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Repurposing office towers for luxury living gives urban dwellers new options

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Real Estate

There are only a few office-to-residential condo conversions under construction in Washington this summer, but two recent projects offer urban dwellers smart, modern design and space.

"There's not a flood [of conversions] simply because there aren't that many old office buildings," said Andy Silverman, a Washington architect and principal with Perkins Eastman. "But if a developer can find an outdated office building that's on sale, it's a good market to buy and repurpose it. You can get financing and if the building is in the right location the apartments will sell."

Two luxury projects -- condos in Old Town Alexandria and rentals in Georgetown -- are textbook examples.

Resources
»The Oronoco eya.com/oronoco
»West End 25 westend25apts.com

The Oronoco condo, in development by EYA, is located on the Potomac River waterfront in Old Town and offers unobstructed views of the District and Alexandria. Built in the 1980s as the headquarters of the sheet metal workers trade union, it is being reconfigured into a five-story building with 60 single-level units.

"Each unit has the scale that allows a family to live like they're in a single family home. There are walk-in closets, a grand dining room and generous-sized kitchen," said Brian Jackson, senior vice president of EYA.

"One advantage of office buildings is they typically have higher ceilings and another is they're usually deeper inside from the elevator to the back wall, which allows more space for the unit and the ability for the developer to put in a balcony," Silverman said.

Ceilings are high in the Oronoco, walls of glass wrap the unit in nearly every room, and there is outdoor space. The units begin at $900,000 and go up to about $4 million for a three-bedroom with a library or family room.

"We've taken an old office building and transformed it into a better use," Jackson said. "Because of the way it sits on the site, there's a large useable outdoor space and we've incorporated that into use for individual units as patios and terraces."

Across the river in Georgetown is West End 25, an office conversion into high-end rentals, beginning around $2,800 up to around $4,600 per month. Here two adjacent office buildings, each with six stories, were transformed into a 10-story, 283-unit luxury apartment building overlooking Georgetown and Rock Creek Park.

The goal was crafting a creative yet sustainable multifamily development," said Mara Olguin of Vornado/Charles E. Smith.

"By repurposing the existing buildings, we took the idea of recycling to a whole new level," she said. "Nineteen thousand tons of waste didn't even go to the landfill because it was re-used during construction."

The building features specialized energy and water systems, a green roof and abundant natural light throughout the property. This was the first multifamily rental apartment in the metro area to achieve LEED-NC Gold certification, Olguin said.

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