An 1888 building that had been a law firm was transformed into six condominiums. (Benjamin C Tankersley/For The Washington Post)
Developer Adam Stifel, owner of CAS Riegler Companies, has carved a niche in the renovation market of boutique properties in historic neighborhoods.
In his most recent project, 1304 Rhode Island in Northwest Washington, he transformed a house into a six-unit condominium building near Logan Circle. Stifel bought the 1888 building from a law firm that occupied it for 20 years. Renovation is complete, and delivery has started. Three units are sold; three are on the market.
Andrew Tierney, on the Australian ambassador’s staff, moved in recently. “I’ve always found the stretch from Logan Circle to Dupont Circle very attractive because of the parks, shops and restaurants,” Tierney said.
“I was riding my bike past the property and saw the sign. Then everything fell into place,” he added. “That was my primary motivation for moving. Another was that my husband passed away two years ago, and this is sort of a way to shake off ghosts of the past and find something new.”
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Historic aesthetic: “The property has great appeal,” said Timur Loynab, listing agent and vice president at McWilliams Ballard, the firm handling sales and marketing. “The developer retained interior elements that lend historic charm and also provided a new-build within the backdrop of the historic Logan Circle neighborhood.”
The neighborhood emerged in the late 19th century around Logan Circle Park, filled today with benches, paths and mature shade trees.
Rhode Island Avenue is one of the streets radiating outward from the circle. The 1304 condo is a four-story, burgundy-red, brick-and-stone building with rounded bays on the ground, first and second floors. “It was in okay shape structurally and had great bones without requiring an addition,” said Stifel.
“From a historic point of view, we couldn’t change the front presentation and it’s as original as we could keep it,” said Mike Boyd with Snead Construction, the project’s general contractor.
He shored up the top and sidewall and added star bolts below the roof. “These are connected to metal rods that go through the wall into the floor joists. They help support the facade and anchor it to the rest of the building,” he said, “and they fit the historic aesthetic.”
Windows were restored by a specialist joinery in New Hampshire. “We took the sashes out, repaired rotted parts and replaced the glass with bent acrylic panels,” he said. “Then we brought them back and reworked the counterweights and pulleys in place.”
Marble from Greece: “My vision for the interior was to do something modern but not what everyone else does — white-on-white walls, cabinets, counters and quartz against a dark floor,” said Stifel. “We thought our look needed more historic character so that it would interact aesthetically with the historic elements we restored.”
He chose Volakas marble from Greece with gray veins and striations on a white background, espresso-stained cabinets and pale gray-stained oak floors. Kitchen islands are wrapped in a waterfall of marble that cascades from countertop to the floor. “I thought a darker cabinet against the marble would contrast nicely with the floors. It turned out to be a clean, modern look,” said Stifel.
Floors are composed of several layers — sound-absorbing material, an inch of lightweight concrete, another layer of sound-absorbing material and finally the six-inch-wide wood planks fit together and locked in place in what is called a floating floor. Drywall is 5/8 of an inch thick; units don’t share walls, closet and room doors are solid, and the main entry doors are embedded with layer of gypsum. “This is one of the quietest buildings I’ve ever worked on,” said Stifel.
“There’s nothing cookie-cutter here. It’s all very nuanced,” said Loynab. The upper-level units are duplexes with master bedrooms overlooking 20-foot ceiling lofts and white metal spiral staircases leading to rooftop decks.
Double glass entry doors are topped with original stained glass. “The wood door frames were re-stained and brought back to life,” said Loynab. The entrance floor is made of original terra cotta-colored mini tiles and leads to a wood staircase with ornate railing, banister and spindles that were restored and resurfaced. A call box entry system — accessible by key fobs and linked to owners’ phones — was added.
What’s nearby: The 14th Street corridor, with Whole Foods at one end and Trader Joe’s at the other, is good, said Tierney. “I’ve seen the strip transform itself from an idea to quite a destination. Every available space is a restaurant, shop or gallery,” he said. Other close neighborhoods with dining, retail and entertainment venues are P Street, Dupont Circle, North End Shaw and U Street.
“I didn’t like it [D.C.] at first but have really grown to love it,” he said. “Washington is a very livable city. It’s a small town with big-city ambitions.”
Schools: Garrison Elementary, Francis L. Cardozo Education Campus (grades six through 12).
Transit: The Logan Circle neighborhood is walkable in every direction, and many streets have bike lanes. Tierney said he walks or bikes to the Australian Embassy on Massachusetts Avenue. “I have a car but don’t really use it,” he said. The Dupont Circle Metro station on the Red Line and the Shaw-Howard University Station on the Green and Yellow lines aren’t far. Metrobus lines run on nearby streets.