Inside the Chinese Embassy's Swanky New Digs
One of the most interesting construction sites in DC is on its way to becoming one of the most unique apartment buildings in the area. 2310 Connecticut Ave NW, designed by Esocoff & Associates, will house residences for workers at the Chinese embassy, and house them in style. Phil Esocoff told us last week that the nine-floor, 160-unit building was a particularly fun and challenging project. It has seven elevator shafts, a rare design to allow each apartment to have windows on multiple walls. That means the building is thinner than your average multifamily. Not only that, it puts the amenities of the new buildings in NoMa and the Capitol Riverfront to shame: sure, some of them have a half-court basketball court (check), but do they also have a badminton court? A 25-meter indoor lap pool? A table tennis room “suitable for more serious table tennis”? Phil’s building does.
“It’s fun designing a building,” Phil says, and it’s clear he had fun designing this one. There are special kitchens to allow for frequent cooking on woks, classrooms for the diplomatic staff’s children and even some microunits—30 to be exact—with a common kitchen shared among them. There’s a sunken garden the indoor pool looks into and, of course, a rooftop deck. It’s one of Phil’s favorite spots in the city because of its views and place on top of the hill that leads to downtown. The rear building on the site before was an eyesore, he tells us, built in 1948 and non-contributing to the historic district. “It was a really great thing to tear that building down.” Construction on the new building, snapped this weekend by Phil's staff, will top out in August and deliver summer 2016.
The pressure on Phil to get the new building right was higher than almost any other project he’s worked on; he and wife/business partner Amy Weinstein (snapped above enjoying bagels and lox at Russ & Daughters earlier this year) live right across the street. “It sort of puts you on the hot seat,” he says. His neighbors have been polite in their criticism, he adds, but that helps because “it’s a nice building.”
For years before the new building started to grow from the dirt, passersby asked with curiosity “what the heck is that?” at 2310 Connecticut. Two walls, the façade of the former building, stood alone in front of an empty lot as Phil prepared his construction plans. Those walls were part of the previous apartment building, built in 1922 and once called St. Alban’s. They are now part of the new building, which is only a few feet taller than what was once there. “Saving remnants of old buildings creates a richer overall project,” Phil says. Considering the building has a pool, table tennis, basketball, badminton and seven elevators, we’re inclined to agree that this building is pretty rich.