Apartment Living

New Lofts Enhance Logan Circle

By Denise Kersten
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, September 13, 2003

Two years ago, 1225 13th St. NW was a run-down senior-living building. But it has changed with its neighborhood, the newly trendy Logan Circle area.

The building has been gutted, rebuilt and reincarnated with a hip new identity -- 1225 Lofts. The 78-unit apartment building opened to tenants in March and is about 60 percent-occupied.

The sleek lobby sets the tone with black and white terrazzo flooring, etched metal, frosted glass and an oversized framed mirror -- a 21st-century take on the building's original 1950s style. "We wanted a boutique apartment building, just like the boutique hotels in New York or London," said Andreas Charalambous of Forma Design, the firm that designed the lobby. "People who travel to other places in the world and appreciate this architecture and boutique environment will immediately respond to it in a positive manner."

The building's lofts were intended to appeal to cosmopolitan young professionals, and that's mainly whom the building has attracted -- consultants, lawyers and World Bank employees, always jetting off on business trips.

The name 1225 Lofts is somewhat misleading, though; only 25 of the 78 apartments are actual lofts, two-story units drenched with light from nearly 18 vertical feet of windows. The rest are traditional studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units.

"The lofts were more special in terms of the level of finish," said architect Sherief Elfar of Torti Gallas and Partners. "They have high ceilings and natural materials like wood floors and metal spiral staircases. It's more of an industrial loft look."

Still, elements of the ultra-modern loft theme carry over to other apartments. All have open kitchens, recessed lighting and stainless-steel fixtures. Many feature nine-foot ceilings, full-length windows and built-in computer desks wired for high-speed Internet. Cream-colored wall-to-wall carpeting (rather than the maple floors of the lofts), bay windows and traditional moldings tone down the modern look in some apartments. Far from boxy, nearly every apartment has a slightly different floor plan. All have ample closet space.

It was the real thing that drew John Robertson, 35, to the Lofts. "I don't think there are too many other true lofts in the city," he said. "I like the open space, and I like the uniqueness of the apartment." Robertson, a self-described "computer nerd" who works near Federal Triangle, was the building's third resident when he moved into his $1,800-per-month loft in March. Though he's a fan of the loft, tall windows weren't a selling point. They make it difficult to sleep in on weekend mornings, he said.

After some early new-building glitches -- air-conditioning failures and ongoing construction -- it has been smooth sailing, residents say, and they praise the building's management. "They're really friendly and cognizant of all the tenants' needs," said Megan Schmidt, 23, who began renting a studio in April. "If something goes wrong, I literally get a phone call at work at 9:02 the next morning." Better yet, if she doesn't have time to discuss something on the phone, she can send a quick e-mail and count on a reply. The building is owned by D.C.-based MDC Properties Inc. and run by Realty Management Services Inc. of Bethesda. Schmidt said 1225 Lofts is one of the few buildings that met her three most important criteria: She wanted a new building, a dishwasher and a washer/dryer in her unit. The $1,165 monthly rent for her studio seemed pricey at first, but not compared with other options. "Believe it or not, in downtown D.C. you cannot find those minimum requirements for the price at the Lofts," she said.

Residents have mixed feelings about the 13th Street location. The building has alleys on three sides -- which means there's less street noise -- but many units have uninspiring views. The neighborhood could be better, too, Robertson said. "But you can see they're building all around and it will be a really great area," he said. "I think it will be better in about a year."

In the meantime, convenience compensates for atmosphere. Though the Lofts does have parking, there's little need for a car. Both Schmidt and Robertson have just a quick walk to work downtown, and Schmidt walks to the YMCA on 17th Street, where she exercises. Robertson appreciates being close to bars and restaurants.

In most things, 1225 Lofts caters to its residents' sophisticated urban tastes. Robertson attended a recent "resident appreciation" gathering at Filibusters in the Holiday Inn-Downtown DC, though, and didn't approve of the location. He's lobbying for the next event to be somewhere more in line with tenants' sensibilities, like the stylish bar at the nearby Hotel Helix -- where people who live in this building will feel more at home.

© 2003 The Washington Post Company