, cool shops and eateries, offer walking access to the subway and feature the kinds of extras that upscale buyers drool over.

Ballard said builder Madison Homes turned to a Washington advertising and public relations firm, the Bomstein Agency, for the promotion's wording. The idea, he said, was not only to describe the amenities but also to reach out to all those empty-nesters and near-retirees who want to downsize but "who also want larger homes than the typical condo and who want to stay in Arlington but don't have the option of one-level living."

Bomstein sent out about 15,000 postcards to Arlington Zip codes.

"We just wanted to do something different. There wasn't a whole lot of scientific input that went into it," said Doug Schneiderman, vice president of Madison Homes.

The ad campaign has just started, but the Monroe has already drawn a lot of interest, Ballard said. About 1,000 people are on a waiting list even though sales will not start until fall.

The units have not even been finally priced yet, Schneiderman said. But they're expected to run from the $600,000s to about $1.1 million.

The building, at 10th and Monroe streets, should be ready in 2006.

Madison has not settled on the property yet, but should do so soon, Schneiderman said. A small, vacant apartment building and two single-family houses now occupy the site.

Others in the real estate promotion business say the million-and-down approach is a new one. "I've never heard of this. . . . but it's a clever twist," said Charlie Maier, who is touting a competing condo in Clarendon.

Maier said the building he works for, Clarendon 1021, also has 1,000 people signed up on its waiting list. Like the Monroe, it is only a block from a Metro stop and has lots of trendy extras. The building, which is scheduled for occupancy next summer, is priced from the high $200,000s to the $800,000s, with a two-story, glassed-in rooftop condo "that you really have to see to believe," Maier said.


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