While many old District buildings have been turned into rubble to make way for new developments, some historic edifices are nudged, at great expense, down the block.
One such painstakingly preserved townhouse in Mount Vernon Triangle will soon be turned into a boutique condo building.
Last year, the 1906-built townhouse at 465 New York Ave. NW was gingerly placed on rollers and moved a few yards west, to the edge of the property line, to make way for Homewood Suites’ 13-story, 163-room hotel project. While preservationists often mandate that the facade of a historic building be restored, maintaining the entire structure is a relatively new trend.
Expert House Movers undertook the surgical move, cutting under the foundation, lifting the building onto wheels and moving it without causing a collapse.
Now, Willco Residential plans to restore the property, now addressed at 475 New York Ave. NW, and construct seven one- and two-bedroom condo units inside of it.
While the townhouse holds historic status, decades of vacancy left it crumbling. “We’re gutting the inside, but will preserve the facade and the exterior details,” Gary Cohen, principal of Willco Residential, said in an interview. “Sitting right next to this all-glass hotel, it’s going to stand out.”
While Cohen has never constructed condos in a relocated row house before, his firm has completed three other historic restoration projects in D.C. — Jefferson Row in Dupont Circle, The Providence in Shaw and 2121 R Street in Kalorama — and is comfortable marrying a historic exterior with a bright, spare and modern interior.
“It’s a challenge to bring light and air and a sense of spaciousness to a building that is landlocked” with mainly north- and south-facing windows, said architect Tom Kamm, who is behind the design. The building was once a four-story, single-family house with a doctor’s office on the lowest floor, said Kamm, and dividing that into a multi-family residence was another challenge.
Creating outdoor space was one solution: The condos on the back of the building will all have balconies attached to the master bedrooms, and the top floor unit will have a private rooftop deck with a sitting area, a dining area and a kitchen.
No retail will exist on site, but Cohen doesn’t see that affecting the marketability.
“The building is right across the street from CityVista, and down the street from CityCenterDC,” Cohen said. “There is so much retail in the neighborhood.”
Cohen is currently securing permits and estimates the project will be complete in 12 to 18 months.
Willco Residential’s newest project is not the first building in D.C. to get a new address: In 2012, six historic buildings on the 600 block of K Street NW were moved, also by Expert House Movers, to make way for a new, 10-story office building, developed by Douglas Development.
The chosen historic gems were rearranged and then reincorporated into the new building, designed by Shalom Baranes, which is glassy, curved and contemporary. The building is now complete, but the risky operation had a casualty: one of the historic buildings lost its facade during construction.
Shilpi Malinowski is a freelance writer.