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New DC Partnership Acquires Historic South Cathedral Mansions Apartments

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.

 

About Commonwealth Cooperative:

Commonwealth Residential (comresdc.com) is a privately-held real estate investment firm which acquires and operates existing multifamily properties located within the District of Columbia. Commonwealth specializes in the acquisition and redevelopment of boutique and historic multifamily properties that are typically subject to the District’s rent control regulations and the Tenant’s Opportunity to Purchase Act. Commonwealth Residential and its partners focus on this niche and have extensive experience dealing with both sets of regulations.

CAS Riegler Companies (casriegler.com) is a vertically integrated real estate development, construction and investment company based in Washington, DC. Their strategic focus revolves around creating value and reducing risk for investors and clients through extensive market knowledge, thoughtful design, and a long-term approach to sustainable assets. Since 2009, the company has executed 13 projects totaling over $135 million in value creation and has a pipeline of over $90 million of urban residential projects, all in urban infill locations. Its principals have a collective 35 years of experience and have executed over $500 million of development and construction in Washington, DC.

Snead Construction (sneadgc.com) is a full-scale General Contractor engaged in a wide range of projects and construction services, specializing in multifamily residential and commercial construction projects in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. Snead has a proven track record of success in challenging urban infill, historic renovation, and specialty projects, having successfully executed over $40MM in projects since the firm’s inception. Prior to the creation of Snead Construction, the team delivered over 2,000 units in the Washington DC metro area.

Oculus Realty, LLC (oculusrealty.com) is a licensed and accredited real estate investment and property management firm specializing in repositioning and management of both conventional and affordable communities in Maryland and Virginia and historic rent regulated apartment buildings in the District of Columbia. The firm currently manages 38 communities valued at over $200 million. Oculus strives to accomplish its mission of creating value for its stakeholders by engaging employees, service providers and clients that share the company’s guiding principles of care, workmanship, initiative, creativity, and integrity.