Basketball deity Michael Jordan was quite clear--he's not moving here for his new job with the Washington Wizards basketball team, he said this week. Instead, he will commute from Chicago.
That's understandable. It's where his wife and children are, in their custom-built 25,000-square-foot suburban palace with the putting green, the basement theater and the four-foot-high number 23 adorning the front gate.
But everyone needs to sleep somewhere and, as all frequent travelers know, the hotel bit gets real old, real fast. Especially when you're longer than the bed.
Many of the Wizards players live close to one another, in the Bethesda-Potomac area--not by accident near some of the best golf courses around.
The team's management and owners are more scattered--part-owner Ted Leonsis is in Virginia with the other high-tech millionaires; part-owner Jonathan Ledecky is in Georgetown, as befits a bachelor; and general manager Wes Unseld has lived for years on a farm near Baltimore.
So where should Jordan look for that little place where he keeps a spare toothbrush? Maryland? Virginia? The District? We figured Jordan was probably too busy to tend to this, so we called around to real estate pros to get some ideas for him. Here's what we found.
High ceilings are a must.
Extra bedrooms for the children.
And lots of closets for all those suits.
Michael Jordan has plenty of requirements for a home--he owns a custom-built contemporary on seven-plus acres in Chicago's Highland Park suburb, complete with basketball court. Now that he is part owner and president of basketball operations for the Washington Wizards, he plans to commute from there to here.
But even His Airness might find he needs a home away from home, as all those senators and congressmen learned long ago. Unlike many public officials, though, Jordan can afford to buy or rent whatever he wants in the way of a pied-a-terre.
A place in the city could work--it would make it easier to get back and forth to the the MCI Center. How about a four-bedroom, 4 1/2-bath penthouse a short limo ride from the arena in the ritzy Residences at the Ritz-Carlton? It's going for $3 million. The staff there is so hot to meet him that they've already sent him a bathrobe--terry cloth, one size fits even him.
But maybe he'd rather live in neighborhoods that are home to Wizards players, owners and coaches. Bethesda and Potomac have a bunch of big guys. It's not that Jordan needs to join the neighborhood car pool, but his 25,000-square-foot home indicates he does share a taste for major square footage.
How about Northern Virginia? McLean is home to Internet multi-millionaire Ted Leonsis, owner of the Washington Capitals and a co-owner of the Wizards. Abe Pollin, majority owner of the basketball team, has a farm in Middleburg in addition to his Bethesda house.
A lot of people might already be calling to tell MJ that they have just the right property. If not, we made some calls to help him out:
* The Residences at the Ritz-Carlton, the most expensive high-rise units ever built in Washington, opening in September at 22nd and M streets NW.
Available among several penthouses is a $3 million unit with 3,914 square feet of living area. Another 2,746 additional square feet on the roof terrace could be turned into living space. The apartment's got four bedrooms, 4 1/2 baths, a den and a family room.
While the ceilings are only 8-feet 10-inches high, the developers, Millennium Partners of New York, would be happy to put two apartments together vertically, according to the Residences public relations staff. Of 162 units in the building, 112 are available and range in price from $500,000 to $3 million.
Besides a concierge service that can zip him to any golf course in the area or any place else he wants to go, Jordan could order up a massage or room service or get his refrigerator restocked.
And for recreation, the new sports club will have 100,000 square feet of space, including two basketball courts of 86-by-100 feet (regulation is 50-by-94 feet), four squash courts, a boxing ring, a steam room and a sauna.
* The Lansburgh, 425 Eighth St. NW, a block from MCI Center.
You can't get much closer to the Wizards' home court and practice facility than this luxury rental building. Only a block from the arena, it's right downtown and, for a different kind of entertainment, right above the Shakespeare Theatre. U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno is tall and she has a place there.
There are two two-bedroom units available now, including a two-bedroom/den/loft two-level apartment. The ceiling height above the loft, where the bedroom area is, is 18 feet; the rest of the apartment has ceilings about nine feet high. If the $2,607-a-month price doesn't suit, there's another one for $2,410.
And for nights off, the Lansburgh has a 24-hour health club with steam room, sauna and aerobics facility.
* Avenel, a stately mix of luxury brick, stone and stucco detached houses and town houses on 11,000 acres in Potomac.
Avenel, with its Tournament Players Club golf course and private security force, might be just the ticket for the golf-loving, privacy-conscious Jordan. Of course, the Kemper Open clogs things up quite a bit every year when it is held at the club.
The Wizards' Mitch Richmond, a 6-foot-5 guard out of Kansas State University who now is on the injured list, is building a house on two acres at Avenel. Teammate Juwan Howard, a 6-foot-9 forward, rented there while completing a home on two acres in Falconhurst in Potomac.
The custom-designed houses run up to about $2 million. Those with lots under two acres also pay a quarterly landscape-maintenance fee. A homeowners' association rep assures us that there are lots available and that ceilings can be built to any height.
* Falconhurst, just one of many affluent neighborhoods off River Road in Potomac.
Insiders say Howard, the Wizards' biggest name, recently completed a house on two acres in Falconhurst. And not too far away in the same neighborhood reportedly is the 12,000-square-foot home of Calbert Cheaney, a former Wizards guard who left as a free agent last year to sign with the Boston Celtics.
If Jordan wants a place quickly, Patrick Ewing, the New York Knicks center and Georgetown grad, reportedly has a house on the market in Potomac for $3.5 million. It's about 14,000 square feet, with a swimming pool in its own pool house.
Because the doorways are nine feet high and were custom-built, and a lot of ceilings are 16 feet to 18 feet high, there is no likelihood Jordan would bump his head.
Other NBA players said to be living in Potomac include Dikembe Mutombo of the Atlanta Hawks, who has a contemporary house with vaulted ceilings, and Alonzo Mourning of the Miami Heat, who is said to have a large town house in Potomac with 10-foot ceilings. New Jersey Nets guard Sherman Douglas, a Spingarn High grad, also reportedly lives nearby.
* Woodmore in Mitchellville, outside the Capital Beltway south of Route 50.
There are a whole lot of local African American luminaries living in this gated community, including Wizards guard Rod Strickland and former Minnesota Viking Scottie Graham, Arizona Cardinal J.B. Brown and John Booty, a former member of the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants.
In Prince George's County, there are neighborhoods as elegant as any in Potomac, but the prices are a lot lower. House prices in Woodmore top $1 million, and large lake-front town homes run from the mid-$200,000s to the low $400,000s, making it probably the most expensive subdivision in the county.
Another big draw for the list of major political players and developers in the county is the Woodmore Country Club's golf course, designed by Arnold Palmer and considered one of the best in the region.
* McLean, home to the honchos of high tech.
Short commutes seem to matter to the Washington area's newest wealthy class, the Internet multi-millionaire. America Online Inc. Chairman Steve Case, until a few days ago the area's hottest star, owns several homes, including a place in McLean. Leonsis, who runs AOL's Interactive Properties Group when he is not cheering on his sports teams, recently purchased a 15,000-square-foot Georgian-style McLean manse for about $5 million. After AOL bought his Netscape Communications Corp., Silicon Valley whiz kid Marc Andreessen paid $1.6 million for his own place in McLean.
Whether he liked it or not is an open question--last September, after just six months on the job, Andreessen stepped down as chief technical officer to become a part-time adviser.
While it's no trick to find a multi-million-dollar status house in the Washington region, stature of the physical sort does challenge garden-variety design even at the super-high end. Bill Sutton, of Sutton Yantis Architects in Tysons Corner, pointed out, for instance, that in a standard house the door jamb is 6-foot-8, not tall enough to accommodate basketball's big boys.
"You have to have a 7 1/2- or 8-foot door," he said. And then, "to be in scale," he continued, the ceilings have to be 10 feet tall or taller.
Kitchen counter tops and bathroom vanities, whose heights cause discomfort even among shorter people, should be adjusted as well, Sutton said. The normal kitchen counter top is 36 inches high; someone like Jordan would need it to be 42 inches tall. The standard 30-inch bathroom vanity and sink height should be adjusted upward to 36 inches.
Jordan will probably get his fill of hoops on the practice courts at the MCI Center. But just a word from Sutton, in case the megastar gets a hankering for another custom-built house with its own court: Be sure the ceiling of the court is at least 22 feet tall, "to accommodate the arc of the buzzer shot."
Staff writers Annie Groer, Elissa Leibowitz, Eugene Meyer and Jackie Spinner contributed to this report.