Pierrette Abeel, a longtime resident of Alexandria, Va., walked by the Watermark construction site every day as the building went up. And every day, she asked one of the workers if she could go up in the crane.

It sounds fantastical, but from the perspective of a former flying-trapeze instructor, looking down from high up was kind of natural.

She and her husband, Daniel, had purchased a third-floor one-bedroom unit in this boutique condominium in the heart of Old Town Alexandria, Va., and she wanted to check it out from above. Finally, a worker agreed, and up she went.

“It was a thrill,” she said. “I’d been sending Daniel pictures of the building’s progress. [He was deployed in Iraq as an Army Reserve flight surgeon.] Now I could show him the view from above.”

Buying New | Watermark in Alexandria, Va.

The five-story Watermark, a block from the Potomac River in Alexandria, Va., has 18 condo units; three are still for sale. (Benjamin C Tankersley/For The Washington Post)

The five-story Watermark is a block from the Potomac River, between Strand and South Union streets. Two public pedestrian walkways, with benches and historical plaques, border the building. There are 18 residences; three are for sale. Rust Orling Architecture designed the building. McWilliams Ballard is handling sales.

Spacious units: The first floor has a lobby, with a marble floor and walls, that looks out on Strand Street through a glass wall and provides access to the street-level garage. A painting depicts the neighborhood as it might have appeared in the late 19th century.

“We commissioned Patrick O’Brien to commemorate our history,” said Carlos Cecchi, managing director of the IDI Group Cos., the builder. “We believe our building is on the site of the 1749 Potomac River high-water mark, hence the name we chose. The water line is embossed outside on the stone pedestrian walkway.”

The units are spacious, from 2,675 to 2,868 square feet.

The furnished model home has a den off the entrance foyer. On one side of the foyer is the bedroom wing, which has two bedrooms, a hallway bathroom, and a laundry room with side-by-side appliances and cabinets. Both bedrooms come with en suite bathrooms. The owner’s bedroom suite also has two walk-in closets and a dressing area. The second bedroom has a walk-in closet.

The living room and adjoining kitchen have big windows overlooking the Potomac. A gas fireplace is built into the living room wall near the opening to the dining room. The unit has a balcony that can be reached through the dining room, the den and the second bedroom.

“We tried to think of everything,” Cecchi said. “Many people want to leave multilevel living but aren’t ready to downsize.”

Maria Cino, for instance, moved from a four-story townhouse a couple blocks away. She’s been living in Old Town for 25 years.

“I looked for a while and particularly liked the Watermark because of its small size, boutique feel and the great domed windows,” Cino said.

She bought a fourth-floor unit facing the river, and she added personal touches. She put a double-sided fireplace between the living room and the den; transformed a double-door closet into a small office with built-in bookcases, desk, shelves and drawers for files and a printer; and installed a glass-fronted wine refrigerator in the kitchen.

Abeel, who has a degree in industrial design and founded Smart Productivity Solutions, paid special attention to closets in her unit. She said she asked the builder “to deliver the closets as a shell. I custom designed the interiors. I measured what I have to put inside and designed the closet around those things.”

In the living room, Abeel added custom-designed floor-to-ceiling cabinets along a wall that is 17½ feet long. “That’s the key to a small living space. Lots of storage,” she said.

Nearby: Alexandria is endowed with ample dining, shopping and water views. Waterfront Park is out the front door to the left. The bike path to Mount Vernon is close. Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve is on the way to Mount Vernon, as are Jones Point Park and Jones Point Lighthouse.

Schools: Lyles Crouch Elementary, George Washington Middle, T.C. Williams High.

Transit: King Street-Old Town, on the Blue and Yellow lines, is the closest Metro station. George Washington Memorial Parkway, U.S. Route 1 and Virginia Route 7 are nearby and lead to the Capital Beltway (Interstate 495) and Interstate 295.


225 Strand St., Alexandria, Va.

There are 18 condominiums. Fifteen are sold; three are for sale at prices ranging from $2.6 million to $3.6 million.

Builder: The IDI Group Cos.

Features: Ceilings are nine feet high. Flooring is five-inch-wide hardwood planks. Kitchens have Bosch appliances, Cucina Craft shaker cabinets, a Hansgrohe faucet, an under-counter beverage center, quartz counters and LED under-cabinet lighting. Bathrooms have a Kohler toilet and Grohe fixtures. Units have two heating and air-conditioning systems for efficiency. Two parking spots are available to buy with each unit, at $35,000 each for compact/tandem spaces; $50,000 each for standard. A roof terrace offers views of the river, National Harbor, the Wilson Bridge and the U.S. Capitol.

Bedrooms/bathrooms: 3 / 3

Square-footage: 2,675 to 2,868

Condo association fees: $0.38 per square foot

See model: By appointment.

Contacts: Miriam Fernandez at 703-850-1159 and Jamie Test at 703-819-0436 or WatermarkOldTown.com