Washington Life Magazine
Washington Life Magazine

Building Trends

Developing the NEXT BIG THING

Jim Abdo

Contributor Mark Bisnow talked with three Washington developers, Jim Abdo, Marc Dubick and John Mason, about their latest projects, which will surely become some of the next best addresses in the Washington area.

Key Projects

Mark Bisnow: Would each of you tell us a bit about your key projects?
Jim Abdo:
I wanted to become a specialist in preservation and create very high-end residential housing and we have done some really notable projects, which have won a significant number of awards. Through the Planned Urban Development (PUD) Project we are involved in an undertaking called the Blind School Walk at Bryan Square on Capitol Hill. We've transformed a 100 year-old abandoned school building into very high-end luxury loft condominiums.
Marc Dubick: I started Duball, LLC. about a year and a half ago. Prior to that I was with Lowes Enterprises for 17 years, which is based in California. We were institutional investors. One of their most notable projects here is City Vista, formerly the Wax Museum site. I spent some time on that project with my former partners, but the vast majority of my time is spent on Duball and a project called Lionsgate at Woodmont Corner. This is a project in Bethesda on the corner of Woodmont and Old Georgetown Road
John Mason: I founded Intrepid Real Estate in 1997, and we have been primaril focused on office building redevelopment over the last six to seven years. We have redeveloped quite a few office buildings in this central office district -1200 Connecticut Ave., 1522 K St. 1720 I St., and 122 C St. Two years ago we bought an apartment building on 1227 Conn. Ave., which was our first jump into the multi-family business. My biggest project today is 2501 Pennsylvania Ave., a luxury condominium project at the corner of 20th and Pennsylvania Ave. N.W., right outside of Georgetown. Landmark Lofts

Bisnow: Jim, tell us a little more about Landmark Lofts.
Landmark Lofts is a project at the gateway of the city, the H Street corridor. We were one of the first developers to go to 14th Street and create that as a new developing market of the city. 14th Street is now exploding with development, both retail and residential.

Given that I love historic preservation, H Street seemed ideal. I was passionate about going after the site. We're now converting that historic building into lofts at Senate Square. We've renamed that entire city block at Senate Square and it's going to be all residential projects. There will be two new towers. It's a great location because when you have that much control over an entire city block you are able to create tremendous amenities. We have a 70-foot lap pool on the rooftop of one of the towers, which is 110 feet high with an amazing view of the city. There is a theatre room, a conference room office that people can use to hold meetings, and a club room with a pool table.

Wooster Lofts at H Street

Bisnow: Would you have worked on H Street if you couldn't have gotten your hands on the whole block?
I would have, even if I could have just one building. But, the fact that we were able to control that whole city block was great.

Bisnow: What is it that jazzes you about historic preservation?
The quality of construction that took place 100 years ago and building materials used at the time are very compelling. It's superior craftsmanship.

Bisnow: You will be preserving the interior as well?
We always make it a standard to restore the inside as well. We expose architectural and construct elements in the buildings. It's not unusual to come into units that we design and buildings that we hold and see maps of beams, timbers that are over 100 years old. We have exposed these in the interiors of the units. It's a fabric you just can't recreate with new building material.

Bisnow: How many square feet do you get with one of these units?
Our preconstruction sales are going at $650 per foot at that location, but you're getting underground parking and you have access to use all these Senate Square amenities that you can't get anywhere else.

Bisnow: What is Lionsgate all about?
Lionsgate, at Woodmount Corner, is a luxury condominium project that we think is probably the premier site in Bethesda and probably all of Montgomery County. It is strategically located less than 1,000 feet from the Metro, right in the midst of an area which has become a matured, active urban environment. Currently it's an old building that's going to be torn down. We expect to demolish the building by the end of January and it will be replaced with luxury town homes.

Landmark Lofts at H Street


Bisnow: Young people, older people, mixed?
We expect there to be a mix, but mostly those that for whatever reasons want to have a very urban lifestyle.

Bisnow: What size for what price?
The unit's sizes are close to 1,700 feet, but we have a number of units that are well over 2,000 square feet. We haven't set the price for them yet but clearly they will be what you will find anywhere in the U.S. In all likelihood, they could be priced over $600,000 to over two million dollars, so there is a range in there for the smaller units.

Bisnow: So why would somebody choose to go to Bethesda verses H Street or Clarendon?
We expect [buyers] to have been longtime Montgomery County residents. I find that a lot of people typically who live in Bethesda and Montgomery County enjoy the urban lifestyle, but are removed from downtown. Bethesda has become a place where you can live, work, recreate and socialize. It has all the amenities that you desire in upscale society.

Bisnow: When do you expect it to be done?
We expect residents to move in late 2007 or early 2008. 2501 Pennsylvania Avenue Bisnow: Should we move to 2501 Pennsylvania?
Mason: 2501 Pennsylvania is a place that I am very excited about. We went through a long and beneficial process to allow us to build the project in a way that would be acceptable to historic preservation.

Rendering of 2501 Pennsylvania Ave


Bisnow: What about the structure?
It was built in the late 1800's by an architect, Nicholas Howard. The building is truly [representative of] a lost art and it would be impossible to build it again. The property itself will consist of 18 units, 16 of which are very large, about 2500 square feet. They will feature custom Italian cabinetry throughout the kitchen and bathrooms. There will be an underground garage and each unit will have two parking spaces. There will be a 24-hour concierge.

Marc Dubick
John Mason


Bisnow: What will the price of the units be?
Prices ranges from $1.8 million to $4 million.

Bisnow: Does having so few units help in your market, or is it a challenge?
It's a challenge with any kind of construction, especially with historic preservation. The whole concept is a boutique apartment but still allowing a lifestyle in the city where you have an apartment.

Bisnow: When will this be completed?
We will deliver in the summer of ‘07.

The future 2501 Pennsylvania Ave.


Bisnow: What are people are paying for in terms of maintenance fees for these units?
We are actually very sensitive to that because, I think that if youre paying two million dollars for an apartment, regardless of how much money you have, the last thing you want to do is be stuck with a gigantic condo fee every month.

Bisnow: Are we moving directly into New York style living?
Yes, absolutely. But we are not at New York prices.


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