Giuseppe Cecchi, Watergate Developer and IDI Group Founder, Dies at 93

Giuseppe Cecchi, 93, prominent Washington, D.C. real estate developer and McLean, Virginia, resident, died peacefully at home surrounded by the love of his family on April 4. He had a heart ailment, according to his son John Cecchi.

“Our father left an indelible mark on the Washington, D.C. region,” Cecchi’s four sons, three of whom now lead IDI as managing directors, said in a joint statement. “While his legacy includes many pioneering real estate developments, what we are most proud of is the example he gave us of his boundless generosity, kindness and devotion to his family. We will always strive to honor him by following this example.”

Part of the obituary issued by the Cecchi family follows.

Cecchi was a devout Catholic, talented cook, avid skier and hiker, and devoted tennis partner to his beautiful wife, Mercedes. Giuseppe’s life was marked by a commitment to hard work, innovation, and generosity, leaving behind a legacy that lives on through his family and the countless lives touched through his professional and philanthropic endeavors. 

Born on June 9, 1930, in Milan, Italy, to Carla Sigismund and Antonio Cecchi, the head engineer of the city of Milan, Giuseppe followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather and graduated from the prestigious Politecnico di Milano in 1955 with a master’s degree in professional engineering. 

In 1959, Giuseppe left Italy to scout U.S. real estate investments for the firm Societа Generale Immobiliare (SGI), ultimately finding his own American Dream. In 1961, he arrived in the Nation’s Capital and soon began the city’s first mixed-use development, the Watergate. This seminal project combining residential, office, hotel and retail uses heralded a new era in urban planning, foreshadowing Giuseppe’s penchant for breaking new ground with his company, The IDI Group Companies (IDI), which he founded in 1975. 

While famous for the Watergate, Giuseppe considered his proudest business achievement to be the Parkfairfax condominium conversion project, a groundbreaking initiative that would redefine the landscape of attainable housing. With unwavering commitment and compassion, IDI transformed an aging rental complex into a vibrant community of homeowners, ensuring that nearly 1,700 families could keep their homes and realize the dream of first-time homeownership. Parkfairfax stood not only as a testament to Giuseppe’s visionary leadership and talent, but also to the generosity of his spirit. 

Under his leadership, IDI has flourished for five decades, spearheading the development of 28 residential communities comprising 14,000 homes, as well as 2.7 million sq. ft of office and commercial space, 1400 hotel rooms, and 2400 acres of land development. With IDI’s successful condominium communities considered national models for their luxurious and abundant amenities, The Washington Post once dubbed Cecchi the “Condo King” of D.C. Giuseppe’s commitment to excellence has earned IDI over 85 industry accolades, cementing its reputation as a paragon of design, construction, and community governance. 

Despite his phenomenal business achievements, Giuseppe believed his greatest success to be his 55-year marriage to Mercedes Sánchez Varela of Montevideo, Uruguay. Mercedes came to Washington while working as a purser for Pan Am Airlines, and she and Giuseppe met and fell in love in 1967. They married the following year in Montevideo in a ceremony officiated by Giuseppe’s brother, the Reverend don Piero Cecchi. They learned each other’s languages, cultures, and cuisines, spending many family vacations in Uruguay and Italy, later becoming proud US citizens in 1985. Together they built lifelong friendships, hosted countless dinner parties, and traveled the world, returning year after year to their beloved Vail, Colorado, and Key Biscayne, Florida. 

The family will receive friends on Thursday, April 11, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Money and King Funeral Home, 171 Maple Avenue West, Vienna, Virginia. 

Friends are invited to a funeral mass on Friday, April 12, at 10 a.m. at Holy Rosary Church, 595 3rd Street NW. 

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Catholic Charities of Arlington, Virginia. 

Giuseppe is survived by his brother the Reverend don Piero Cecchi of Milan, Italy; wife Mercedes Cecchi (née Sánchez Varela); son Antonio Cecchi and daughter-in-law Bobbi Jo Cecchi (née Haislip); son Enrico Cecchi; son Carlos Cecchi and daughter-in-law Lisa Rivas Cecchi (née Rivas Veray); son Giuseppe (John) Cecchi and daughter-in-law Kristin Rae Cecchi (née Irish); daughter-in-law Andrea Cecchi (née Kaufman); and 12 grandchildren, Carla, Malena, Rose, Gabrielle, Enrico, Giuseppe, Fior, Piero, Marco, Antonio, Valentina, and Giuseppe. 


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