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Easy Living

As Traffic Gets Worse, More People Want to Live in the City

Say you live in the suburbs but often come into DC. What's the easiest way to avoid both a nerve-racking commute and the burdens of home maintenance and yardwork? Forgo the house in the 'burbs and move to the heart of the nation's capital.

Real-estate agents and builders agree: Young professionals and empty-nesters are heading into the city. They want luxurious apartments where the action is.

"We're seeing a resurgence of interest in living downtown," says developer Tom Baum. "Traffic is becoming more important in dictating where people want to be." Adds architect Eric Colbert, "People are realizing the values of the cultural downtown. Older people whose children have left may move to a smaller but fancier place here."

They won't have to look far. Rental complexes are popping up throughout the District, many equipped with the latest amenities for comfortable living.

In the past nine months, Keener-Squire Properties has opened two luxury residences in the Dupont Circle area.

At 16th and R streets, the Regent boasts ten-foot ceilings, maple floors, marble bathroom tiling, full-size stacked washer/dryers, crown molding, and digital security alarms. Residents–mostly midthirties to midforties–can enjoy complimentary coffee, juice, and muffins each morning in the main foyer.

Property co developer Gary Squire, who lives in Haymarket with his wife and daughter, says that after 18 years he's had enough of commuting to Dupont Circle. "It's getting worse every year," he says. "People just can't stand it anymore." That goes for him, too. He recently rented a second home–a penthouse at the complex he helped to build.

The classically styled Regent is four blocks from the Dupont Metro and a short walk to restaurants, gyms, and shops.

"It's like my own little community," says Hannah Stanton, who moved here from Southern California. "I have access to a car, but I hardly even need it. I don't even have to pick up a newspaper"–a stack of Washington Posts is available daily at the elevators.

More than half of the 51 two-bedroom, two-bath apartments rent for under $3,000 a month. Fancier units with walk-out balconies and a White House view range from $5,000 to $7,000.

The nearby Gatsby, a joint venture between Keener-Squire and P.N. Hoffman, offers similar amenities in its 52 units. At 15th and O, Northwest, this new four-story building caters to twenty- and thirtysomethings. Iron rails lead up the stairway to a polished-chrome elevator, and there's stylish black trim throughout. "Of the two, the Gatsby is hipper, a little more youthful," says Squire.

Gatsby apartments feature oversize windows, Berber bedroom carpeting, granite kitchen countertops with stainless-steel appliances, gas fireplaces, and porcelain bathtubs with marble tiling. The rooftop deck has picnic tables and lounge chairs.

Suspended, low-voltage cobalt lights lend a trendy look to the open kitchens. "Kitchens have gotten smaller but more elegant," says architect Eric Colbert. "People aren't cooking as much, but they want the kitchen to look great." A Fresh Fields is just a block away. "It's a great amenity for the market we serve," says Squire.

Gatsby one-bedrooms start at $1,300 a month; with a study, $1,950; two-bedroom designs, $2,100 to $3,700.

AT Massachusetts and Wisconsin avenues, Northwest, historic Alban Towers is renovated and ready to rent. The gothic style of the 1928 Washington landmark is preserved through restorations of plasterwork, tiles, woodwork, and sculptured hall panels. Charles E. Smith Residential Realty has added a reading library, a premier fitness center with a lap pool, and a grand-salon entertaining area.

Resident Steve Hershey likes the convenience of the 24-hour business center downstairs. "Instead of driving to the office, I can use the computers in the building. It's state of the art," he says. "I can even meet with business associates in the conference room."

Nature lovers get an added bonus–a butterfly garden built above the underground parking garage. Developers hope to attract 30 species for residents to enjoy.

Alban Towers has 70 floor plans among its 229 apartments, ranging from studios to three-bedrooms. One-bedrooms start at $1,780; two-bedrooms are $2,670 to $4,120. For $4,155, a two-bedroom-and-den apartment offers a beautiful view of the National Cathedral from its French-door balcony.

To the south, fans of the world-class Ritz-Carlton hotel chain can now call it home. In March, Millennium Partners began renting 18 apartments at 22nd and M streets in Northwest DC; condos are also available. Attractions at the Residences at the Ritz-Carlton include mahogany entrance doors, marble foyers, herringbone-patterned hardwood floors, balconies, safety alarms, and wiring for an extensive communications system that includes satellite television.

Renters can use all hotel amenities, including an around-the-clock concierge and butler service. They also receive preferred membership rates at the 100,000-square-foot sports and fitness club. "We've found that the services that hotels provide are something that people like," says Matthew Hall of Millennium Partners.

An indoor courtyard features a floating garden and cascading waterfall. The Residences at the Ritz-Carlton range from $3,500 a month for an unfurnished one-bedroom to $18,000 for a 3,096-square-foot, furnished three-bedroom, 3H-bath unit.

More luxury urban developments are scheduled to open in the next year.

Summit Properties has two buildings under way in DC. At 15th and I, Northwest, the Summit Grand Parc is a rehabilitation of the historic United Mine Workers headquarters across from the McPherson Square Metro. The first two floors of the seven-floor Italian Renaissance building will house stores, and the remaining space will be converted into apartments. Builders are planning an adjacent 14-story tower for more apartment units.

With lease rates between $1,400 and $4,000 a month for sizes of 500 to 1,500 square feet, the Summit Grand Parc should open late this year.

East of Dupont Circle, at 2101 16th Street, the old Roosevelt Hotel will soon house 198 luxury apartments and 1,700 square feet of retail space. Developers plan to renovate the building to its 1920s style with high ceilings; ceramic-tile, carpet, and wood floors; marble lobby; and decorative molding. Extras will include a library, billiards room, and business center.

YOU DON'T HAVE TO MOVE TO DC TO find the cosmopolitan life. Area developers are bringing DC-style perks to "edge cities" near area Metro stations.

Where I-395 meets Glebe Road, the Avalon at Arlington Square offers easy access to shopping, entertainment, and transit lines. Designed as an urban village, its cobblestone walks lead to a central community center that will include a fitness center, with indoor basketball court and two swimming pools, and a 24-hour business center. When the Avalon is completed this winter, residents can visit a dry cleaner, mini-mart, and dentist's office without leaving the complex.

"I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin with a central town square," says Capitol Hill staffer Bob Decheine, who moved in last December. "It seems like that's the thought behind this design–the real community feeling." Avalon also offers live/work units, which allow small-business owners to rent 400 square feet of ground-floor space right beneath their apartments. Two-bedrooms start at $1,635; live/work units rent for $2,760 to $2,835.

The nearby Post Pentagon Row on Arlington's South Joyce Street also appeals to Washingtonians who want to live, shop, and socialize without going far. A five-minute walk from the Pentagon City Metro, the Post Properties development will offer luxury apartment living, retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters, a fitness center, and a dry cleaner.

Amenities in the 504-unit complex include small balconies, a rooftop terrace, and a clubroom with billiards table. One-bedroom, one-baths begin at $1,515, two-bedrooms with a den at $3,035. Construction continues through early 2002.

For Marylanders, the year-old Crescent Plaza offers luxury rentals in the center of Bethesda. The 7111 Woodmont Avenue address is two blocks from the Bethesda Metro and across from a popular Barnes & Noble bookstore. Renters will find oak flooring, digital cable television and Internet access, high-speed elevators, and two secure bike-storage rooms–the building is a block from the Capital Crescent Trail.

Reserved garage parking is available for $89 a month, but manager Kelly Biggs says about a third of her residents don't have cars: "They just jump on Metro or use the new trolley system that runs through Bethesda." A one-bedroom and den rents for $1,790; two-bedrooms start at $2,190. *