- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Developers of the View 14 condos at 14th Street and Florida Avenue Northwest are stopping sales and turning the project into apartments as Washington’s condominium market slows.

The building will be a big addition to redevelopment of the 14th Street corridor, where car dealers and nightclubs are being replaced by upscale housing and name retailers.

Officials of Level 2 Development, developers of View 14, said there were too many “buyers standing on the sidelines” to sell the living units as condominiums.

The 200,000-square-foot project will have 183 residences that include walls of glass angling toward Capitol Hill landmarks for a better view of the city’s skyline. It will have about 33,000 square feet of retail on the bottom floors.

“We decided to turn them into apartments because we looked at the rental market and it was such a strong market,” said David Franco, principal in Level 2 Development. “The vacancy rates are at all an all-time low. Annual increases are pretty consistent in the 5 percent range. It seemed to make more sense to us.”

Lenders would have required that 30 percent of the condos be sold before they would give Level 2 Development the more than $80 million it needs to begin construction, which is set for March.

“It would have taken us well into next year to meet pre-sale requirements,” Mr. Franco said.

The developers might turn the residences back into condos as construction nears completion, but only if the home sales market improves, he said. The project is scheduled for completion in early 2009.

Other developers, such as Robertson Development, Bogdan Builders and PN Hoffman, are working on condominium projects nearby.

Any housing market downturn that hurts redevelopment of the 14th Street corridor would slow the influx of new residents to the area running along 14th Street roughly from P Street Northwest to Columbia Heights, according to Monica Wroblewski, spokeswoman for the National Capital Revitalization Corporation, a public development organization.

“What they were excited about is that they can now walk to restaurants, they have a new grocery store, they’re seeing their neighborhood transform,” she said.

She attended a recent block party near the 14th Street corridor where residents were talking about the new life developers are breathing into their neighborhoods.

“All this development has helped increase their property value as well,” Ms. Wroblewski said.

In other news …

• Construction is set to begin in early 2007 on a 400-acre mixed-use town center near Washington Dulles International Airport called Arcola Center.

The developers, Buchanan Partners, say they will need at least a decade to complete all phases of the project, which would include as much as 2.1 million square feet of office space, 1.1 million square feet of retail and 80 acres of town homes and multifamily housing.

The first phase, 670,000 square feet of retail space, is scheduled to open by the end of 2008.

The planned community follows “smart growth” principles that avoid urban sprawl, according to the developers.

Property Lines runs on Thursdays. Call Tom Ramstack at 202/636-3180 or e-mail tramstack@washingtontimes.com.

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