The Helicopter Factory is a new and almost completed three-story, 15-unit development on the site of a former factory and its adjoining parking lots. (Benjamin C Tankersley/For The Washington Post)

If you’ve ever imagined taking flight in a spaceship or rocket or hot-air balloon but couldn’t really get going, you probably weren’t in a spot conducive to creative travel. But if you moved to the Helicopter Factory you’d be in dreamland right away.

Ensconced in the middle of Girard Street in Northwest Washington, the Helicopter Factory is a new and almost completed three-story development on the site of a former factory and its adjoining parking lots. Construction started about a year ago and units are delivering now. Brick Lane — as lead developer, in partnership with Brook Rose Development, Revere Bank and Temerity Capital Partners — is managing the construction and design of the project. TTR Sotheby’s is handling marketing and sales.

The Gyro Motor Co. and Standard Material Co. operated at this site from 1902 to the mid-1920s. The Gyro Copter, manufactured there, was a predecessor to the helicopter, hence the development’s name.

The site is near the eastern edge of the Columbia Heights neighborhood on a block of unpretentious rowhouses, some with basement apartments and many of which have been renovated. It’s a modest area in transition to one with an upscale vibe. The Washington Monument is visible from atop all the roof decks.

D.C. landmark: There are 15 units. Thirteen are newly constructed one-, two- or three-level townhouse-like units, most with a small deck/patio and some with roof decks, ranging from 1,324 to 1,706 square feet. The facade is smooth black brick with metal balconies and steel support beams over the windows.

Two will be extra-large units with three levels plus a roof deck, ranging from 2,825 to 5,077 square feet. These are being built in the original brick factory building called the Warehouse, which has been given landmark status by the D.C. Historic Preservation Office. “We worked with them to keep the structure yet make it appropriate for contemporary living,” said Michael Hines, listing agent at Sotheby’s.

All units are custom designed specifically for the Helicopter Factory with many unique features, he said. For example:

Rolling islands in the kitchen, fabricated in Baltimore, can be stationed perpendicular to the wall as a tabletop or easily moved to the center of the floor as a countertop.

Open-air shelving — above the sink, dishwasher and counter and against a wall of shiny white tiles that are the modern version of the old-fashioned subway tiles found on New York train station walls — is attractive and handy. You just reach up to grab a plate, a pitcher or the salt shaker while cooking.

An open staircase made of raw steel and wood planks gives the space breathing room. A metal trellis gate sits on the landings and is a nice design motif.


Remnants of the old were deliberately melded with contemporary design. (Benjamin C Tankersley/For The Washington Post)

Industrial feel: In one of the two furnished models, the first level is similar to a railroad flat style. One enters the home in the dining area, moves seamlessly to the kitchen and then to the living room at the end of the unit where floor-to-ceiling glass lets in abundant natural light.

“Our intent was to create an industrial feel that’s timeless,” said Brook Rose, principal of Brook Rose Development.

“Because the District was never a manufacturing town, there’s not a lot of former industrial space,” he said, compared with New York’s SoHo, where there are vast stretches of old factories that have been repurposed into residences. “Here, there are practically none. So this space is unique to work in, and we wanted to honor its history and at the same time make it modern.”

Remnants of the old were deliberately melded with contemporary design. For example, wood beams cross the ceiling here and there. Wide sliding barn doors are installed on the coat closet near the entry and in the master bathroom. Raw un-shined — albeit stained — oak floor runs throughout the homes. And reclaimed wood is used for the exposed kitchen shelving, some of which came from the factory building.

“It was all about honoring the original,” said Hines, “and at the same time making it feel brand new.” Bathrooms are large and there’s good closet space.

“It looked good on paper, and we knew it was great conceptually, but now that it’s built it looks even better,” said Rose. “You have something in your mind but you never really know how it’s going to turn out.”


Bathroom walls are made of polished white tiling similar in size to subway tiling from the late 1800s to early 20th century. (Benjamin C Tankersley/For The Washington Post)

Reclaimed wood is used throughout the building. (Benjamin C Tankersley/For The Washington Post)

Shopping: “We’re eight months away from the next Whole Foods Market that’s coming on Sherman Avenue,” said Hines, “a five-minute walk for the residents.” In the meantime, Giant is on Park Road NW, Safeway is on Columbia Road NW and Yes! Organic Market and Trader Joe’s are on 14th Street NW.

Columbia Heights is a busy commercial district with Target, Best Buy and Marshalls.

U Street corridor, Shaw and Adams Morgan are close and offer many entertainment venues and dining establishments.

Schools: Tubman Elementary and Cardozo Education Campus (grades 6 to 12).

Transit: This is an urban neighborhood where walking is common, and you can get anywhere in the Metro area with ease. Columbia Heights Metro station on the Green and Yellow Lines is not far, and it offers four bike racks. Georgia Avenue/Route 29 is one block away. New York Avenue/U.S. Route 50 and Rhode Island Avenue/U.S. Route 1 are close by.

Helicopter Factory

770-774 Girard St. NW, Washington

There are 15 condos. Two are under contract. Thirteen are for sale priced from $739,000 to $1.7 million.

Builder: Brick Lane

Features: The ceilings are about 10 feet high in the condos and 10 to 15 feet in the Warehouse. Two sliding wood barn doors are installed in most units. Flooring throughout is oak. Kitchen backsplash and bathroom walls are made of polished white tiling similar in size to subway tiling from the late 1800s to early 20th century. Condo appliances are by GE Profile, and Warehouse appliances are by Viking. Master bath vanities with marble tops are by Restoration Hardware. Most units have an outdoor deck/patio, balcony or roof deck. A shared courtyard will be landscaped and set with benches. Parking space is available for purchase.

Bedrooms/bathrooms: 2 /3 to 4

Square footage: 1,324 to 2,825

Condo association fees: $263 to $421 per month

View models: By appointment only

Contact: Michael Anderson Hines at 202-379-5868 or www.thehelicopterfactory.com .