Longtime Georgetown resident Isabel Ernst got her start in real estatein 1998. She now lives with her husband, Ricardo, a professor of Business at Georgetown University, and her four children in Georgetown.
How did you get your start in development?
I got into real estate development when I bought our house in 1998, the historic Hillandale Mansion. It was completely abandoned and was falling apart. It had no electricity or water, and the windows and doors were either missing or destroyed. It had great bones, though. I took it upon myself to bring this beautiful house back to life. I spent two-and-a-half years renovating the mansion. I did all the design myself and learned a lot about space and materials, two very important components for a successful project. After I finished my home in 2000, I realized that development was my passion and started my business.
What has been your most memorable project to date?
The Clyde building on 10th between M and L St.: It was a leap of faith when I bought it, because it was still a very “transitional neighborhood.” The building was condemned, but it also had great bones, so we completely gutted it and transformed it into 14 beautiful apartments.
When you’re not at work, what can you usually be found doing?
I am usually taking care of my family, my husband and my four kids, spending time with my friends, taking care of my house, going to board meetings for the different organizations I am involved in, planning trips or going to art fairs with my parents. Not a lot of down time!
What is the hottest neighborhood in Washington right now?
D.C. has a lot of great emerging neighborhoods that are blending into each other. We are slowly building a wonderful city with a very international flavor, where people can walk or bike to work, to the theater or to a hot yoga class. As Mayor Gray described it, “D.C. is a world within a city,” and I cannot imagine living in a better place anywhere in the world.
What is your favorite thing about being a developer?
My favorite thing about being a developer is the demolition face when you get down to the bones and then start to rebuild; the smell of fresh paint and a beautiful space surrounded by beautiful materials.