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January 9, 2011  
Condo Comeback?

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We thought "for sale condos" weren't even in the real estate dictionary anymore, but no one told Madison Investments' Barry Madani or his brother Sia. Their company is slated to start 56 units in Columbia Heights over the next three months.
Barry Madani
We caught up with Barry at his 1020 Monroe St. project, which already has 10 units under contract. Demand remains strong for unique condos in centrally-located markets, he tells us, especially from the upper tier of the market. The fastest-selling units in his buildings have been those highest in price. (This makes us rethink of entire eBay selling strategy.) For example, two bedrooms at a similar project have traded for around $400k. "A lot of product out there is cookie-cutter, and we strive to create the experience of a high-end boutique hotel." His hunch on condos: Apartment rents are rising so high that the pendulum will swing back toward homeownership. We'll double-check that one when it comes time for our 2012 trend review.
1021 Monroe St.
1021 Monroe St. also features 7,000 SF of ground-level retail that sold in in October to Constantine Stavropolous (the guy behind Tryst/ Open City and the Diner in Adams Morgan). Barry and his brother got started in the condo biz five years ago, building a six-unit project. It runs in the family: Their father was a developer in Iran, once building luxury villas on the Caspian Sea. Why Columbia Heights? Safety in the neighborhood has significantly improved over the past several years, he says, and successful indie retail spots on 11th Street like Meridian Pint and RedRocks Pizzeria add energy.

Come See the Political Stars!
We’re thrilled to be hosting two of Washington’s top political analysts this Thursday morning—less than 36 hours after the New Hampshire primary. Ann Compton has been ABC’s chief White House correspondent for years (she was the only broadcast journalist on board Air Force 1 with President Bush after 9/11) and Linda Douglass was President Obama’s spokesperson during his 2008 campaign, inauguration, and healthcare initiative after taking office, as well as chief congressional correspondent for CBS News before that. If you want to know what the experts think about the GOP race or how they match up with the President, this is the place to be in Washington this week. Jan. 12. Sign up now!

Jobs Up, Vacancy Down?
Victor Calanog
Last week's news that the economy gained 200,000 jobs in December bolsters expectations that demand won't slacken in 2012, Reis economics guru Victor Calanog tells us. Office is more closely tied to the labor market than any other sector, he says, and vacancies are likely to trend downward this year. Increased hiring also bodes well for retail, the asset class he says was hit hardest by the recession. “If consumer confidence increases and spending translates to greater demand for retail space, expect vacancies to begin recovering in 2012.”
Victor also tells us the hiring data is good news for apartment owners: “With a for-sale housing market that’s still on the ropes, a healthier labor market will mean continuing good times for apartment landlords across the nation.”

Downtown's New Nightclub
ribbon cutting

Mayor Gray and others cut the ribbon this morning for The Hamilton, Clyde's new 24/7 restaurant-nightclub concept (DC's first) at the old Garfinkel's space on 14th Street. Shorenstein has owned the building since 2003, says the firm's Kevin Kuzemchak, and after the demise of Borders, a restaurant wasn't high on its list for a new tenant. But Clyde's vision for a potentially game-changing downtown venue swayed the firm's execs, he says, with a lease between the two inked about a year and a half ago.

The Hamilton
Here's the entertainment space's interior. DC council chair Kwame Brown envisions The Hamilton as the anchor of a corridor connecting downtown and the East End. The City used $4.5M from the downtown retail TIF to help fund the project, and Mayor Gray framed it as part of his hope that Washington will grow to one million residents: “What a wonderful amenity this will be to have.” The 57k SF space's restaurant portion seats 500, and the live music venue downstairs can hold 400. Gospel signer Mavis Staples will perform its first show Jan. 20.

Outlet Designs Unveiled
Tanger Outlets
Today the Peterson Cos. unveiled renderings for Tanger Outlets' new 300k SF center at National Harbor. Company retail boss Taylor Chess says the project was perceived as a radical move at first because outlets weren't typically found in major metro areas. Then the recession hit—now retailers view outlets as a bona fide distribution channel instead of a marketing ploy, so it's ok to have multiple locations in one region. Tanger opens at National Harbor in 2013.

parking meter
Last week our publisher, feeling very avant-garde, signed up for the phone service to pay for meter time on M St. outside our office. Then he paid over the phone for an hour's worth, upon which the automated voice confirmed payment. He began walking away until a (nice) meter maid called out, "You're going to get a ticket unless you pay." He explained he had, by phone. She replied that she entered his license plate and saw no payment. He swore he just got a confirmation. She said, "Well, we've had some problems, I'll wait a minute." He managed to divert her attention for three minutes and, alas, she (and he, by automated text) finally got confirmation. Whereupon the meter maid told him how horrible the system was and how she had warned city officials it was a mistake to install. So remember that if you use it.
Do you think a 24/7 nightclub-restaurant concept can be successful downtown? Tell mike.leon@bisnow.com.
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