The 466-unit Van Ness North apartment building in Northwest Washington has been bought for $26 million by a Washington-based investment group that plans to convert it to co-operative ownership.

Conrad Cafritz, president of Investment Group Development Corp., said the luxury high-rise, one of three apartment buildings in the 1,525-unit Van Ness rental and commercial complex near the Van Ness Metro station, was purchased from Van Ness Properties, headed by Howard Polinger, Robert Silverman and Nerman Glasgow, for $21 million.

Also, Cafritz said that an option has been obtained from the Chevy Chase Land Co. to purchase the land under the apartment building for $5 million. It had been on a long-term land lease to the original developer.

"Our plan is to convert the building to co-operative ownership so that the group would also own the land," Cafritz added. He said a high rate of tenant purchases is expected because the average price of a unit will be less than $65,000. Most of the apartments have two-bedrooms, although there are some one-bedroom and three-bed-room units. The average space is 1,200 square feet.

Cafritz said that tenants are being notified today about plans for the conversion to co-operative ownership, adding that all tenants will be assured of occupancy through the end of this year. Under District law, tenants have 120 days to form an association and match the developer's price for the property, which is approximately $56,000 per unit, including land.

Van Ness North tenants will be offered ownership of their units at discount prices, Cafritz added, and 46 of the total units will be reserved for elderly tenants to continue occupancy for at least three years. Rents at Van Ness range from about $350 to $550. Howard Polinger said the remaining apartment buildings (1,059 units) will continue indefinitely as rental units.

Mortgage financing up to 90 percent of the purchase price will be offered to buyers at 10 percent interest, the developer said. He added that renovation of public spaces and some interior improvements are planned for the 10-year-old units on Van Ness Street NW., just east of Connecticut Avenue. The Cafritz group has previously converted six other apartment buildings to condo ownership.

Regarded as a premier rental and commercial complex, the Van Ness buildings are in one of the District's highest income areas and near the University of the District of Columbia and the new Howard University Law School.

In response to questions, Cafritz also said that negotiations are still under way for Investment Group Development Corp. to purchase the 300-unit Kenwood apartments at 5101 River Rd., Montgomery County, from Martin McCarthy.

Cafritz also said that no decision has been made as to whether the Kenwood would be converted to condominium or co-operative ownership. But he added that tenants could be assured of occupancy through the end of this year. Tenants in the Kenwood have already organized in hopes of preventing a conversion from rental status. CAPTION: Picture, Van Ness Apartment complex in Northwest Washington; the Van Ness North was sold for $26 million. By Joe Heiberger-The Washington Post