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Real Estate Spotlight

Featured Property

3120 N Street NW Located in the heart of Georgetown’s prestigious East Village, this grand, sun-filled Victorian is a Georgetown classic. With four bedrooms and four full baths, it features well-proportioned rooms, 10-foot ceilings on all floors, exquisite moldings, three wood-burning fireplaces, intimate balconies with garden views and garage parking. The home’s sophisticated and urbane setting – offering breathtaking views of the Kennedy Center, the monuments and the Rosslyn skyline – is just a short stroll from shopping, dining and cultural attractions, as well as from varied transportation options and the new vibrancy of downtown D.C. Offered at $4,150,000 TTR Sotheby’s International Realty Gary Wicks 202-486-8393 202-333-1212

Urban Turf: Real Estate in Real Time

“A conversation that I thought would last 15 minutes became two hours,” says Urban Turf cofounder Will Smith of his initial brainstorming – with cofounder-to-be Mark Wellborn – about a D.C-focused real estate blog. Smith grew up in Alexandria, attended St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School and graduated from Brown University. When he met Wellborn, Smith was working on a number of other online publications he founded in the area. A D.C.-native from Capitol Hill, Wellborn had gotten his master’s from Columbia University’s journalism school and was working at the New York Observer. The meeting, in 2008, took place at a mutual friend’s party in Brooklyn, where – in quintessential late-twenty-something fashion – “people were kicking around business ideas,” says Smith. The partners clicked when they started talking about D.C.’s lack of an authoritative real estate blog and the success of such blogs in New York City. Founded later that year, Urban Turf’s rapid growth coincided with a development tidal wave that has washed over Washington. The blog has served up valuable scoops as the real estate market has boomed, bringing new life – and prestige – to a city best known for its political-industrial complex. As that happened, Wellborn says, “We’ve evolved much more into a news publication rather than a real estate blog.” The statement holds up. Urban Turf has strengthened its foothold, attracting a healthy mix of real estate consumers and professionals (70 percent and 30 percent of readership, respectively) and boasting more Facebook “likes” than Washington City Paper in the process. (City Paper’s footprint on Twitter still dwarfs Urban Turf’s, though.) District residents increasingly rely on Urban Turf not only to inform them about real estate trends but also to fill in the details, to paint a picture of what is happening on both the macro and micro levels. After starting out with what Wellborn describes as an “archaic idea of the web,” the site now publishes five or more posts a day, with some sponsored articles that help pay the bills. (The ads are clearly labeled, Smith is eager to interject, and they are written by someone outside editorial, Wellborn adds.) The timing and targeting could not be more on point given the rapid influx of millennials to American cities. Lark Turner, Urban Turf’s lead journalist and a newcomer to D.C., puts it most succinctly: “Millennials are returning to cities in America, and there is probably no better example in the country [than D.C.] of all of these trends.”

Featured Property

3321 N St. NW With more than 5,000 square feet of above-grade living space, this grand five-bedroom home is perfect for entertaining. The spacious master suite has extensive closets, an attached master sitting room and two master baths (of a total of five and a half baths). Other features include voluminous ceilings, six fireplaces, a spacious brick patio and an attached garage. There is also plenty of potential for the house’s lower level. Offered at $3,950,000 Washington Fine Properties Nancy Taylor Bubes 202-386-7813 nancy.taylorbubes@wfp.com

Roadside Development: A Different Kind of Commercial Real Estate

One of the biggest names in Washington, D.C., real estate, Roadside Development was established 17 years ago by Smithy Braedon alums Richard Lake and Armond Spikell, who recruited longtime client Todd Weiss to join them. All three are well acquainted with the D.C. metro area. When he was growing up, Lake worked at the Zebra Room, a Wisconsin Avenue business owned by his family. The name Roadside Development was inspired by the company’s first projects: CVS locations in the D.C. suburbs. After doing 17 stores in and around D.C., Armond said, “We build things along the road. Why don’t we call ourselves Roadside Development?” Lake says he and his partners have thought about changing it, “because who wants to live in an apartment built by Roadside Development…[but] it has really stuck.” According to Lake, there are a lot of developers who build housing well, and others who build retail well, but Roadside’s mission is to “marry the two.” He offers Roadside’s City Market at O in Shaw and its Cityline in Tenleytown as examples and calls them his favorites, saying that the projects “captured what was necessary for those neighborhoods.” He talks glowingly about City Market. “It was an early form of grocery store in the 1800s when it was built. It made sense to incorporate the market and make it the centerpiece of the entire development.” But, Lake says, Roadside wanted to “design something that sets that building off and apart from more modern construction.” The company looked at different shapes, materials, colors and windows and came up with a design that pays homage to the original market while maintaining modernity. Lake also talks passionately about the need for affordable housing in the District, calling such housing “imperative.” He adds, “We all fail if we don’t provide safe and quality housing for everyone.” In that vein, during the City Market construction process, Roadside promised area seniors 78 affordable units, eventually constructing 90 that rent at below-market rates. Lake is looking forward to future Roadside projects, such as renovating Frager’s Hardware, a Capitol Hill institution that burned down in 2013. He calls the project a “smaller version of [City Market at] O Street” and says that Roadside is seeking to add vitality to the block and bring people in to live at the site. In Georgetown, Roadside has the old Neam’s Market site under contract. Lake says: “We don’t own the property. We aren’t talking about plans yet because we haven’t formulated them completely. It’s a really cool corner with a lot of history. The corner is a Washington institution. It’s a small piece of property, but we want to do something neat there if we are able to.” Lake calls the pipeline the “single most complicated part of the business,” explaining: “We just finished building $400 million worth of stuff, but you have to make sure there’s something else in the pipeline for the future when you are in the final stages of other projects.” He adds, “There are so many variables in the types of development we do, always something that can trip us up, whether it’s zoning, the market or changes in attitudes.” The company “has been pretty fortunate to find projects to keep us active.” Lake says he worries sometimes about overdevelopment and “too many of the same thing being built,” but says Roadside works as hard as it can to differentiate its product by bringing in retail, office space and, when feasible, housing. So far, that mix and Roadside’s vision have brought great value to the District while restoring and enhancing its architectural character.

Roadside Development: A Different Kind of Commercial Real Estate

One of the biggest names in Washington, D.C., real estate, Roadside Development was established 17 years ago by Smithy Braedon alums Richard Lake and Armond Spikell, who recruited longtime client Todd Weiss to join them. All three are well acquainted with the D.C. metro area. When he was growing up, Lake worked at the Zebra Room, a Wisconsin Avenue business owned by his family. The name Roadside Development was inspired by the company’s first projects: CVS locations in the D.C. suburbs. After doing 17 stores in and around D.C., Armond said, “We build things along the road. Why don’t we call ourselves Roadside Development?” Lake says he and his partners have thought about changing it, “because who wants to live in an apartment built by Roadside Development…[but] it has really stuck.” According to Lake, there are a lot of developers who build housing well, and others who build retail well, but Roadside’s mission is to “marry the two.” He offers Roadside’s City Market at O in Shaw and its Cityline in Tenleytown as examples and calls them his favorites, saying that the projects “captured what was necessary for those neighborhoods.” He talks glowingly about City Market. “It was an early form of grocery store in the 1800s when it was built. It made sense to incorporate the market and make it the centerpiece of the entire development.” But, Lake says, Roadside wanted to “design something that sets that building off and apart from more modern construction.” The company looked at different shapes, materials, colors and windows and came up with a design that pays homage to the original market while maintaining modernity. Lake also talks passionately about the need for affordable housing in the District, calling such housing “imperative.” He adds, “We all fail if we don’t provide safe and quality housing for everyone.” In that vein, during the City Market construction process, Roadside promised area seniors 78 affordable units, eventually constructing 90 that rent at below-market rates. Lake is looking forward to future Roadside projects, such as renovating Frager’s Hardware, a Capitol Hill institution that burned down in 2013. He calls the project a “smaller version of [City Market at] O Street” and says that Roadside is seeking to add vitality to the block and bring people in to live at the site. In Georgetown, Roadside has the old Neam’s Market site under contract. Lake says: “We don’t own the property. We aren’t talking about plans yet because we haven’t formulated them completely. It’s a really cool corner with a lot of history. The corner is a Washington institution. It’s a small piece of property, but we want to do something neat there if we are able to.” Lake calls the pipeline the “single most complicated part of the business,” explaining: “We just finished building $400 million worth of stuff, but you have to make sure there’s something else in the project pipeline for the future when you are in the final stages of other projects.” He adds, “There are so many variables in the types of development we do, always something that can trip us up, whether it’s zoning, the market or changes in attitudes.” The company “has been pretty fortunate to find projects to keep us active.” Lake says he worries sometimes about overdevelopment and “too many of the same thing being built,” but says Roadside works as hard as it can to differentiate its product by bringing in retail, office space and, when feasible, housing. So far, that mix and Roadside’s vision have brought great value to the District while restoring and enhancing its architectural character.

Who Lives Here: November 19, 2014

Washington Harbour resident Nancy Pelosi was spotted in her purple velour jumpsuit on Nov. 5. No doubt the House Minority Leader, who has lived in Washington Harbour for more than a decade, was blowing off some post-election steam after the Democrats got collectively drubbed in Senate and House races. Regardless, we appreciate a woman who can still rock a velour jumpsuit. Georgetowner John Fahey moved from the National Geographic Society to become a member of the Board of Regents at the Smithsonian. Fahey lives on Dent Street between 33rd and 34th Streets, the block where a tree crashed into a derelict house a couple summers ago. He led National Geographic’s television ventures and extended the magazine internationally and into the digital age. We wish him luck as he settles in at a somewhat older (1846 vs. 1888) and inherently more bureaucratic institution. A puppy named Olive has moved into a home on Olive Street in Georgetown. The yellow lab pup moved in with Doug and Laura Stone a few weeks ago and is already making waves in the neighborhood. Olive can be seen taking long walks with dad Doug, frolicking at Rose Park and getting petted by strangers amid the commercial bustle of M Street. She’s a happy little pup who is still getting through the tough parts of puppyhood, chewing on furniture and fingers and going piddle in the house. Her parents assure us she’ll turn out fine.

Latham Apartment’s Get Zoning OK’s

Developer SB-Urban moved past the last major obstacle to building micro-residential units on the 3000 M Street site of the Latham Hotel, which closed in 2012. On Tuesday, SB-Urban was granted a series of variances from the Board of Zoning Adjustments for the project. According to an Urban Turf article, the requests were for: a rear-yard variance for an addition, a special exception to a parking requirement that would allow the company to provide 42 off-site spaces, a variance for the remaining 74 parking spaces and a variance for a loading dock and delivery space. The micro-unit project will create retail spaces along M Street and will have 140 furnished apartments with an average size of 330 square feet. There will also be 11,000 square feet of shared-living spaces, such as kitchens, laundry rooms and living rooms. The lease agreement will prevent residents from parking on Georgetown streets, but residents will receive Capital Bikeshare and car-share memberships. Among its other projects, Bethesda-based SB-Urban will also convert the Patterson Mansion on Dupont Circle into rental apartments. The company bought the historic 36,470-square-foot mansion from the Washington Club for $20 million in June.

With Helpful Fed, Mortgage Rates Head Lower for Everyone

The stock and bond markets can be subject to a lot of volatility in this day and age. When the stock market has a bad day, with triple-digit declines, the bond markets usually have a good day. This means that rates tend to go lower when stocks sell off, providing a short window of opportunity to lock in a lower rate. A year ago, almost all economists were predicting the 10-Year Treasury notes would be yielding 3 percent or more by the fourth quarter of 2014. The economists were wrong. On Oct. 15, the 10-Year Treasury note yield fell to 2.08 percent. This figure was around 100 basis points lower than a lot of economists were talking about several months earlier. Mortgage interest rates which track the 10-Year Treasury yields went to their lowest levels since earlier last year. Rates on 30-year fixed-rate money were below 4 percent. Rates on 15-Year fixed-rate notes were around 3 percent. Rates on 7-year adjustable-rate mortgages were around 3 percent. Rates have moderated in recent days to around 4 percent, but are still at the lowest levels in months. The index value for the 1-Year LIBOR is currently 0.58. LIBOR has been coming down in yield for more than a year. Since the LIBOR index is the favored index for most adjustable-rate mortgages, when they adjust they will be going lower. (The common margin is 2.25 percent. Margin plus index equals 2.83 percent.) Commodity prices continued to head lower. Oil prices have been in a recent free-fall. Prices were just above $80 a barrel, as we approached the last part of October. The high benchmark was $115. Gasoline is at four-year lows. The drop in Treasury yields and the drop in commodity prices are related to the trouble in the European economy. The EU countries are fighting to stave off recessionary conditions. Deflation has become more of a concern then the specter of inflation. The Fed announced an end to the buying of bonds and mortgage-backed securities in October. However, it added that it would be a while before it would be raising short-term rates. These rates hold true for all buyers, from first-time buyers to buyers of multi-million-dollar homes. These rates are good for everybody. It remains an excellent time to buy a home or to refinance an existing one. Bill Starrels lives in Georgetown, where he is a mortgage loan officer (NMLS#485021). He can be reached at bill.starrels@gmail.com or 703-625-7355.

Fighting for Aged Architecture

As larger and larger swaths of the city’s quadrants are torn down and rebuilt in the name of revitalization, D.C. Preservation League fights to maintain local architectural treasures. Since 1996, the organization has announced an annual list of “Most Endangered Places” to draw attention to sites of historical, cultural and architectural significance that are threatened with alteration and demolition or neglect and abandonment. The group’s stances are widely publicized in the city, and the league has an outsized impact for its small size. For example, earlier this fall, the organization urged the Historic Preservation Review Board to block the International Spy Museum’s plans to expand the Carnegie Library. The board took the D.C. Preservation League’s advice, causing the Spy Museum to pull out of the site, an “Endangered Place,” altogether. The site is still on the list however, with the league pushing the city to fund preservation for the Beaux-Arts building across from the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. This year’s list also includes two homes on L Street in Shaw that are likely to get swept up in a proposal to build more hotels close to the near-completed Marriot Marquis convention center, a huge portion of relatively pastoral land at the St. Elizabeths East Agricultural Complex, and the Washington Canoe Club and West Heating Plant, both in Georgetown. Other than the boathouse, which is in such a state of disrepair that the National Park Service closed the building, the list consists of buildings that are facing off against gentrification. It’s a battle that the D.C. Preservation League has seen before, and will see again, as it continues to fight a war on behalf of the city’s aged architecture. [gallery ids="101909,136324,136331,136328" nav="thumbs"]

Who Lives Here…

Maureen Dowd couldn’t have been happy with our editorial last week urging voters to support recreational marijuana legalization in the District. Back in June, the Georgetown resident and New York Times columnist visited Colorado to report on legalization. After eating far more than the recommended dose of a marijuana-laced edible chocolate, Dowd criticized legalization. On the experience, she wrote in her column, “I felt a scary shudder go through my body and brain. I barely made it from the desk to the bed, where I lay curled up in a hallucinatory state for the next eight hours… I was panting and paranoid, sure that when the room-service waiter knocked and I didn’t answer, he’d call the police and have me arrested for being unable to handle my candy… As my paranoia deepened, I became convinced that I had died and no one was telling me.” Sounds like a pretty bad trip. No doubt Dowd will proceed carefully, if at all, when marijuana edibles come to Georgetown. Although, her place near the corner of Potomac and N streets NW is probably a better place to experiment than a Denver hotel room. Head east across Georgetown on N Street, then north on 28th and you might bump into Walter Isaacson, the renowned author who just released a new book on the digital economy called, “The Innovators.” The book is a follow-up to Isaacson’s hugely successful Steve Jobs biography and talks about some of the most innovative companies in tech, including Apple, Microsoft and Georgetown’s own IBM. The Nats’ playoff performance must have disappointed team owner and Washington Harbour resident Mark Lerner. There’s always next season, though. Until then, Lerner can continue working on the family’s real estate empire and supporting area institutions and causes like the Georgetown Day School, the Holocaust Museum and the Scleroderma Foundation.