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In the Lap of Luxury at Westbrooke Place

By Heather Salerno
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 4, 1996; Page E01

Complimentary continental breakfasts and newspapers. Wine cellars. Dry cleaning delivery. An elegant lobby decorated with antique furnishings and deep mahogany wood. Soothing classical music greeting you upon walking into the building.

Sound like a five-star Washington hotel? The Ritz-Carlton or the Four Seasons, perhaps? Nope -- although that's what the owners of Westbrooke Place would like you to think. The luxury apartment building at 2201 N St. NW in the West End of Dupont Circle is for residents who desire all the extravagance available at an upscale hotel, but still want a place to call home.

"The trend is that people are renting for convenience even if they can afford to buy a home," said Tracie Leonard, regional manager for the Bozzuto Group, Westbrooke's management company. "This type of renter wants services that are not in the standard apartment building. Older renters are selling their houses, not because they are retiring, but because they don't want the responsibilities anymore."

Susan Bury, 46, and David Stauffer, 47, are Westbrooke Place newcomers who prove Leonard's theory.

"Our business had gotten where we were busy all the time and we wanted to make our life less hectic," said Stauffer, who moved into their two-bedroom, two-bath unit April 1. "We didn't want to give up work, travel or volunteering, but we didn't like all the repairs and work we had to put into our town house in [East] Dupont Circle."

Stauffer and Bury, who are married, made a housing "priority list" and went in search of an apartment building or condominium that met their criteria. Walking around the West End one afternoon, they saw a woman exiting Westbrooke Place with her dog.

"It wasn't one of the places we had researched, but we have two cats we wanted to keep and figured -- why not? Let's take a look," said Bury, who co-owns a company with Stauffer that performs writing services for corporations.

"The building had everything we were looking for," Stauffer said. "Plus, our unit had a drop-dead view of Rock Creek Park that made the final sale."

Westbrooke Place, which opened to residents in September, has a total of 202 units spread out over two attached buildings -- the East Wing and the Historic Building. The architectural design of Westbrooke was extremely meticulous, not only because the surroundings were intended to be luxurious, but also because of restrictions imposed by the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board. Harry Wardman, a well-known Washington developer of hotels, apartments and row houses, was an architect of the Historic building, which was built in the mid-1920s. It is now, ironically, on the National Registry of Historic Landmarks as an example of a moderate-income apartment building of the 1920s.

"The [preservation review board] had to approve the sleeping porches we added onto the apartments in the back, and we had to use the same windows and color scheme as the original," said Richard Jackson, chief executive of City State U.S.A., one of Westbrooke's developers. "They had very strict requirements."

Many of the units at Westbrooke have unusual features, such as French doors that open onto private balconies or expansive bay windows. There are more than 145 different floor plans available -- so many that the management hired a software company to create an interactive computer program in order to properly show prospective renters exactly what each individual unit has to offer.

In addition to a full-size washer and dryer, granite counter tops, brass fixtures and porcelain tiles in every apartment, residents enjoy a wealth of amenities that separate Westbrooke units from the average rental. Management will water plants and feed the pets for those who are on vacation. Tenants can make arrangements to have facials, massages and manicures on the premises, or have a personal trainer work out with them in the building's health facility.

"We also have a 'true' concierge available who is just wonderful," said Kay Feld, property manager for Westbrooke. "She can do anything from making dinner and theater reservations to getting a pair of shoes fixed that you're having a problem with."

Rina Shelly Orid was so impressed by Westbrooke she signed a two-year lease for a studio apartment before construction on the building was completed.

"I was walking through it with the dust still around, but it had an aesthetic about it and a European charm that made it extra special," said Orid, a writer at work on her first novel. "And they try to make life easy. You can come home and not have to worry about anything."

Orid, who owns a second home with husband Max Volckaert in Barcelona, enjoys the community spirit that Westbrooke tries to foster among its residents by hosting such events as a wine tasting in the piazza-style courtyard garden and a recent Academy Awards party.

"An old-fashioned popcorn machine from the '40s was rented for the awards -- it was lots of fun," Orid recalled. "I chose almost all the winners, and won a bottle of champagne in a contest."

But all this personal indulgence comes at a price. Monthly rent at Westbrooke Place, which does not include utilities, varies sharply from unit to unit. Feld said that studio apartments start at about $900 a month, and a two-bedroom, two-bath penthouse apartment with a den is the most expensive unit at $3,600.

However, some residents like Bury and Stauffer, who pay about $2,500 in total monthly rent, look at the high cost in a practical light.

"This is both our work and our home, so we look at it as being cost-effective," Stauffer said. "Not too many people can be in business and pay this amount for both their office and their home."

And with all the movers and shakers in the Washington area, Westbrooke Place is not overly concerned about vacancies.

"We saw a gap in the market for a high-end, luxury product and we've been right," Jackson said. "I don't think we thought we'd be as right as we are. We figured it would take 18 months to make our initial budget but now it looks like we'll be 90 to 95 percent occupied by June or July."

© Copyright 1996 The Washington Post Company

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