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A Look Inside The Cafritz Foundation's 520-Unit Development Delivering At Fort Totten This Summer

Fort Totten, one of the few Metro stations in D.C. where three lines intersect,  has been slower to develop than some of the District's other transit hubs, with just two nearby projects being completed in the last decade. But the neighborhood will soon welcome one of the District's largest developments of 2017 when the first portion of a major mixed-use project opens just steps from the Metro this summer. 

The Modern at Art Place apartments, the first phase of the Fort Totten project that delivered in 2017.

The first residents will move in Aug. 1 at Modern at Art Place, the 520-unit Phase 1 of the 15-acre development the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation is building. 

For 60 years, the site has been home to the Riggs Plaza Apartments, a community of brick three-story walk-up buildings. In the early 2000s Calvin, one of Morris and Gwendolyn's three sons, and Jane Cafritz began looking at ways to modernize the property. After speaking with city planners and seeing the growth of urban mixed-use development, plus the District's need for housing, they decided to do something big. 

Jane Cafritz speaking at a Bisnow event in 2016 with Baker Tilly's Todd Stokes

"We realized because we were so close to a Metro station in which the city had put a huge amount of capital — very few stations have three lines intersecting — we realized the city planners had envisioned this to be a more densely populated neighborhood," Jane Cafritz said. 

At full build-out, the development is approved for more than 900 units, at least 300K SF of retail and a children's museum. The 520 units delivering in the first phase are spread among three six-story buildings with roughly 100K SF of ground-floor retail and a wide array of amenities. 

The clubroom in Modern at Art Place

The indoor first-floor amenities include a work area with a conference room, private desks and a creator space where drawing on the walls is allowed, a clubroom with televisions and couches and a party room residents can reserve to host events.

Most of the amenities exist within the larger north building but can be accessed by residents of all three. The first two floors of the north building will be the first to be available for move-in this summer, followed by the lower floors of the south building, then the west building in September. Weather and unforeseen site conditions pushed the construction back beyond its original targeted completion.  

The party room in Modern at Art Place

The Cafritz Foundation moved all of the displaced residents from the Riggs Plaza units it knocked down into other existing buildings in that community during construction. Each of those residents will then have the ability to move into one of the 140 affordable units at the Modern, 40 of them set aside for seniors, and keep their lower rate. 

"We haven't lost any of the traditions of that community," Cafritz said. "It has been a very successful transition that we hope will be a really huge contribution to this community."

The fitness center for residents in Modern at Art Place.

In addition to the fitness center and yoga studio available for residents in the north building, the Modern also has signed a 24-hour XSport Fitness as a 42K SF retail tenant. The other retail tenants for Phase 1 include a day care center, a pharmacy, a dentist's office, a T-Mobile store and a Starbucks, said Bozzuto General Manager Danielle Nery, the property and leasing manager for the building. 

Phase 2 will be entirely retail, including a 47K SF children's museum, which Cafritz said may be combined with a children's theater. Cafritz is also targeting a grocery store to anchor Phase 2. The development is a short walk from the Walmart-anchored Fort Totten Square building and about a mile from a Giant.

Nery said prospective residents have expressed a desire for an organic grocer, and she has begun to reach out to Trader Joe's and Mom's Organic Market to pitch the idea. 

The living and dining area in Modern at Art Place's one-bedroom model unit

About 50 residents have already signed leases, Nery said. The building has studios starting at $1,400, one-bedrooms starting at $1,700 and two-bedrooms starting at $2,300. They are also offering up to two months of free rent, plus additional concessions for those who sign on early to help the building lease quickly and compete with the thousands of units delivering across the District this year. 

“It’s going to be really successful because we offer a fantastic value,” Cafritz said. “It’s an amazing product with a very competitive price and you’ve got a great location. You can’t beat those three elements.” 

The outdoor courtyard at Modern at Art Place

The development has three landscaped outdoor courtyards and a zen garden. Nery said they are planning to hold weekly events such as beer tastings, ice cream socials and hot dog cookouts.

The rooftop pool at Modern at Art Place

The rooftop has a swimming pool with views of the surrounding neighborhood, plus an outdoor seating area with couches and an indoor party room with glass walls looking out at the pool that can be reserved for events. Another section of the rooftop has grills and outdoor dining areas.  

Cafritz said she expects the development to appeal to a wide variety of residents of all ages and economic backgrounds. She said she has seen a wave of young families moving into the community, which the children's museum and day care center will appeal to, and she has also seen a trend of seniors wanting to downsize and move into communities like Art Place. 

The outside of Modern at Art Place fronting the South Dakota Avenue NE and Galloway Street NE intersection

The Modern at Art Place is second only to The Wharf in delivering the most units to D.C. this year, so its impact will be immediately felt in the Fort Totten area. By the time the development is fully built out, Cafritz said the neighborhood will be substantially changed. 

"I think in five years, it's going to be a bustling place and it's going to be a central location," Cafritz said. "We didn't rush into anything and we used the best available advisers and design to make this truly a fantastic step in changing the neighborhood and a very importtant asset to make this a better neighborhood."

CORRECTION, JUNE 22, 12:00 P.M. EST: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the reason for the project's construction delay. The story has been updated.