Logan Circle Embraces Restorations
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 13, 1998; Page G01
Bill Kelley already had lived in Washington twice in the past 24 years when he returned to the city from Atlanta this year. When he began house hunting, Logan Circle wasn't even on the list of places he would consider until an agent took him there to see a new condominium in an historic building right on the circle.
He grabbed it.
"Logan Circle has changed," Kelley said. "There is lot of new development there."
Washington's premiere neighborhood for Victorian homes, and one known for resisting new development, has found developers compatible with their historic mandate. For the first time in 90 years, Logan Circle itself will have five newly constructed houses.
This surge of development began last year when a Bethesda development company, known for its gentle treatment of historic buildings, took on the most visible house in Logan Circle. Numbers 1 and 2 Logan Circle, the double house that looked for years like an Alfred Hitchcock movie set, was purchased by PN Hoffman last year and has been transformed into a handsome, high-priced condominium building.
Located between P Street and Vermont Avenue NW, the 1877 building is so prominent that Kelley had often noticed it, as have others who have now purchased units there. But for years, the forlorn building with its sagging brick walls, broken windows and tall grass had marred the beauty of the neighborhood.
Kelley, a criminal justice consultant, bought a two-bedroom condominium that came with an original fireplace, 14 nine-foot-tall windows and a balcony. For the price -- $254,000 -- he said it was the largest condominium he had seen.
"It's one of a kind," Kelley said.
Members of the Logan Circle Community Association are as pleased as Kelley. They celebrated last year when PN Hoffman purchased the 12,000-square-foot, double house for $250,000. For almost 20 years, the owners of the building had been involved in a protracted divorce proceeding that was finally settled with a court-ordered sale of the house. Neighbor Connie Maffin said about 40 residents gathered on the day of the sale to celebrate with champagne.
Maffin attributes the new outside interest in her neighborhood to the decades of work done by residents to preserve their 19th century homes and to rid the area of a longtime problem of street prostitution. Both issues continue to occupy the association.
PN Hoffman spokeswoman Rene Nazelrod said this is the 12th project for the firm involving an historic building in Washington. She said the company takes its name from the two owners, her husband, Pete Nazelrod, and Lamont Hoffman.
At the Logan Circle building, built by the son of incumbent president Ulysses S. Grant, the original 11-foot-tall front doors were found in the basement and are being reinstalled. The rear wall was sagging, so workers dismantled the three-brick-thick wall and then reassembled it using the same bricks.
In the front, the ornate iron railing was scraped, repaired and painted.
Inside, eight units were carved out of the spacious building. They range in size from 1,370 to 1,536 square feet, and in price from $245,000 to $325,000. The builders restored 16 original fireplaces but had to replace all of the hardwood floors because of water damage.
Architect Eric Colbert, who has a project on the other side of the circle, said PN Hoffman's work at Numbers 1 and 2 "was a signal of changing times. It became the keystone."
Hoffman said they have found their market niche. "We have a passion for what we do," he said. "We deliver an upscale product in a building with character. People want the genuine article and we try to give it to them."
Community association President Jack Reed said the members were so enthusiastic about the Hoffman restoration, they asked the firm to look for other projects in the neighborhood.
"They wanted to fit into the neighborhood," Reed said. "They could have done that project for half the price but they didn't."
This year, the company purchased four vacant lots on the circle, a short distance from its first project. The firm expects to start work soon, said Rene Nazelrod. The building will resemble four Victorian row houses, in keeping with the neighborhood, she said.
Meanwhile, Colbert had begun work on the restoration of another Logan Circle house and has broken ground for an adjoining row house to fill the only other empty lot. The two buildings will jointly be known as Number 20 Logan Circle and have 11 condominiums, he said. His project also has received the support of the community organization.
"The secret to our success is to embrace the community and meet with them early on to create a partnering approach," he said. "What we don't do is present them with a final design and expect them to accept it."
Maffin, an agent with Pardoe Real Estate Inc., said in the last 12 months, 36 condominiums and co-ops have sold in the neighborhood for prices ranging from $15,000 to $259,000. During the same period, 50 houses were purchased in the neighborhood with price tags ranging from $75,000 to $500,000.
On the market now are 22 condominiums priced from $27,000 to $175,000, she said, and 22 houses priced from $79,000 to $335,000.
Jim Sprada and Bailey Walker, like Kelley, had long ago noticed the "fading lady on the corner" as Sprada called the building at Number 1 and 2. Twenty years ago, the two union officials had passed up the District to settle in Arlington, but always remembered the impressive house on Logan Circle. When they heard the building was being developed, they came to see it.
Sprada said the neighborhood looked much better and they liked knowing there was an active community association so dedicated to protecting the historic character of the area.
"We looked at blueprints and talked to the developer," Sprada said. "We looked at other work he had done and liked it. We bought [a unit] and should move in on the 29th."
They've already started attending community meetings.
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company