Developing the NEXT BIG THING
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.
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
Bisnow: Jim, tell us a little more about Landmark
Abdo: 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
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.
Bisnow: Would you have worked on H Street if
you couldn't have gotten your hands on the whole
Abdo: 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
Abdo: The quality of construction that took
place 100 years ago and building materials used
at the time are very compelling. It's superior
Bisnow: You will be preserving the interior as
Abdo: 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?
Abdo: 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?
Dubick: 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
Bisnow: Young people, older people, mixed?
Dubick: 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?
Dubick: 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?
Dubick: 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?
Dubick: We expect residents to move in late
2007 or early 2008.
2501 Pennsylvania Avenue
Bisnow: Should we move to 2501
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
Bisnow: What about the structure?
Mason: 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.
Bisnow: What will the price of the units be?
Mason: Prices ranges from $1.8 million to $4
Bisnow: Does having so few units help in your
market, or is it a challenge?
Mason: 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?
Mason: We will deliver in the summer of ‘07.
Bisnow: What are people are paying for in
terms of maintenance fees for these units?
Mason: 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?
Mason: Yes, absolutely.
But we are not at New