Who Lives Here: November 19, 2014

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

November 6, 2014

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.

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…

October 22, 2014

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.

Who Lives Here: Mika Brzezinski and Scott Altman

September 10, 2014

Georgetowners may notice “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski strolling through the neighborhood in the coming days and weeks. The popular media personality just bought a condo in what used to be the Phillips School between N and Olive Streets. While her show is based in New York and she and her family currently live there, she purchased property here as “Morning Joe” has become increasingly focused on politics in the nation’s capitol. D.C.’s thriving real estate market could have also influenced the purchase. Alexander Memorial Baptist Church is next up on the list of old properties being converted into condo units. Maybe Mika will convince friend and co-host Joe Scarborough to become a neighbor.

If you wander a block north of Mika’s place, you’ll pass a house where retired NASA astronaut Scott Altman lives with his wife, Jill. They temporarily live near the corner of 28th and Dumbarton Streets while they await a move back to the west side, where their house on 36th Street is being redone. Altman piloted or commanded four space shuttle missions. Years before, he got to fly his F-14 in the movie, “Top Gun,” which he admits was a real kick since the pilots were allowed to “buzz the tower” at the Miramar Air Station in San Diego. The two are active in the community and regularly volunteer at the Georgetown Senior Center.

Around the corner from the Altmans, several neighbors routinely walk their dogs past the intersection of 27th and O Streets, where a black SUV or sedan sits continually at the corner. Questions have arisen among local residents as to who is living in the neighborhood with a security detail. Things became slightly clearer last year when anti-war group Code Pink demonstrated on neighborhood streets. Well, suffice it to say, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and his family live nearby. Johnson was sworn in to his current role at the end of 2013 but has lived in Georgetown for a number of years.
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Featured Property

July 16, 2014

Take a tour of this breathtaking French country villa designed by award winning architect, Ankie Barnes and constructed by acclaimed builder, Richard Zantzinger. This 10,000 square-foot home features 6 bedrooms and 7 and ½ baths. The home includes a wine cellar, elevator and custom library with built-in shelving. This premium lot backs into wooded area with a large pool.

6 Beds

7.5 Baths

Offered at $6,295,000

Long and Foster

Marc Fleisher

202-364-5200 x2927


Remodeling for Modern Life

July 2, 2014

John and Kristin Cecchi’s life could be a reality TV show. But it wouldn’t involve cameras following them to Peacock Cafe or Fiola Mare. HGTV would hit closer to home, since John is a real estate developer. The 39-year-old, soon to turn 40, has renovated eight houses in Georgetown, the neighborhood where he and Kristin reside.

“Georgetown seems to be what’s in,” John said. “It’s the ‘it’ place.”

After John’s father, Giuseppe Cecchi, built the Watergate, considered D.C.’s first mixed-use development, he started IDI Group Companies. John began working for IDI after college in 1996, first in customer service.

Making his way up through the ranks, by 2008, John was named vice president and project manager of an IDI project in Alexandria. (The project was shelved due to the declining market and economy.) At the same time, he was building his own home on P Street in Georgetown. It was then that he realized there was a market for restoring and renovating historic homes.

John launched IDI Residential, a division of IDI Group Companies, in 2008. “I figured it out late,” John said. “I should have been doing this since ’96.”

His most recently finished project, 2305 Bancroft Place in Kalorama, was John’s first house outside Georgetown and the first celebrated with an opening party.

“The first time we decided to tell people what we were doing, it went big,” John said of Bancroft – a Washington Post house of the week that also appeared in Home & Design magazine.

“We like to stay hush-hush about our houses. Just build them, renovate them and sell them,” he said.

Historically, Kalorama has been D.C.’s wealthy neighborhood: bigger yards, bigger homes. The elegance of embassies and black cars makes you feel like you’re in an important place, John said.

“It’s one class of people, where in Georgetown you have your $8 million house next to two college kids.”

Doing a house in Kalorama takes patience, according to John, who is currently renovating another house in the neighborhood. “It’s not so volatile of a market, but things do sell there and second only to Georgetown in the area. It’s not the village feel that Georgetown has.”

Back in Georgetown, John has renovated two houses on P Street (with work on a third about to begin), two on Dumbarton, one on 31st and two on N, plus the N Street Condominiums.

Three homes a year is a good pace, according to John, who describes his business as taking a great house with unrealized potential and working through the Advisory Neighborhood Commission and the Old Georgetown Board to make renovations and sometimes additions.

“I try to work within the walls and create a better space.”

John and Kristin are currently renting their house on N Street, where John took a deteriorating home and made it livable in a mere 26 days.

“It looked like a haunted house that should have been condemned,” Kristin said. “The ceiling was crumbling. It was in disrepair.”

John asked for 26 days to whip the house into shape.

“Not my kind of finished product, but I did a very heavy lipstick,” John said.

Like an episode of “House Hunters Renovation,” the couple sanded, scraped, painted and fixed up all the rough, superficial parts of the house. “We even had the appropriate arguments,” said Kristin.

They added carpet and painted the wood floors white. John changed the upstairs layout, turning a bedroom into Kristin’s closet. Kristin picked out all new light fixtures. They hung artwork from around the world on the large white walls.

The couple moved to N Street in December of 2013 with their five-month-old daughter Valentina and two-and-a-half-year-old son Antonio in tow.

“It’s not as perfect as our old one, on P Street,” Kristin said. “That house was such a jewel, but after kids it was like a tight pair of designer pants.”

“Now we’re in a pair of sweatpants,” John said. “It’s comfortable.”
Around the time they moved into their home, John purchased another house on N Street to renovate.

“John is so artistic,” Kristin said. “These are like art projects to him. I joke that he has laser beams in his head. He walks in a house, scans the room and sees everything in his head. He gets these end results that are absolutely beautiful, but there has to be a profit at the end of the day.”

The whole process is envisioning the end product, Kristin says. “It’s a big guessing game, but the more we do it the better business we produce.”

The guiding principle is to adapt a house’s layout to the way people live today. That generally means a formal space in the front of the house and an open floor plan in the back – for the kitchen and an informal dining and breakfast area.

Sometimes a complete overhaul of the second level and master suite is needed to update the home. The all-important master suite encompasses a his-and-hers walk-in closet, a large bathroom with a toilet closet, a double vanity, a soaking tub and a rain shower.

John’s goal is to preserve a home’s historic charm while updating the design and layout and adding state-of-the-art systems. Working with contractors and interior designers, John’s homes are staged and finished to perfection before selling – that is, if they can stay on the market that long. All of the N Street condos were sold before they were finished. John says that the houses he renovates in Georgetown typically sell in 45 days or less.

“Each house has its own little story,” John said. “From when you purchase it, what you find when you start gutting it and what it turns out to be, there are parts that you didn’t expect to surprise you.”

Transforming Georgetown’s storied homes, one day the Cecchis just might find a camera crew on their doorstep. [gallery ids="101796,140741,140717,140722,140743,140728,140733,140737" nav="thumbs"]

Featured Property

Centrally located on a quiet street in Georgetown’s sought-after East Village, this renovated, fully detached brick home has a history dating back to 1880. The three-bedroom residence was meticulously restored in 2011, preserving original details while accommodating today’s lifestyle. The main level has an elegant foyer, a powder room and a delightful chef’s kitchen with adjoining breakfast room. The living room features period moldings, original hardwood floors, newly installed LED recessed lights, crown molding, and a fireplace with custom mantel. The dining room offers a sweeping and sunny view to a garden and terrace. On the second level, situated across the entire rear of the home, is a handsome master bedroom with French doors opening onto a Juliette balcony overlooking the garden. The master bath has a steam shower, a soaking tub and double vanities.

Offered at $1,995,000

Washington Fine Properties

Karen Nicholson



Featured Property

June 18, 2014

This Federal-style house – one of the most historic in the District – was built in 1798 on the northeast corner of Prospect and 35th Streets. Sold 10 years ago by Sen. Clairborne Pell and his wife Nuala to Ralph and Nancy Taylor, it has had many owners who were active in local and national affairs.

Offered at $11,000,000

TTR Sotheby’s International Reality
Russell Firestone

The Auction Block

June 4, 2014

Doyle New York

Mexican Sterling Silver Tea Service

Auction Date: June 25

Estimate: $4,000 to $6,000

An important design resource, Doyle at Home auctions offer an endless diversity of stylish furniture, elegant decorations and attractive works of art from prominent estates and collections across the country. These auctions have also become popular venues for the sale of property from designers’ own collections. Among the array of options at the upcoming Doyle at Home auction is this elegant Mexican sterling silver tea service.


James Edward Buttersworth, (1817-1894)

“The America’s Cup Yacht Vigilant”

Oil on canvas

Auction Date: June 25

Estimate: $200,000 to $300,000

Bonhams’ Fine Maritime Paintings & Decorative Arts auction on June 25 will feature master paintings of the genre, along with artifacts and crafts from centuries of Eastern and Western maritime traditions: old model ships, merchant logbooks, even a scrimshaw walrus dusk depicting a whaling scene. The wide array of paintings includes beautiful smaller works by lesser-known artists and larger pieces by such masters as Montague Dawson, John Mecray and the legendary James Edward Buttersworth.


Édouard Leon Cortès (1882–1969)

“Place St. Michel”

Oil on canvas?
Auction Date: June 17?
Estimate: $20,000 to $30,000?
As part of their European Art and Old Masters auction, Freeman’s will feature this mesmerizing, atmospheric French street scene by French Post-Impressionist Édouard Leon Cortès. Cortès was known as “Le Poete Parisien de la Peinture,” or “the Parisian Poet of Painting,” because of his Paris cityscapes in a variety of weather and night settings. Here, the reflection of the urban commotion from the wet cobblestone street on this glowing, rainy day lights up one’s sense of history. Other works include a maritime painting by Montague Dawson and the Turner-esque port scenes of Francis Moltino.


Louis XV Ormolu-Mounted Chinese Lacquer Commode, c. 1745

Auction Date: June 9

Estimate: $150,000 to $250,000

In addition to a selection of important English and European furniture and decorations from the Baroque to the late Neoclassical periods, this Sotheby’s sale will feature ceramics, works of art from across Europe and Oriental and European rugs and carpets. Among the highlights are a fine Louis XV ormolu-mounted gilt and black japanned commode and a rare Louis XV ormolu-mounted ebonized cartonnier clock attributed to Charles Cressent.