Washington DC, New Loft Developments: Northern Exchange, an Alley Warehouse, Grace Street Lofts and The Central Union Mission

Posted by Andre Perez on Monday, August 19th, 2013 at 6:07pm.

Lofts in Washington DC

Loft living has long been popular in Washington Metro. The craze began in the early 1980's when the public starting getting hip to the fact that local artists were renting studio space on the cheap in old commercial buildings and creating their own ad-hoc loft sleeping quarters. Before long, developers were embracing the concept, figuring and rightfully so, that there was more money to be made out of selling loft condos to urban professionals than in renting to starving artists. The loft movement also came at a pivotal time in the city's resurgence, as gallery and nightlife energy helped jumpstart the movement toward a gentrification trend that also included a growing appetite for rowhouses. Loft development continued throughout the 1990's and 2000's and is still going strong. Washington DC isn't known for having as many old warehouse or industrial buildings as some major cities. As a result, developers have jumped on former churches, schools, utility companies, automobile showrooms and even the old naval shipyard as targets of opportunity. It sometimes seems as if new loft-space will eventually run out but it hasn't happened yet. Here then are four new loft projects that are various stages of planning or construction. They include a mission for the homeless, an old telephone company, a brick alleyway warehouse and an empty lot in Georgetown that has never before been developed – probably because it's about the size of a Band-aid.

The Northern Exchange

Located at 1401 R Street in Logan Circle, the Northern Exchange is a new hipster development offering 36 pure loft spaces ranging from 545 to 830 square feet. Developer PN Hoffman and architect Eric Colbert converted what was once the District's main switching center for the Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Company, into unique condos, each with an overhead loft. These residences retain the original terracotta ceilings with up to 15 feet of soaring height. Also featured is a combination of old and modern elements such as exposed brick and duct-work, hardwood floors, enormous original window openings and high-tech gourmet kitchens with Bosch stainless steel appliances. Of the 36 units, six are penthouses. The five-story tiered gray brick and stone structure was built in 1902 and can be found at the corner of 14th and R Streets, smack-dab in the middle of the city's famed 14th Street restaurant row. Common amenities include a first floor cafe, a modern lobby with a restored historic phone booth, a bike room and a rooftop terrace with a residents' lounge, fire pit, outdoor grills and skyline views. Framed original linen blueprints of the phone company's floor plan line the building's hallways. The idea of phone company lofts in DC isn't exactly unique – a four-unit conversion of an old C&P Telephone building was delivered way back in 1985 along with a nine-unit phone company conversion in 1989.

About an old warehouse?

As mentioned earlier, old warehouses aren't as common in the nation's capitol as they are in other major urban centers such as Boston, New York, Chicago or Los Angeles. Still, they do exist in D.C., sometimes tucked away and forgotten. A historic brick warehouse built in the 1890's was recently purchased for $480,000 by a developer who has been in close consultation with the Historic Review Board. The building is situated in an alley at 1237 – 1239 Rear C Street SE, recently renamed Adolf Cluss Court in honor of one of DC's most interesting architects from the 1800's. Cluss was especially known for his red brick work, in schools and public buildings. Alleys have historically been tricky when it comes to D.C. condo conversions due to a restrictive 1958 zoning law. Times have changed however. City planners and zoning officials have been remapping and reconsidering the District's alleys and their structures. This Capitol Hill warehouse offers 1,770 square feet of interior space on a 4,350 square-foot lot. The property is now zoned as R-4, and will be restored and converted into either one or two loft residences. The project is in an embryonic stage without a lot of available information. We will keep you posted.

Georgetown Empty Lot

One of the more difficult lots to get approved for development has been a narrow strip of property at the corner of Grace Street and Cecil Place in fashionable Georgetown. This gravel-filled lot has never any type of structure on it according to city records, and has been used for parking by residents of an adjacent townhouse building. Wilco Residential and Valor Development both gave it go but were routinely shot down by neighbors and the Old Georgetown Board. It seems some people are not particularly anxious to see a new luxury condo building on a piece of land that's about the width of an alleyway. Nonetheless, Capital City Real Estate seems to have solved the puzzle, winning approval after submitting six revisions to the commissioners. Architect Dale Overmeyer has designed a four-store structure to house seven lofts, which will average in the 800 – 900 square-foot range. The Grace Street Lofts will face Grace Street with a slightly lower-tiered right side running along narrow Cecil Place to the north. The left side of the building will be flush with existing townhouses in typical rowhouse fashion. Prices are anticipated to start in the $500's, with an anticipated delivery date of late 2014. There are still a number of hoops to jump through but Capital City is optimistically hoping for a late summer construction start.

Central Union Mission

An exciting new development update concerns the go-ahead for construction on the much talked-about Central Union Mission project. The mission currently stands at the corner of 14th and R Street, across from the Northern Exchange project. Its occupants have been searching for a new home for some time and will relocate to a restored historic school house on Massachusetts Avenue. The ambitious plans from developer Jeffrey Schonberger and architect Eric Colberg call for the adaptation of three buildings in a row, along with additions to be built on top. There is anticipated to be a total of 51 units, including loft condos and two-story duplexes. Sizes will range from 800 to 1,000 square feet. The project was first initiated by Schonberger in 2006 when conceptual approval was granted by the Historic Preservation Review Board. There was a change in architects along the way . Colbert's plan calls for a simplified design that is more closely aligned with the original structures. The architect was also responsible for the Northern Exchange project. Colbert envisions “boutique condos” meaning a lot of individuality, with up to 30 different floor plans. He'll be working with interior designer Olivia Dementriou, known for her work on the trendy 14th Street eatery/lounge Lost Society. There will also be ground level retail, recreating the look of the old original store fronts. While a name for the project hasn't yet been officially released, Schonberger is reportedly leaning toward “The Mission”. As for the look of the units themselves, expect there to be some adherence to the original character of the building with exposed brick and interesting nooks and crannies. Delivery is anticipated for late summer or fall of 2014, with prices ranging from around $420,000 to $850,000.


Andre Perez | District One Properties LLC | Realtor/Agent/Owner

1305 Leslie Ave, Alkexandria, VA 22301

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