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A Short-Term-Housing Haven in Downtown D.C.

By Sarah Abruzzese
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, April 22, 2006

Plenty of apartment buildings have transient tenants -- but not as transient as those at 1710 H St. NW.

The building, which is blocks from the White House and the World Bank, rents furnished apartments for terms as short as 30 days. Many residents are here on work assignments.

The 141-unit building was originally designed as a condominium, but Korman Communities bought it last year, while it was still under construction, and switched it to short-term rentals.

The company, which is based in the Philadelphia suburbs, also runs similar high-end short-term rental buildings in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and North Carolina.

The H Street building has been open to tenants for almost a year. While most construction is complete, there are still a few projects underway, such as the installation of a rooftop deck with a retractable canopy.

Residents say that, like many other short-term visitors to Washington, they don't spend a lot of time in their rooms. Still, they praised the spacious apartments, well-designed living space, friendly staff and convenient location.

"I love it," said Jerry Alex, 24, an accountant who was sent here from Ohio for a six-month work assignment. He has lived at the Korman Communities building for three months.

"It is very luxurious," he said, adding that the people who work in the building are kind. "These guys hook me up with everything," he said.

With the exception of room service, all the services offered at hotels are available, including maid service. Mark Signorelli, 46, a trial consultant, spent two weeks living in a one-bedroom apartment. "Seems like they didn't cut many corners," he said about the building.

His client chose the building for him and arranged for daily maid service instead of the standard weekly service. Even though he wasn't home often, he said, it was "more economical to do this than spend $250 a night for a hotel."

The furnished one- and two-bedroom apartments also include more than most hotel rooms. Each is outfitted with a flat-screen television and DVD player in the living room and each bedroom. There are a stereo system, high-speed Internet access, and a front-loading washer and dryer.

All the apartments share the elegant but simple decor: There are dark wood floors, high ceilings, marble countertops, steel appliances in the kitchen, and spacious bedrooms and living rooms. The interior designer has created open spaces with strong, clean lines, without superfluous decoration.

There are also four penthouse apartments, which have higher ceilings and private balconies with a table and chairs, perfect for relaxing in the spring.

Kitchens are fully outfitted, too. In addition to major appliances, each has a toaster, coffee maker and microwave oven, as well as a set of cookware.

"The kitchens are great," Alex said. "Everyone who has come to visit me [is] very impressed."

And when friends come to visit, Alex borrows a rollaway bed from the building. His apartment is so spacious, he said, that even then, it's not overly crowded.

The building has a fitness center with cardio and weight machines, as well as an adjoining spa room. The concierge can arrange for a massage there. There is a business center with a connecting conference room, where staff will set up everything needed to give a presentation. Continental breakfast is provided on weekdays.

The minimum stay is 30 days, and the apartments are available for monthly contracts. Lynn Taylor, the general manager, said many companies such as the one Signorelli was working for have long-term contracts on apartments that their guests use.

The building is "strategically located," Alex said. It is just a couple of blocks to Metro stations on both the Red Line and the Blue/Orange line. Alex uses the subway to get to his job near Tenley Circle.

And for when he's not working, there are also plenty of restaurants and bars within walking distance.

Signorelli said the neighborhood is reasonably quiet but still a walkable commute to his client's office. He said, though, that he is used to New York City's extensive transportation system and wishes there were more taxis here.

R.W. Apple Jr., 71, and his wife, Betsey, have lived in a two-bedroom apartment in the H Street building since December. The Apples own a home in the area but were looking for a place without lots of stairs while he undergoes medical treatments. His doctors say he probably should avoid steps for about six more weeks; when it's time to move out, he will have to give just 15 days notice.

The apartment is "absolutely wonderful," said Apple, an associate editor for the New York Times. "I hate to be overly enthusiastic; it is not my professional pose." Nonetheless, he said, "The location is fabulous, right in the middle of everything." Because the building is downtown, friends can easily visit on their lunch hours.

"We haven't regretted coming here for a minute," he said.

The apartments are "bright, very much to our taste," he said.

"When you are sick, the last thing you want is gloom. You want something peppy and bright and cheery, and this has been that for us."

Korman has been providing temporary corporate rentals for about 40 years, slowly expanding from its base in Pennsylvania to other locations along the East Coast. There are 21 communities in the chain. Many of them are split between standard apartment rentals and short-term rentals. When the company bought the H Street building, the plan was to rent both short term and long term, but the leasing has been such a success that the entire building is used for short-term rentals, Taylor said.

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