Friday, March 14, 2008

What is luxury in DC?

Investors took many risks a few years ago to get the ball rolling, to put their money on the line and build where nothing new had been for a century. But some of these investors had not a renaissance vision to contribute to the overall value of the old Grande Dame but simply get as much money out of her as possible, visions be damned. As they say, in the land of a blind people, the one-eyed ruler is king. So these pioneers “kings” raced for the gold---much like the old gold rush.. We let their marketers define what luxury was going to be in DC. ( And of course luxury should demand a higher price.) Since people were starved for the new and the rebirth excited us, we bought into it, literally. In fact the hype was so great we grew careless—overpaying for this so called luxury. And drunk with their own success, developers kept building until the market started to falter (and still they built—for it takes a couple of miles for a loaded freight train to come to a halt). And now we have many examples of the forgettable, regrettable, boom that while certainly they contributed to the excitement and momentum of our rebirth—now have become an embarrassing testimony to our own hubris. I have had the opportunity to visit two other cities in the midst of their own rebirths, Portland, Oregon and Omaha, Nebraska. Seeing the thoughtful projects emerging there has helped me to awaken from my slumber: shoddy workmanship, using cheap materials and “sprinkling” a condo with bits quality is not luxury. When they call it luxury (when it really isn’t) and try to sell it at luxury prices this is unfair. Let me list the examples of this philosophy in our midst.

□ Near U St there is a building that has a brick exterior but all wood construction underneath.

□ Downtown there are “luxury” condominiums going for up to $500/square foot and here is what you get: unmitered baseboards, light switches on the left when a bathroom door opens on the right, plastic soaking tubs, thin granite installed with large seams exposed, GE appliances, wood veneer flooring, simple and very limited placement of light fixtures, no recessed lighting, hollow core doors, apartment-grade carpeting, uncentered vanity mirrors, home depot grade cabinetry, crooked granite installation in bathroom,. (I can remember dorm rooms that started off better than these!)

□ There is an over-priced rental building in a bustling new area that, when you get done with all the hidden costs of rental (pet free, pet deposit, move in fee, move-in deposit) and the extravagant price for rental you are in a whole new category of rental (or you may just wanna go ahead and buy!) and you get bare concrete floors that are supposed to be a nod to “fashion.” Maybe the jazz down the street can give you some solace. Come on!

□ Another property tells naked emperors and their wives every day how beautiful their new clothing is with cramped windowless and dated kitchens, boring living rooms, low ceilings, and that 1/8th inch veneer wood flooring that cannot tolerate a decent sanding.. Ah yes, but they have a doorman. And you have the opportunity to pay for a club membership while paying $1000/mo condo fees. You want a two bedroom there? It will cost you about $1.2 million.

□ Another in the West End boasts a Viking kitchen—but insults the buyer with Home Depot -like foam core doors. Oh, and they provide the new trend of the veneer flooring—well it is better than Pergo. Please explain the insanity.

□ There is a new project in near Dupont that boasts and charges for the finest finishes in the city. What were they thinking when they installed a standard American Standard bathtub... charging $800+/sq ft?

Now there are some great projects that are great value in affordable quality with some luxury and full luxury that is TRULY luxury.

The Rhapsody
The Lincoln

True luxury throughout.
3303 Water St

2120 Wyoming

Finally, there is a whole delightful market of first-time buyers and very nice condo conversions in SE that I have been working with of late. I love to tell my prospective buyers or my clients that there are touches on these starter homes that you don’t see in million-dollar penthouses!

I would like to commend the builder for Maricor Gardens, 1817 24th Pl SE. You will find thick granite, stainless steel, REAL hardwood floors, solid core doors and Kohler products—even colored paint-- for $250/sq ft. Oh and the two bedroom has a view of the Washington monument. Take that NW DC! Thanks, Stu, for putting your heart into the building and offering Southeast real quality—something that makes a permanent contribution to the renaissance of Washington DC.


TheComputerExpertSays said...

Jesse -

Thank you so much for the kind words regarding my project. It has truly been an honor to work with you. Your commitment to my project has been so impressive and appreciated. I also value your integrity. It is what sets you apart and makes working with you always a pleasure.

TheComputerExpertSays said...

Well, I see that Marty posted the comments about my building. Thank you, Marty! You and Jesse and the Ken Taylor team are first-rate. Really, the best in town and I am lucky to have you on my side in this effort.

YoYo in DC said...

Downtown there are “luxury” condominiums going for up to $500/square foot and here is what you get: unmitered baseboards, thin granite wood veneer flooring, hollow core doors, apartment-grade carpeting....

This is troubling, I live downtown and I was a bit disappointed with my condo AFTER i purchased it, how is a dumb person like me know how to look for these things?

Jesse Kaye said...

should we ask which building?

YoYo in DC said...

Only if you tell me how to spot a fraud....

The Cosmopolitan

Anonymous said...

I see you have a pic of the Whitman at the top of this piece - just curious as to which category do you put that building in?

Marty Hosking said...

Thanks for the comment, Anonymous. All the buildings have some redeeming aspects. But the real question for me is can they "walk the talk"--and are they priced according to their walk and not their talk. There's the problem. I would love share some of my thoughts with you directly--please feel free to email me:

YoYo in DC said...

Since there was no comment on the Cosmopolitan I think its time for me to move.

So, what are your thoughts on madrigal lofts?