GDoN Revisited by Hipchickindc


In real life, hipchickindc is licensed as a real estate broker in the District of Columbia, and as a real estate salesperson in Maryland. Unless specifically noted, neither she nor the company that she is affiliated with represented any of the parties or were directly involved in the transaction reported below. Unless otherwise noted, the source of information is Metropolitan Regional Information Systems (MRIS), which is the local multiple listing system. Information is deemed reliable but not guaranteed.

Featured Properties: 1613 Harvard St NW

Original List Price: $198,900.-$503,900.

List Price at Contract: $198,900.-$503,900.

List Date: 1/21/2010

Days on Market: 13-77

Settled Sales Price: Not available yet

Settlement Date: Not available yet

Seller Subsidy: Not available yet

Bank Owned?: NO

Type Of Financing: Building may be FHA eligible but certain percentage of units must sell first

Original GDoN Post is: here.

Listings are: here.

Website for building is: here.

Ok, let’s get a few things out of the way first.

1. This is an unusual Good Deal or Not Revisited (GDoN-R) because the units in this building have not gone to settlement yet. I had the opportunity to tour the building with clients last weekend and thought it was way worth revisiting. Don’t worry. I’ll Re-re-visit after they start going to settlement.
2. I am a huge fan of anything in Best Addresses. If you’re not familiar with the book, go take a peek next time you’re in a local DC bookstore. Best Addresses by James M. Goode. Your real estate agent probably owns a copy.
3. Although the company that I am affiliated with represents the developers of many new construction projects in DC, we have absolutely nothing to do with this one. I just happen to really like it.

The Embassy is located on Harvard St NW, just west of 16th Street. Built in 1924, the building opened for rentals in 1925. One of the fascinating aspects of Best Addresses is the perspective of time frames in the real estate development history of DC. The time span of 1919-1931 is referred to as “The Boom Period”, with a significant number of luxury apartments and co-ops built during that era. (The following years of 1932-1945 are described as “Tightening the Belt”). Continues after the jump.

Given that the property was held as a rental until the recent condo conversion process, it is not surprising that many people who commented on the original Good Deal or Not (GDoN) post mentioned their experiences living in the building. Because this was a conversion from rental, residents renting at the time of the conversion were given first opportunity to purchase.

I often have clients whose criteria in finding a condo is that the building be “not too large”. Since the exterior of this property is very large, it is important to note that there are fewer than eighty units. The number of units is reduced simply because the units themselves are quite large.

There has been a stunning historic restoration of the expansive lobby, as well as of the units and the rest of the building. While they updated kitchens and systems, I particularly liked that the developers saved historic elements where they could, including solid wood original doors, inlaid wood floors, nine foot ceilings, and the spacious floor plans. Amenities include a fitness room, a bike storage area, and an elevator. Several of the units we saw had balconies, including one with a fantastic view of the Spring treetops framing the National Cathedral.

Drawbacks mentioned by some of the GDoN commenters included common laundry in the basement (we were told that putting a washer/dryer in the unit was an option), having only one bathroom, and having closets located outside of the actual bedrooms. I should note that although in some cases oddly located, the closets that I saw were gargantuan.

How about pricing? The list of units currently being marketed can be seen in the link above. The mix of units includes studios, ones, and two bedrooms. Unit 403 is a 450 square foot studio priced at $198,900. Unit 307 is a two bedroom, one bath home priced at $503,900. for 1,118 square feet. Without considering Seller-paid closing costs or incentives offered such as a year of condo fees (advertising says this is an offer for a limited time), an overall average price-per-square-foot falls into the mid $400 range., which is very much in line with nearby properties, as well as similar grade new construction/conversion projects around northwest DC.

13 Comment

  • HipChick- Are all units vacant or are residents still moving out? Were all units recently renovated? I live right near by and never saw construction going on. I was pretty surprised when I saw the Condo sales banner go up. When was the work done? Do you have any more info on ammenities? Gym? Roof Deck? Thanks

  • There are probably some NYC’ers that are comfortable with this, but I am absolutely allergic to paying $500k for a condo that doesn’t come with my own personal butler.

    Also of interest to homeowners: how is the condo board apportioned, do they outweigh the developer, and what is the history of the developer screwing projects up and/or holding onto the property to soak the owners.

  • I looked at these condos and the units that I looked at ended up being smaller than the model, with smaller closets. They are very modern looking though. The lobby is gorgeous, yes, but I don’t want to be paying for that. I’d rather have a bigger space.

  • Kalorini

    The Listings Are [here] link is broken–can you please fix the broken link?

    Also, do their amenities include parking? Because parking in that area is horrendous!

  • I looked at these. There are like 4 laundry machines for the entire building that you have to pay for each time you use. They say that they are “industrial size” machines, but regardless of the amount of laundry you can fit in one, it doesn’t change the fact that they will probably always be in use.

  • To anon: The reason that you didn’t see any construction is b/c they did all of it about 5 years ago, but then lost a court battle at the time when the developer was busted for illegally screwing over the then-current residents. But they dotted their I’s and crossed their T’s this time around, so it’s moving forward as scheduled.

    I’ve been living there for the past few years; there are a number of renters who are still in the building, and from what I understand a number of units have already sold, with new owners moving in. Cons: there is no roof deck (or access to the roof whatsoever), and none of the units that face south (toward Columbia Rd and sunlight) have balconies. The “gym” is a room in the basement with a single treadmill, two elliptical machines, and some weight machines. Laundry works fine, but it is in the basement, and contrary to what’s reported here, we residents have been told that laundry in the units is not an option due to plumbing and electrical configuration.

    We decided not to buy, b/c the insider “discount” price we were offered ($527,000) was too high, especially considering there is no storage, no parking, laundry’s in the basement, no front desk or way to receive packages other than leaving boxes in the open lobby mail room, loud buses right out our windows, etc. The positives *are* definitely good — location, size, high ceilings, old-world decor and details: crown moulding, inlaid hardwood floors, (non-working) fireplace and mantel, and recently renovated kitchens.

    Personally, I think one of the bigger downsides is that the new management appears to be willfully ignoring the wonderful character of the place, and seems very intent on making this gorgeous old Best Address building from the 1920’s look like a euro-hipster mod nightclub. They tossed from the lobby all the great leather couches and dark wood tables that completely fit the feel and era that the architecture evokes, and replaced them with bright lime-green and white ultra-contemporary lounges. It’s nice stuff, but it clashes terribly and looks completely out of place. We cringe every time we walk in the front door. Similar “updates” have been done in all the public areas — I see what they’re trying to do, but it’s as if it was dictated from corporate HQ to make the place Hip! Modern! and Edgy! (note the bright orange banners out front with the iPod wearing chick and jumping, guitar-playing rock’n’roll dude) without taking into account any of the unique nature or history of the place: it’s like cramming a techno house beat over a gorgeous big band vocal ballad, at the wrong tempo and loudly obscuring any of the lush orchestration. But having said all that, it’s still got nice hardwood floors and tall ceilings.

    • perfect assessment

    • We were considering a unit in this place, but for many of the reasons you’ve mentioned, it’s seriously flawed and the developers really overlooked some very important elements in the overall design.

      And $527k for a condo in that neighborhood without parking or its own laundry machines? Sorry, but not in DC.

  • You’d think that half a million dollars should buy the dignity of not having to traipse through public with his/her dirty laundry in tow.

  • Memory lane alert.

    I lived in this building from 1996 – 2001 and it was wonderful. It had never been renovated which made it both charming and affordable. Sure we had drug dealers in the building, and the occasional knifing in the lobby or elevator, but that was go-go DC. From the pictures, it seems they removed the original decorative (faux) fireplace and built in shelves, and tore out the incredible walk-in closets to make the rooms bigger. With those closets, you didn’t need storage. Room for bikes, clothes, and boxes. Shame to loose that. At least in my old unit, the rooms were already of gracious proportions. It had a wonderful, west-facing balcony with french doors that perfectly framed the cathedral floating over rock creek park and the zoo. The view of sunsets, thunderstorms and duck migrations was mesmerizing. Seems like they may be stripping the units it of their charm with the euro-chic styling, and without in-unit laundry, it may be hard to compete with what else is out there. Still, it’s a great old building and great location, and demand will determine the price eventually.

  • I’ve been living in one of the largest two-BR units in the building. I love my south-facing view of the park, but can’t sleep with those windows open because the building is on four bus lines, including the 42/43 and H buses, which run all night. They were asking $535,000ish for my unit—way out of my range. However, on the good side, huge bedrooms (10×13?), location (walk/bus/bike everywhere). No parking, but parking is not a problem here if you have a Zone 1 sticker. I usually park on Mt. P St within a block of the building.
    I’m told 27 or 76 units have sold, including all the studios. The 2 BRs are going more slowly, which is why I’m still here. I’m also told there are about 10 of us left in the building.
    However, I just bought a house in 16th St. Hts, so will be vacating soon.

Comments are closed.