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Inside JBG Smith's Newest Project, With $10K+ Rents In D.C.'s Nightlife Epicenter

The first residents move in Thursday at JBG Smith's new 13|U apartment building, the newest and priciest offering on the U Street corridor from the developer that has helped usher in the neighborhood's renaissance.  

JBG Smith's new 13|U apartment building

JBG Smith has already gotten commitments for 15% of its 129 units since leasing began on Aug. 1, and tenants are paying top dollar for the new luxury property on one of D.C.'s most bustling corners. It had retained a broker to sell the property ahead of its delivery, but it has since taken it off the market, JBG Smith Executive Vice President of Capital Transactions Ed Chaglassian said. He said the company may put it up for sale again once it finishes leasing.

Those who choose to live in the building's largest unit, a 2,009 SF two-bedroom penthouse, will pay $13,500 per month. Three additional units fetch more than $10K a month, and the cheapest unit costs more than $3K. With average unit sizes 50% larger than JBG Smith's typical projects, 13|U is targeted at an older population than the other buildings it has developed in the area.

"You could see individuals at Louis at 14th or The District or Atlantic Plumbing moving here when they are growing up and need more space but want to stay in the neighborhood," JBG Smith Development Manager Craig Ciekot said, referring to three other projects the developer built in the area.  

The $13,500 penthouse may be the most expensive rental unit in a new D.C. apartment building, but there are others that come close. The Hepburn in Dupont Circle has three-bedrooms that start at $13,292, and The Woodley, also built by JBG, has three-bedrooms that start at $10,481, according to Delta Associates

JBG Smith is managing and leasing the building, but the asset is part of one of The JBG Cos. private funds and was not included in the merger with Vornado's D.C. branch that created the new public company.

The lobby of JBG Smith's new 13|U apartment building

After obtaining a ground lease in 2008, JBG had originally planned to build a 200-room hotel on the site, but later pivoted to a multifamily project, breaking ground in July 2015. 

"Given our other sites in the neighborhood, we decided it would make more sense economically to do an apartment," Chaglassian said.

The building's 15,500 SF of ground-floor retail is already completely leased. The Rite Aid that occupied the site before development reopened in the 8K SF corner space. American restaurant The Smith will open its second D.C. outpost in a 7K SF space fronting U Street after opening its first location outside New York City in Penn Quarter earlier this year. 

The exterior of the building, lined with brick and cast stone, was designed by David M. Schwarz Architects and BBGM. The interior was designed by New York-based Champalimaud, a design firm known for its hotels. 

As part of its PUD approval, the developer agreed to install two pieces of art in the windows outside the entrance, and it partnered with the neighboring Hamiltonian Gallery to rotate art pieces every quarter. It also installed a large artwork spanning the entire east wall in the lobby, across from the concierge desk. Coming down from their units to the lobby, the starburst-patterned elevator doors open and residents are welcomed by a TransitScreen next to the mailroom, which is lined with the same tile floors as the lobby.  

The kitchen in a one-bedroom unit at JBG Smith's 13|U apartment building

The units start on the second floor, where residents also have access to a small gym next to the leasing office. Ciekot said the idea behind the fitness center, with only a handful of exercise machines, was that residents would already have gym memberships but may need a rainy day workout option. 

About 30% of the building's units are one-bedrooms, ranging from 719 SF to 810 SF and from $3,065 to $3,450. A sign of the new direction JBG Smith took in designing this building, Ciekot said, is that its smallest offering is larger than the average unit in Louis at 14th, the Trader Joe's-anchored project it built around the corner in 2014. 

Another 30% of the units are one-bedrooms with a den, ranging from 814 SF to 956 SF and from $3,400 to $3,700. Two-bedrooms make up another 30%, with those ranging from a 986 SF unit starting at $4,405 to the 2,009 SF, $13,500 penthouse unit. The final 10% are two-bedrooms with a den, ranging from 1,456 SF to 1,675 SF and from $7,295 to $10,990. Most of the units leased so far have been one-bedrooms, and one of the penthouse units has already been taken. 

The bedroom in a one-bedroom unit at JBG Smith's 13|U apartment building

The entrance doors and floors of the units are made of walnut. The kitchens have white quartz countertops, a Thermador refrigerator and a dishwasher hidden among the wooden cabinets. 

The units on the building's south side have large balconies that connect to the bedroom and living room, and offer Washington Monument views from the third floor up. 

The curved living room wall in the corner units of JBG Smith's 13|U apartment building offers views down U Street

On the corner of the building, facing the bustling 13th and U intersection, the units have curved living room walls that offer views down the corridor. On the seventh floor, the curved section on the corner is an outdoor terrace. 

Most of the units have nine-foot ceilings, while those on the eighth floor are slightly higher. 

The bathroom in a two-bedroom unit at JBG Smith's 13|U apartment building

The two-bedroom units all have two bathrooms, some with an extra half bath, and the master bathrooms include dual-vanity sinks. The bathrooms have accent lighting behind the mirrors and in the ceiling. The pieces of white porcelain marble tile lining the bathrooms were individually numbered so they could be matched up and have the gray streaks connect and appear to be one cohesive piece. 

The south rooftop courtyard at JBG Smith's 13|U apartment building

On the ninth-floor rooftop, the building has an indoor amenity space with two outdoor terraces on the north- and south-facing sides. Residents can reserve the indoor space or either of the terraces for private events.

The outdoor terraces have couches, fire pits, tables and a barbecue station with two grills and a television. 

The south-facing terrace offers views of the Capitol, Washington Monument, Downtown D.C. and Rosslyn. From the north terrace, residents can look down on U Street or peer over to Shaw and catch a glimpse of JBG's Atlantic Plumbing development. 

Construction is underway at JBG Smith's Atlantic Plumbing Parcel C in Shaw.

The developer delivered Atlantic Plumbing Parcel A, a 310-unit apartment building, and Parcel B, a 62-unit condo building, in 2015. The development sits next to the popular 9:30 Club and is anchored by a Landmark Theater. Also in Shaw, JBG built The Shay, a 245-unit building with 28K SF of retail. 

This spring, JBG Smith began construction on Atlantic Plumbing Parcel C and a crane is already up at the site. The project will feature two 10-story towers above a woonerf-style street

The 13|U project sits about five blocks west of the Atlantic Plumbing site, in between JBG's Shaw portfolio and the projects it built on 14th Street. After selling The District apartments at 14th and S for $608K/unit in 2013, it set a D.C. record with the $176.5M sale of the Louis at 14th building, at 14th and U, for $650K/unit in 2014. The following year it blew away its own record with the sale of The Woodley for $920K/unit. 

If JBG Smith does decide to sell 13|U, Chaglassian said he believes it should be able to beat its own record. The previous sales came before the units filled up, a strategy that allows them to avoid D.C.'s Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act process. But if it brings 13|U back to the market after it is stabilized, the building, with large high-end units reaching five-figure monthly rents, could sell at a higher price-per-unit than the D.C. market has ever seen.