After 25 years and a neighborhood kerfuffle, Cafritz readies 5333 Connecticut for tenants
Michael Neibauer | Washington Business Journal
For a brief time in 2013, Calvin Cafritz Enterprises’ proposed development of a Chevy Chase, D.C., lot with a 10-story, largely glass apartment building was among the District’s most contentious projects.
Roughly 25 years in the making, 5333 Connecticut Ave. NW is now ready to open (the first resident moved in on June 1), and the rancor has abated. The website of 5333 Connecticut Neighbors Coalition is gone, and there is only one faded anti-sign remaining along quiet Kanawha Street NW, which borders the project.
In its place — 261 units, a zen garden and a building that certainly stands out.
“We wanted it to reflect the best of what Washington is,” said Jane Cafritz, a partner in the development with her husband, Calvin Cafritz. “It’s modern. It’s simple in many ways. It’s very open.”
Cafritz asked: How couldn’t the community come around? This is a trophy building — a 15-minute walk to the Friendship Heights Metro station or a short bus ride to downtown — that was designed, after some work, to incorporate seamlessly into the neighborhood.
On Friday, we toured the building with Cafritz, from the ground-floor fitness and yoga rooms overlooking the zen garden to the business center (with Macs, not PCs), the coffee bar, the Lincoln Center-inspired portico, the courtyard with circulating pond, fire pit and gazebo, the private party room (future home of Politics & Prose events and wine tastings), the model apartments with floor-to-ceiling glass, and the green roof complete with infinity pool, party kitchen, Viking grills and billiard table.
The units, largely with one or two bedrooms, are outfitted with Bosch appliances, quartz countertops and soft-close cabinets. There is 24-hour concierge service. The views, from the units and the roof, are less monument, more leafy upper Northwest. The original artwork lining the walls, across every floor, was personally selected by Cafritz with the help of her art consultants.
“To me, art is a complement to where you live,” she said. “I think it’s so important to have that element.”
The Cafritz real estate empire acquired the Connecticut Avenue lot in the early 1990s, but did not act to redevelop it until after 2010. It retained Eric Colbert & Associates to design the building, which the architect has described as “unabashedly modern and up-to-date,” while simultaneously relating “to the earlier modern apartment houses that line the upper reaches of the avenue, as well as to nearby single-family homes.”
As a by-right project, the District issued the permits to go ahead and build, but neighbors, and the local advisory neighborhood commission, promptly appealed to D.C. officials. They argued the building was too dense, too tall and its design had not been negotiated with the very people it would most affect.
While legal avenues were explored, the ANC negotiated an agreement in which Cafritz would reduce the amount of glass in favor of masonry, reduce the height of the building by 2 feet, add setbacks to the upper floor to diminish the massing, install a circular driveway, provide more than 40 additional parking spaces, and install additional landscaping.
“This was a by-right building,” she said. “The neighbors saw the original drawing, and we went back to them and spoke to the neighbors. We incorporated a lot of the design issues they had. We increased parking. We eliminated space. I’ve heard the neighbors say this is a building they can be proud of.”