Empty-nesters Edward and Tina McQuade are not only relocating from Pittsburgh to the District but are also seeking to downsize from their high-maintenance single-family home to a high-end high-rise condo and an urban lifestyle.
Though the condominium building their agent showed them at 2501 M St. NW was unfinished, they said they knew they'd found the right place.
The McQuades purchased a one-bedroom condo with a den and two bathrooms, a unit that is about a quarter the size of their house at slightly more than 1,000 square feet.
The units range from $758,000 to $3.1 million, with most at the higher end.
Like CityCenterDC downtown, the Wardman in Washington's Woodley Park, The Lauren and Quarry Springs in Bethesda, and other top-of-the-market developments, 2501 M provides pampering features such as 24-hour front desk and concierge services, valet parking and quality appointments chosen by an interior designer.
"We walked into the model unit for the new condos and we fell in love," says Ed, who recently started his new job as vice president of administration for the MedStar Washington Regional Surgical Service.
"We really loved the interior design by Sharon Dougherty Trifilo and the layout of the unit; plus we have a little balcony so we can sit outside," Tina adds.
But a key feature sets 2501 M apart from other high-end buildings: world-famous Nobu, which so has many foodies salivating — a Japanese-Peruvian fusion restaurant owned in part by Robert De Niro where patrons at its 22 locations from Honolulu to London to Dubai can wait months to get a reservation.
"Any excellent restaurant would have been great, but having Nobu an elevator ride away will be great when we have guests," says Ed.
Walls of glass
Careful attention has been paid to details in the new condos.
Standard features include an open floor plan, wide-plank white oak flooring and solid wood entry doors.
Kitchens are equipped with myriad drawers for storage and upgraded Thermador, Bosch and GE appliances, including a wine refrigerator. They have quartz countertops, full-height backsplashes and islands with waterfall-style sides. They also have a spacious island without any appliances on it to allow it to be used for entertaining and dining.
Smaller units have a pullout pantry cabinet, while the larger units have a full-size pantry.
The bathrooms have Porcelanosa and Daltile tile, modern fixtures and tall, nearly hidden medicine cabinets.
Lighting is a key feature. Each condo has a backlit unit number by its front door, "halo" lighting around the mirrors in the bathrooms, recessed lighting, pendant lighting and chandeliers.
Units with a den include a niche with indirect lighting that mimics natural light from a window.
The McQuades say they were particularly attracted by the walls of glass in their unit. Tina McQuade says their cat will appreciate the view once they move into their condo.
"We invested in special glass that has extra UV protection so people can enjoy the wide-open walls of glass but don't have to worry about their art or furniture fading," says Paul Dougherty, president of PRP Real Estate Investment Management in Washington. The company, he adds, spent $900 per square foot to get the quality he wanted for the building.
The windows in every unit include built-in shades that are tucked into pockets above the windows so they can disappear when not in use. The condos have energy-efficient features including a Nest "learning" thermostat that automatically adjusts to the owner's preferred temperature over time.
The units are designed with as much closet and storage space as possible, particularly in the larger units. Pocket doors are frequently used to maximize space.
Each balcony has porcelain tile flooring that resembles the interior wood floors to visually connect the living space. The balconies have glass panels to let in more natural light and wide banisters to hold a cup of coffee or glass of wine.
One of the largest corner units, floor plan D6, has 2,080 square feet and is priced from $2.848 million to $3.048 million.
This condo has a grand-entrance foyer with a powder room, a coat closet and a laundry room with space for cabinets and storage as well as the washer and dryer. This foyer opens into an open kitchen, living and dining area wrapped by two walls of floor-to-ceiling windows, with an adjacent large balcony.
The living area has a touch of architectural whimsy, with window panels at varied heights and widths for no reason other than to add interest to the room. The kitchen has a walk-in pantry, a deep sink and an appliance garage on the counter to reduce the visual clutter of a coffee maker and a toaster.
To one side of the living area is a bedroom with a double-door closet and a private full bath with a six-foot-long soaking tub. On the other side is a den with a wide-open doorway for easier flow when entertaining.
The master bedroom has a foyer leading into a hall flanked by two large walk-in closets with pocket doors. The master bathroom has two medicine cabinets, a glass-enclosed shower and a floating vanity with numerous drawers. The bedroom area is big enough for a king-size bed and a small sitting area, but it's not huge to accommodate more closet space.
Floor plan B4, with 1,280 square feet, is priced from $1.204 million to $1.298 million. This condo has a full bathroom, a coat closet, and a closet with a washer and dryer near the front door. A bedroom adjacent to the foyer includes a sliding-glass door to allow for natural light to filter in, a closet and a niche for a desk or dresser.
The open kitchen, living and dining area face a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows and have access to the balcony. The master bedroom includes a large walk-in closet as well as a second closet and a private bathroom with a double-sink vanity and a glass-enclosed shower with a seat.
The new condos are part of a renovation and restructuring of a 1980s office building in the West End. Developers in recent years have been giving outdated vacant and underused office buildings new life as housing.
The top three floors of the eight-story building hang over the edge of the lower floors, an architectural challenge for PRP and its chosen architects, Guy Martin and Ron Ngiam of CORE Architecture and Design.
CORE collaborated with Olvia Demetriou of Hapstak Demetriou on the lobby and first-floor rooms and with Sharon Dougherty Trifilo Interiors for the design and furnishings of the model units.
To accommodate the new condos, the office building was expanded from 100,000 square feet to 130,000 square feet to add living space and balconies. New glass bump-outs add a more dynamic look to the formerly boxy building and bring in light to the new condos.
"We used cantilevers to support the building extensions," Dougherty says.
"Since the upper three floors of the office were already condos," says Dougherty, "we worked with those homeowners during the planning phases of the new residences and amenities, including the development of a 13,000-square-foot restaurant space on the ground floor."
In addition to expanding the upper levels of the condo, the lower level was dug out to add more amenity spaces with windows, says Dougherty.
"The residents lived in the building throughout the construction, even as we redid every system in the building," says Dougherty.
When replacing the building's systems, Dougherty opted for a "variant refrigerant flow" air-conditioning system, a highly efficient, lower-maintenance system that is costly to install but frees up space on the roof.
"Instead of dozens of air compressor units, we only need one," says Dougherty. "Inside the units, we needed space to put in air ducts so we designed them into coffered ceilings."
There are 59 units in the new section of the building, ranging from 1,020 to 2,325 finished square feet. The condos are priced from $758,000 to $3.098 million, with monthly condo fees ranging from $635 to $1,446. About 30 percent of the condos have been sold.
"This building has what developers call 'good air,' which means it has light and air on all four sides and views all the way up to the National Cathedral and to Rosslyn and Georgetown," says David Mayhood, president of the Mayhood Company, the condo marketing and sales firm handling 2501 M.
Mayhood has nicknamed the units across the front of the building facing M Street the "sister units" because they're similar in size and have tall windows that face a cluster of historic townhouses. The units at the back of the building overlook Francis Park, which has fields, tennis courts, a swimming pool and a small dog park.
"About 40 percent of the building consists of two-bedroom units priced at $1.1 million to $1.3 million with around 1,150 square feet that appeal to young couples, affluent singles or divorced people who are 30 to 45 years old," says Mayhood. "We've found that a lot of our buyers are single women who like the safe feeling of the neighborhood."
Mayhood says that the four corners of the building have larger units, priced in the $2 million to $3 million range, that appeal to downsizing empty nesters. The corner units have larger balconies, which he nicknamed "Mardi Gras" balconies because they can accommodate a party.
"These units have a more impressive entry foyer that announces you're about to enter into an important space," he says. "It only takes about 15 square feet, but it's worth it to have that entrance."
When PRP purchased the office building, the principals of the company didn't anticipate that their conversion of the property into sophisticated condos would attract the world-famous Nobu restaurant to the site.
"Nobu has a cultlike following around the world, with people waiting two months for a reservation at the Malibu location," says Dougherty. "I happened to meet an investor in Nobu at a Children's Hospital board meeting and found out that the owners wanted to open a D.C. location, so we showed them the plans for 2501 M and they liked the idea of being in the West End."
The Japanese-Peruvian fusion restaurant, owned by chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa and, among other investors, De Niro, recently opened.
Shawmut Design and Construction designed the restaurant, which has sound-absorbing wood walls, a wood ceiling, a sushi bar, a private dining room and three patios. Dougherty says about $13 million was spent to design and build Nobu.
While residents at 2501 M may have an easier time getting reservations at Nobu than the general public, other amenities in the building are also designed to make residents feel pampered and their guests to feel welcome.
"Two of the important amenities in this building are the porte-cochere and the lobby," says Dougherty. "We were able to negotiate with the city to keep the curb cut that was in place for the office building so we could have a covered entrance where residents and guests can drive up to the lobby and have their car parked by the valet."
The porte-cochere has elegant slate paving stones on the driveway and natural wood detailing overhead that connects with wood detailing in the lobby, which has 18-foot-high ceilings and walls of glass. Building amenities include a front desk staffed around the clock, concierge services and a green rooftop terrace.
"The roof has nice shaded areas for sitting outside and space to cook out and entertain guests," says Tina McQuade.
The lower level of 2501 M includes a fitness center, a glass-enclosed yoga room, a library and lounge with a fireplace and a bar, a private meeting space, and a catering kitchen. A tiered, landscaped garden outside the yoga room will provide a view and privacy.
The McQuades and other new homeowners at 2501 M are expecting to move in this fall.
The couple looks forward to walking everywhere, leaving their cars in the condo's garage and exploring the city's restaurants and cultural amenities.
After 30 years of marriage, Tina says, "we feel like we're newlyweds again, but with more money in our pockets."