Columbia Heights – Highland Park Building Going from Condo to Rental! Plus lots of new dining option announced.

You just can’t force the market… But very interesting news on the restaurant front. This location is at 14th and Irving right above the Columbia Heights Metro on the southwest corner. From the press release we can look forward to:

Hank’s Oyster Bar founder Jamie Leeds plans a fine-dining restaurant with an eclectic but accessible and affordable menu. Hank’s was nominated for “Best New Restaurant” in 2006 and “Best Neighborhood Restaurant” in 2007 by The Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington.

Five Guys Burgers and Fries, started in 1986 just a few miles away in Arlington, since expanded into a franchise operation covering 16 states and the District of Columbia. Nothing but great burgers and fries; voted Washingtonian magazine’s “#1 Burger” seven years in a row.

Pete’s Apizza, bringing New Haven-style “apizza” to Washington, in addition to fresh pastas, panini, soups, antipasto, salads and gelato, as well as a selection of domestic and Italian wines and beers. Fast casual service model, contemporary Tuscan-inspired décor
Potbelly Sandwich Works, offering sandwiches made to order, salads, soups, smoothies and various sweets; a popular casual dining destination with over 150 stores in the mid-Atlantic and Midwest.
Zinnia, a locally owned sit-down restaurant serving an exotic menu of Caribbean foods and drinks, tapas-style, in a comfortable lounge environment. Open from breakfast time through late evening cocktails; dine-in, take-out or delivery.

I am unbelievably excited about this, lots more discussion to come next week. Full press release after the jump.


Washington DC, 15 November 2007. Donatelli Development and Gragg and Associates announced today they will convert their Highland Park building, nearing completion at the southwest corner of 14th and Irving streets in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Northwest Washington, from condominium to rental.
In addition, the company announced it has reached agreements with six retailers, including five restaurants, to take space in the retail portion of the development.

Highland Park is a mixed-use development with 229 residential units, 20,000 square feet of retail, and three levels of underground parking. It is located directly atop the western entrance to the Columbia Heights metro, and across the street from Donatelli Development’s other building in the neighborhood, the Kenyon Square condominium, which opened earlier this summer.

Retail: A Rapidly Developing Restaurant Culture in Columbia Heights

Donatelli Development has reached agreements for six retail spaces at Highland Park, including five restaurants and Signal Financial Federal Credit Union. Discussions are under way with other businesses, including a sushi restaurant, for the two other retail spaces in the development.

The five confirmed restaurants, joining two full-service sit-down restaurants, a Starbuck’s coffee store and a fine wine and beer retailer across the street at Kenyon Square, comprise an emerging restaurant row in Columbia Heights, with a wonderful variety of cuisines and atmospheres.

In selecting the restaurants for Highland Park, Donatelli has been striking a delicate balance between full-service and fast casual, understanding the neighborhood’s rapidly changing needs, with a denser residential character still taking shape and the highly anticipated opening of the DC-USA complex across the street. The challenge is to mix up dining destinations that appeal to both neighborhood residents coming home from a long day of work, and visitors who might want to have a quick meal while they’re shopping at DC-USA (which will have the city’s first Target, as well as Best Buy, Bed Bath and Beyond, Marshalls, Staples and more).

Also important for Donatelli in the selection process is an emphasis on providing opportunities to local business owners. Chris Donatelli, president of Donatelli Development, stated, “While we are proud to be bringing two very well-known national food service names to the development, we are prouder still to be making the vast majority of our retail opportunities available to local business owners, many of whom will be opening their first store after long careers working for other people.” Six out of the eight retailers at Kenyon Square are locally owned (including two locally owned franchises), as are five of the six retailers at the Ellington.

Going Rental: Bringing Balance to the Columbia Heights Residential Market

Donatelli Development decided this week to convert the residential portion of Highland Park, with 229 one- and two-bedroom units (some with lofts and dens), from a condominium project to a luxury rental building.

“In light of recent shifts in the condominium market, we decided that we would be in a better position to serve the Columbia Heights market with a luxury rental building,” stated company president Chris Donatelli, “since the balance of residential offerings in the neighborhood had been trending so heavily toward condominiums.”
Through the conversion, unit mix and finishes will remain unchanged from what was planned: the homes will feature stained concrete floors, granite counters and high-end urban finishes. The building is uniquely positioned in the rental market, with an unusually large, full-service hotel-style lobby, two-level fitness center, and stunning views from the upper levels and the roof terrace.

“With two large buildings in the neighborhood, we’re in a position to understand what’s happening in the market on an extremely local level,” Donatelli continued. “We felt that, during the area’s recent growth spurt, residential offerings had become out of balance. By pulling a large chunk of units from the condo market, we make a whole new class of product available to the Columbia Heights rental market.”

Donatelli has established a solid reputation for quality and luxury in its rental offerings with the Ellington Apartments at 13th and U streets. The Ellington, developed in 2004, has set a new standard for rental luxury in the competitive U Street market, and has been at near 100% occupancy since it opened.
Meanwhile, Donatelli Development’s recently completed condominium building across the street, Kenyon Square, is 70% sold, and sales continue with immediate delivery available.

17 Comment

  • FYI – It won’t be another Hank’s Oyster Bar. The restaurant in Columbia Heights will be a gastropub focusing on a wide beer selection and fish and chips. I’m guessing there will be some good fried oysters there too.

  • Potbelly’s + Five Guys + wannabe Italian Store = WINNER.

  • “Potbelly’s + Five Guys + wannabe Italian Store = WINNER.”

    No, that equals a heart attack on a plate. But at least you’ll die happy.

  • “In light of recent shifts in the condominium market, we decided that we would be in a better position to serve the Columbia Heights market with a luxury rental building,” i.e. “we’ve been trying to sell these shoeboxes for 18 months and there just aren’t enough suckers left.”

    This doesn’t bode well for the Georgia Ave. building, methinks. Anyone heard anything about pre-sales there?

  • Most delicious heart attack ever.

    Look, this area needs atypical fast food options. If it’s a cold Saturday afternoon and I kind of skipped lunch but can’t wait until dinner, I’d much rather go to Potbelly’s, Five Guys, or a place with a good italian sub than go to Wendy’s or McD’s.

  • Aw, come on guys! How can you get tired of chinese food from behind two inch think plexi? Oh the ambiance that will be lost!

    Seriously though, I don’t think we should be concered about apartments vs condos. The market for condos is pretty flat, and Donatelli is make an economic decision based on the market. From a larger neighborhood perspective, I don’t think it will matter whether it is condo or apartment. This is a pretty high end building that they have invested a good deal of money in. In fact if you own a condo, I would think it is good news in that there will be that many fewer on the market to stem the supply. Then again, what do I know?

  • Who can afford rents in those high end buildings is my question? We can assume that none of them will be affordable. Right? And people wonder why folks keep moving to Manassas. Or leaving the area entirely.

  • Well, I also know people who moved or are moving out of Fredericksburg and Prince William County because while that’s what they could afford in 2003, they found it’s not where they want to live. There will be flux between the suburbs and the city. The thing about Manassass is that there’s truly nothing there for anyone but families of elementary-aged children and retirees. Nothing for adults (and especially teens) to do in the whole area unless you consider dinner at Applebees acceptable and for some coworkers, they found that they couldn’t handle more than 3-4 years of that. One coworker moved from some development in upper silver spring/Olney to Shepherd’s Park once they could buy a place around $500k ish and Michelle Rhee came in.

    I think it would always be preferable that a building be condo so that the residents are more invested in the quality of their neighborhood. Rental apartments often turn into “The landlord isn’t doing this for me, the neighborhood should be nicer, I’m moving when my lease is up attitudes.” I refused to live in an apartment, but I knew friends who did who would end up complaining that their landlord didn’t do enough to, let’s say, prevent take out menus from being dumped in the lobby or car thefts in the area. One ex-girlfriend complained enough that whenever I’d visit I’d pick up all the menus and through them away- about a 7 second task. I think culturally, the area would be better off with condos by a long shot.

    Then come the weirdos we’d meet around college, the families who would move in and wreck the place for 5 months before they’d get evicted. People can fool landlords in ways they didn’t used to be able to fool mortgage companies…

  • Don’t really know if it’s significant or not, but the Donatelli-Klein website had always listed Highland Park as having “residential units” as it does the Ellington. Kenyon Square and Park Place are listed as having “condominium units”. Perhaps Highland Park’s fate was never really determined from the gate.

  • I second Inaudible Nonsense. 500K is not a price range that many people can meet. I know I certainly can’t, and I am fiscally conservative with savings and an income over the DC median.

    Also, I take issue with DCer’s comments that imply all renters are are irresponsible and trash their places, taking down the value of the neighborhood. Kind of a broad generalization. I rent now, I’ve been a homeowner before, and I not only keep my rental house tidy, I pick up all the crap that is left all over my block.

    The reality for me is, I can buy a condo without having live totally beyond my means, buy a house and be mortgage poor, get married to someone who has a decent income and buy a house or continue to rent a house for half of what the mortgage would be. My choice is rent until prices align with reality and not a credit bubble created by Alan Greenspan, funky loans and rotten underwriting.

    Sorry DCer, I am feeling a bit cranky this afternoon. I ate dinner at Red Rocks last night, and I have to say I thought the pizza was pretty average and that’s a bummer given it’s location.

  • First comment’s right- It won’t be another Hank’s. They’ll only do two of those, to keep quality up.

    But the same owners may do another concept. Shhhh…

  • Also, I take issue with DCer’s comments that imply all renters are are irresponsible and trash their places, taking down the value of the neighborhood. Kind of a broad generalization.

    When was the last time you spent $1000 to landscape your front yard? I’m not trying to suggest that all renters are irresponsible.

    Note that the US government says so and that’s part of the tax structure including the mortgage deduction in federal taxes. Because the theory is that home ownership builds responsible communities. So, you know, as far as the US Gov’t is concerned, such has been the theory from the depression onward.

    Also, when I bought my house the mortgage was less than the rental price of the house. That was the time to buy as it were.

  • when was the last time 90% of dc home owners spent $1000 to landscape their yard? what kind of question is that? i spent about $70 to landscape my yard, granted it’s about 10×10, still that seems like a suspicious way to judge a renter, or a homeowner.

    anyhow i can’t believe what has occurred over at CH metro over the past 2-3 years. i’m not saying its good or bad because i don’t care about that argument particularly. although i suppose it is true that people of normal means are being priced out of many places and that’s how it is working. regardless, when white people move in somewhere they really move in. it’s crazy.

  • when was the last time 90% of dc home owners spent $1000 to landscape their yard?

    regardless, when white people move in somewhere they really move in. it’s crazy.


    Uhhh… I have African American neighbors who also completely redid their porches and lawns with an expensive contractor. I guess the difference is that I’m closer to Mt Pleasant. It’s not the cost of the work so much as the concept of completely redoing one’s front lawn so the house looks good rather than complaining that the landlord does nothing.

  • Most leases, out here, specifically say that you can’t do anything with the front yard and its the owners responsibility. When I lived in California where we had a lot more renters, me and my neighbors did a lot of yard work, including completely overhauling the backyard. I have a friend that is a renter in Jersey City and because the rent is so cheap — completely redid the kitchen: new cabinets, new tile, new appliances. It’s really beautiful. They also redid the drywall in their family room and put in crown molding. I lived in a rental loft in Oakland at one point and all our neighbors did custom work on their places.

    I refuse to pay more than a $1000 a month, in part because I want to save money, but also that puts the rent inline with what it should be – 25% of a monthly salary. My rent now is $700 a month, the yard looks like hell. But there’s nothing me or my neighbors can do about that and the land owner has no desire to do anything. But I have good neighbors. And we all get along and we are all, mostly, hard working people — taxi drivers, teachers, kitchen workers, etc. I have a good property manager that makes repairs when needed. I’d love to do more, but I’m prohibited in my lease from doing so.

  • My mother had neighbors that spent a bundle on their yard (this is 6500 sq ft suburban yard in Texas) even though it was a rental, so it’s not unheard of. And when you live next to a rental house it’s nice to see people take some pride in the place they live. But conventional wisdom is that buying is better because you just can’t pick up and leave if there are problems, you have to stick around and fix them, or at least argue with DCer on how to fix them. 😉

  • I’m not sure the conversion to apartments is either really good or really bad for the neighborhood. Looks as if they’ll be able to keep the place near capacity with low vacancy rates. However, I’m sure the rents will be astronomical.

    The renters as negative agents argument is so old and insulting. Renting has many benefits for certain residents of any city or town. For every renter who has the “I’m moving when my lease is up attitude” is an OWNER landlord who’s livelihood depends on an evolving rental market. There are also enough homeowners, condo or otherwise, who could care less about the community. That is, the community that begins where their front door ends. Owning property guarantees nothing in the realm of community involvement.

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