The Highline at Union Market, the latest residential building to rise in the growing neighborhood around the popular food hall, looks ready for occupants. During a tour Wednesday afternoon, the lobby was furnished, the light fixtures were hung, the rooftop infinity pool was filled. And yet, Raphael Sidelsky, chief investment officer of real-estate investor W5 Group, explained that leasing won’t start for another couple months—because the vision for the building has just changed dramatically.
Initially, all 318 units were designed as typical apartments. But now 99 of them will be transformed into co-living units, where people rent by the bedroom rather than the entire apartment. Though friends can go in on one of the co-living apartments together, the units are designed so that strangers can rent their own bedrooms while sharing a communal living room, kitchen, and in some cases, a bathroom. The bedroom doors all lock via a phone app. The concept, says Sidelsky, is a natural progression of the sharing economy—in other words, strangers share cars and bikes, so why not apartments, too? In Washington, the concept is nascent. There’s a WeLive in Crystal City. Inside the District, Ditto Residential has opened three of its Oslo co-living properties, though they’re much smaller than the Highline.
The overhaul of the Highline is a product of W5 Group’s acquisition last month of a majority stake in the building from Clark Enterprises. Co-living company Quarters (of which W5 is also an owner) will manage the new shared units. A typical bedroom in one of them will rent for about $1,800 a month including utilities, plus other perks not available to the traditional renters, such as a Netflix subscription and professional cleaning services. (A typical studio in the Highline, by comparison, will start around $2,100 a month without utilities.)
The co-living apartments will range from two to four bedrooms, and come furnished. Their residents will be able to sign leases as short as three months. Another feature: The co-living residents are allowed to move to any one of Quarters’ other properties in the U.S. and Europe without breaking their lease. Quarters says they have an average 96-percent occupancy rate across their other properties; their two New York buildings are currently full.
The Highline is the first Quarters location in DC and their largest in the United States. It’s the company’s first location anywhere with a mix of both co-living and traditional apartments. The Highline is also W5 Group’s first project in DC. Sidelsky says they were attracted to the Union Market District because “it’s the neighborhood that has everything you could want,” including proximity to metro and Union Station, and “it’s cool and hip.” He says they’re also looking for opportunities in NoMa, Shaw, and Navy Yard.
It’s not only a third of the apartments at the Highline that are now undergoing a revamp. Sidelsky says they’re also swapping out the existing lobby furniture for higher-end decor from sources such as Restoration Hardware and B&B Italia. A lot of the already-installed light fixtures are coming down now, too. Sidelsky says they’ll also add more color to the communal areas—he shows me a palette of deep blue and soft shades of aqua and blush, inspired in part by the Hoxton hotel chain—in an effort to make the building feel homier.
Orangetheory Fitness is opening soon in one of the Highline’s ground floor retail spaces. Sidelsky says a yoga studio is among the potential tenants interested in the remaining three spaces. Since the DC building isn’t done yet, here’s a look inside two other Quarters co-living properties, in Chicago and Berlin.
And here’s a look at renderings of the Highline’s interiors, as they were originally designed by Akseizer Design Group:
*This article has been updated to give credit to Akseizer Design Group, and to identify W5 Group as a real-estate investor. They were previously mischaracterized as a developer.