From 1925 until 2002, the Italian Embassy was housed in an a Neo-Renaissance building conceived by Whitney Warren and Charles D. Wetmore, designers Grand Central Terminal in New York, on 2700 16th Street NW in Washington D.C.
But over time, the diplomatic mission of the Italian Republic to the United States outgrew the building, with many office functions being housed offsite. And, the embassy moved to a new location about two miles away at 3000 Whitehaven Street.
The building sat vacant after 2002, but that’s soon going to change. In June, Dallas-based Mill Creek Residential purchased the property from Il Palazzo LLC.
“A large group of developers were pursuing it,” says Sean Caldwell, senior managing director of the Mid-Atlantic Region for Mill Creek Residential. “It was generally multifamily guys with some [wanting it for] condos and some [for] rentals.”
The interest isn’t surprising. Despite D.C. being one of the more oversupplied markets in the country, builders are still on track to deliver 11,319 new rental units this year, according to Bloomberg. With 20,000 units delivered over the past two years, concessions are common in the market.
Instead of competing with this glut of mostly luxury apartments, Caldwell contends the 135-unit project will distinguish itself by being even nicer than what’s coming on the market. Plans are to renovate the existing building as well as construct a nine-story high-rise with two levels of below-grade parking. The existing Embassy building will offer about 35 apartment homes to complement 100 units in the larger high-rise.
“We think the units that we’re proposing in the high rise will be a notch above the market and the ones in the embassy will be even higher than that,” Caldwell says. “We’re going with high-end finishes. The embassy will capture a clientele that’s underserved in that exclusive space."
The community will consist of studio, 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom apartment homes that feature premium high-tech and high-end features, according to Mill Creek’s news release. Included will be a resident clubhouse, business center, rooftop terrace, club-quality fitness center, and landscaped outdoor terraces.
“The outdoor private terraces and courtyards will be very distinctive to a downtown D.C. apartment community,” said Joe Muffler, development associate for Mill Creek Residential. “The preservation of the Embassy and its incredible historic spaces, combined with the addition of modern luxurious amenities, will create a truly unique living environment in the District.”
Mill Creek’s designs for redevelopment will aim to satisfy the guidelines set forth by the Historic Preservation Review Board, and the builder tentatively aims to begin construction on the community in 2016 (with it opening in 2018).
“We’re working with the Historic Preservation Review Board to make sure our changes are compatible with their vision and generally in alignment with the previous approvals,” Caldwell says.
Though Mill Creek traditionally builds to sell, it has done historic rehabs in the past. Caldwell says the embassy will be different. “It’s wonderful built-to-core rental investment,” he says. “It’s one we anticipate having for a very long period of time.”