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Washington Harbour:
Waterfront Renaissance

By Keith Harriston
Washington Post Staff Writer
August 08, 1992

Washington Harbour, the glitzy expanse of offices, restaurants and luxurious condominiums along the Georgetown waterfront, is home to what the condo residential director describes as "very cosmopolitan people." And private, too.

Try contacting any one of the residents who live in the 35 luxury condos on the top three floors of two of the buildings wedged between the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Bridge and the Key Bridge. You can't just walk in and knock on doors. There's tight security. Most of the residents have unpublished telephone numbers. Some are away on business or pleasure travel as often as they can be found at their homes.

But what else would you expect at a condominium residence on the Georgetown waterfront that sells for as much as $446 a square foot—twice the amount charged at the Watergate complex—and has a large apartment listed for sale in Sotheby's International Real Estate for slightly more than $5 million?

"A lot of the residents do like the privacy," said Alan Bubes, who has lived at Washington Harbour for six years and is president of the board of the Washington Harbour Condominium Association.

"It is a very private style of living. You very rarely run into someone in the lobby or elevators," Bubes said. "It's rare that you run into neighbors in the hallway. But when you do, you speak to each other."

Located at the southern end of Wisconsin Avenue at the Potomac River, the six-acre site where the complex stands was supposed to end the years of unattractive Georgetown waterfront, long home to foul-smelling water, a cement plant, other industry and parking lots.

Washington Harbour has gone a long way toward meeting those expectations, after a somewhat rocky beginning in the late 1980s.

The 35 luxury condos were all purchased, but nearly one-third of them are now on the market.

About 85 percent of the complex's office space is leased. And plans to open a hair salon by the end of 1991—operated by "one of the leading names in the world" —are nearly completed, according to Michael Williams, vice president of Potomac River Front L.P., the company that manages the office and retail space at Washington Harbour.

The site has become home to the annual Potomac International Regatta. And it recently hosted its first jazz festival, another event expected to become an annual affair. Several fountains vary the landscape, as do a half-dozen lifelike sculptures by well-known artist J. Seward Johnson Jr.

Six restaurants offer a variety of foods to both the condo residents and office workers, including those from the dozens of nearby Georgetown office buildings.

There is Japanese cuisine at Hisago and Chinese at China Regency. Jaumalitas offers dishes from the Southwest. The Sequoia and Tony&Joe's supply seafood dishes. And the Pasta Place specializes in Italian. The last three offer patio service, with their choicest outside seats about 25 feet from the edge of the Potomac River.

On any given night in the summertime, a visitor to Washington Harbour might hear wandering string players or a steel drum band. But Williams knows the real draw is the water.

"Our star is the Potomac River," Williams said. "I don't think there's anyplace in this area that has this proximity to the water." On Friday nights, one certainly gets that impression. In the summer months, the end of the week draws dozens of boats near the short Washington Harbour boardwalk, giving their passengers the best views of after-work, happy hour crowds that fill the outdoor bars of the Pasta Place, Tony&Joe's and the Sequoia.

But those crowds eventually leave, at least by the time the restaurants and bars close, leaving behind the small group who really have it good at Washington Harbour: the condo owners.

They pay high prices for convenience and opulence, and also have to endure frequent jet noise overhead from planes landing or taking off from National Airport. Still, many residents believe the noise and expense worthwhile.

"I love living on the water," said onetime drugstore entrepreneur Sheldon Fantle, one of the first people to purchase a Washington Harbour condo back in 1986. "This is one of the nicest spots in the entire world."

When Fantle looks out of his condo, he sees a sometimes dreamy picture of the city of Washington at sunset, with the orange-tinged colors surrounding the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Among the 11 Washington Harbour condos for sale, asking prices range from about $550,000 to $5.5 million. The latter condo is 5,423 square feet, with three bedrooms, four bathrooms and a view of the Potomac River in every room. Four fireplaces and marble baths come along with a monthly condo fee of $4,466.

A unit recently sold for $1.8 million, about $447 a square foot, according to Michael Cohn, a sales associate at the Georgetown office of Shannon&Luchs Co.

Bubes, who also has lived at Washington Harbour since 1986, said he chose the complex because it promised to be the luxury condo with all the amenities he wanted.

"I hoped it would be the top building in the city," Bubes said. "For me, it has turned out to be."

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