South Cathedral Mansions, a landmark apartment building situated in Woodley Park on prestigious Connecticut Avenue in Washington, DC, has changed hands for only the fourth time since it was designed and developed in 1922 by the iconic team of Harry Wardman and Mihran Mesrobian. Located one block from the Woodley Park/Adams Morgan Metro station and directly across from the National Zoo, the 131-apartment property was acquired by Commonwealth Cooperative, a recently formed group of Washington, DC multifamily industry veterans.
While this is Commonwealth Cooperative’s first acquisition, the team members have extensive experience in the city’s multifamily market, particularly in the acquisition and renovation of historic apartment buildings. The joint venture is led by Commonwealth Residential and CAS Riegler, with property management provided by Oculus Realty and construction services provided by Snead Construction.
Commonwealth Cooperative’s collaborative approach with the tenants, via TOPA (Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act), coupled with their commitment to historic renovation, provided the framework for a partnership with the South Cathedral Mansions Tenant Association to redevelop the property.
“We are bringing a new approach to working with tenants’ associations based on honesty, transparency, and flexibility,” said Brad Gilchrist, Managing Principal of Commonwealth Residential. “The tenants who have chosen to continue renting here will benefit from a highly innovative profit-participation plan.”
Beginning in November, the building will undergo an extensive two-year renovation to provide modern amenities while preserving and enhancing its historic character. The project will provide all-new unit interiors, central HVAC, upgraded common areas, a state-of-the-art fitness center, unique community space within the original carriage house, and other improvements. By reconfiguring the apartment layouts and incorporating previously unutilized attic space, Commonwealth Cooperative will add 29 new apartments, 17 of which will feature 20-30 foot ceiling heights.
“Upon completion of these extensive renovations, South Cathedral Mansions will compete with Class A properties along Connecticut Avenue and in other sought-after neighborhoods of Washington,” said Kevin Riegler, Principal of CAS Riegler. “We have an in-depth understanding of the way these buildings were built, how to preserve them, and how to ensure that they last into future generations.”
South Cathedral Mansions, located at 2900 Connecticut Avenue, NW, is included in both the National Register of Historic Places and the D.C. Inventory of Historic Sites. When originally developed by Wardman as part of a three-building complex totaling 492 apartments, it was reputed to be the largest US apartment community south of New York City.
Wardman lost the property in the run-up to the Great Depression; since 1927, South Cathedral Mansions has had just two owners. In 1961, the property was acquired by District Intown Properties, LP on behalf of the Calomiris family. The seller was represented by HFF in today’s sale to Commonwealth Cooperative.