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An Early Look Inside the Apartment Complex of CityCenterDC (Photos)

Developers unveiled the rental buildings with a Champagne launch party.

Since opening late last year, about 50 of the 458 rental units at the landmark and mammoth new CityCenterDC complex in downtown Washington have already been filled—about 12 percent occupancy, which the owners consider a strong beginning. At a Champagne launch party on Wednesday evening, we got a peek at what sales agents say is the most popular design, a two-bedroom that goes for $4,700 a month, before utilities and parking. Attendees could also look at the gym, the yoga room, the outdoor pool, a wi-fi lounge, and a party room with a pool table and big-screen TV—but not the much-buzzed-about rooftop dog park. That’s still under construction.

The complex, developed by Houston-based real estate giant Hines, sits on the ten acres that used to be Washington’s first convention center, which was torn down in 2004. In addition to the two towers of rental apartments, there are adjoining condo towers with 216 units. Howard Riker, a Hines vice president who was at the party, said “very soon” the company will announce the names of some of the 60 stores planned for the mixed-use complex that will also house restaurants, offices, and, eventually, a hotel. While he said the list would be “exciting,” he would not leak any of the names. We’ve heard that Kate Spade is a possibility, but to the rumor that Japanese retailer Uniqlo would be among the names, Riker said, “No.”

Guests at the party, when not schmoozing, hitting the buffet by chef Fabio Trabocchi, or sipping Perrier-Jouët from the so-called Bubbly Bar, took guided tours of parts of the building. Our guide was Tony Lucadamo of the sales staff, who, like Riker, compared the early and strong interest in the development to the debut of New York’s Rockefeller Center in the 1930s. It is expected to similarly transform downtown Washington.

Everything we saw was bright and white, though Lucadamo said the hallways of other floors have different color schemes. The corner unit we toured featured floor-to-ceiling windows and a small balcony with views of the street. He told us that while the rental and condo units are similar, the condos are more luxurious. According to Riker, about 50 condos have been sold so far. Prices start in the mid-$100s and go up to more than $3 million for the most elaborate.

The CityCenter project, estimated to cost in the $1 billion range, got its biggest investment boost—a reported $650 million—from the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar, which will also be among the office tenants. Qatar reportedly had one condition, which the developers met: While the development could contain restaurants serving alcohol they did not want any bars, in accordance with Islamic law.

The designers are DC-based Shalom Baranes Associates, Envision Design, Lee and Associates, and London-based Foster + Partners. Planning started in 2005 during the administration of Mayor Anthony Williams, with continued support from the city under former Mayor Adrian Fenty and incumbent Mayor Vincent Gray.