Building's Extras Hold Special Allure

By Julia Feldmeier
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, March 26, 2005; Page T05

Summer was well underway when Elizabeth Roach began apartment hunting last May. The temperature climbed to 90 degrees on the day she toured Hamilton House, a high-rise on New Hampshire Avenue and M Street NW, Washington, that bills itself as a luxury building and boasts one of summer's most coveted facilities: an outdoor pool.

"It was definitely a factor in my decision to live here," said Roach, 24, a New England transplant.

Jerome DeLuke runs on the treadmill in the Hamilton House workout room.

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The building has a bevy of amenities -- a 24-hour doorman, a dry-cleaning valet (residents drop off dry cleaning at a service window in the building and it is delivered back at no extra charge), a workout room with a sauna -- but residents say Hamilton House's best asset is its central location. The Dupont Circle and Foggy Bottom Metro stations are just a few blocks away, and Georgetown is less than a 15-minute walk.

"It's so close to everything -- I can walk everywhere," said Roach, a marketer for a health care consulting firm. She can walk to her office in five minutes.

Though the building's block does not have the busy residential feel of other parts of the Dupont Circle neighborhood, it seems safe, residents said. "You're not walking down any dark side streets to get to the apartment," Roach said. New Hampshire "is a main road, so there are always cars. There are always people around."

The 24-hour doorman provides more assurance. After 11 p.m., the door is locked and residents must be buzzed in. Visitors are supposed to check in with the front desk.

This is reassuring for Alison Menkes, 25, a Georgetown Law student who lives on the first floor. "Traditionally the first floor's not the safest place to live, but I've actually never felt uncomfortable here at all," she said.

Though the 10-story building has 304 units -- mostly studios, with some one-bedroom units and a handful of two-bedroom units -- residents say building employees are as attentive as those in a smaller, more intimate building might be.

For example, Ernst Ziegle and Bruce Sklar, the exuberantly friendly building managers, know every resident by name. They are "really, really helpful whenever something is wrong," Menkes said.

Then there is Tony Ndikum, the doorman who has guarded Hamilton House's entryway for nearly 20 years. "Everyone who passes by knows Tony," Menkes said. "He's very much the face of Hamilton House. He's very friendly."

And residents say the maintenance crew will honor any request. "If you need help with something, you call them and they come right away to fix it," said Giovanni Viezzi, a resident since 1991.

When Menkes moved within the building a year ago, the maintenance crew was on hand to help her cart her furniture downstairs. At one point, Menkes left to run errands, leaving a maintenance worker in the apartment with her mom. "I came back and he'd helped her move my couch and he'd hung all my pictures. He did it without anyone asking -- it was a nice little surprise," she said.

The building, which Sklar said is usually 98 to 100 percent occupied, is filled mostly with young professionals and some graduate students and retirees.

There are few children. The pool, tucked behind the building and enclosed by the adjacent office building and hotel, is "never crowded and you can always get a chair," Roach said. "It's just young professionals and graduate students who lie out and read."

Another escape is the rooftop deck, which offers terrific views of the Washington Monument and the Washington National Cathedral. Many residents have an even more private outdoor option -- two-thirds of the units have balconies, many of which face New Hampshire Avenue.

Viezzi, former manager of Cafe Milano in Georgetown and owner of Giovanni's Trattu, a restaurant near Dupont Circle, turned his balcony into a makeshift garden filled with geraniums.

"Home without flowers doesn't look like home," he said. "I use the balcony all the time."

Residents cited other advantages to living in the Hamilton House: an abundance of laundry machines (there are 12 washers and 12 dryers); guaranteed parking in the building's underground lot for $225 per month; full-sized ovens in the kitchens, which were redone in 1998; three elevators, plus a freight elevator, a handy feature on moving day.

There is one other amenity that could keep some residents rooted indefinitely: the closet space.

"I have three closets and they're fantastic," said Roach, an efficiency dweller. "I have one closet that's just shoes and purses, another that's just my clothes, and then I have a storage closet, too."

She said, "I don't think I could move -- I couldn't fit my clothes anywhere else."

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