Developers and Designers Redefine D.C.’s Luxury Real Estate


(Washington, D.C.—May 15, 2019)   Developers and designers are rethinking and redefining luxury in an effort to deliver unique living experiences that stand out in a highly competitive market, according to leading national and international real estate developers, architects and design experts who gathered for Urban Pace’s 2nd Annual Luxury Trends Conference.  Presented in partnership with Long & Foster and Christie’s International Real Estate, the event examined how far-reaching trends in luxury residences will shape the future of the greater Washington market.

“To distinguish luxury residences, developers must focus on creating powerful experiences that begin with design, continue through marketing, and linger long after move-in,” said Clint Mann, President of Urban Pace. “We brought together some of the nation’s most celebrated high-end designers and developers to provide insights into how that appeal can be fine-tuned in Washington, where the market for luxury homes has grown dramatically in recent years.”

Compared to other luxury markets like London, Tokyo and New York, the Washington market is hot because it is “irrationally underpriced,” said conference keynoter, Dan Conn, CEO of Christie’s International Real Estate.  “You should be buying property. You should be borrowing money to do it,” he advised, noting three-to-five-year forecasts for substantial returns on luxury properties bought in D.C. today.

An example of those returns is CityCenterDC, developed by Hines. According to Hines’ SVP of Corporate Communications, George Lancaster, the company initially questioned the wisdom of building ultra-luxury in DC. Data suggesting strong sales of luxury brands ultimately drew Hines to the nation’s capital and a rapid sellout. CityCenter residences that originated at $800-900 per square foot are reselling at $1200 per square foot.

Unique Experiences Win the Amenities Race

Many new luxury buildings all have the same amenities—wine cellars, screening rooms, golf simulators and 24-7 concierge but that is not enough. According to the experts, developers must take a holistic view of the entire luxury experience. Interior design plays an integral role, incorporating art and culture so they are intimately, and even subtly, infused into the resident experience.

“Luxury isn’t an adjective, it’s a noun. What is the luxury people have? What is the experience?” says Conn.

At one luxury development in Miami designed by Lissoni, Inc., an art room puts beauty and meaning on display; it’s also a stage where residents and their children can create and take classes.  At another project, the developer partnered with a high-end watchmaker to teach residents this craft.  At still another, there is a high-end, health conscious restaurant only for residents.

Location and Authenticity

Location is the ultimate luxury, described by Lancaster as “the best amenity to market.” Being true to a location’s history is also key to authenticity, as are natural materials, plentiful sunlight and historic features.

“There’s this idea…that history is counter to development and doesn’t offer any luxury attributes—which I think is the opposite of what happens,”  says architect Morris Adjmi, author of the new book “A Grid and Conversation,” and designer of notable projects such as the redevelopment of D.C.’s landmark Atlantic Plumbing building.

Making Life Easier and Better

Stephen Davis of The Davis Companies says luxury product that makes life easier or better is “relative and market-specific.” Designers and developers must see design as a lifestyle enhancement, he said. And while there is pressure to downsize, the focus must be on a heightened experience. In other words, don’t skimp on closet space.

Health and well-being are also essential to the better life equation, the experts noted.

“Every building has a juice bar, a sauna, a pool. But being healthy is more than just going to the gym,” says designer Nicoletta Canesi, Partner at Lissoni, Inc. “It’s living in a space that relaxes you, having elegance in the space. Give people a community of improvement.”

In the end, the experts noted that luxury isn’t any one thing but a combination of location, design, artistry, craftsmanship, community and most of all, the creation of experiences.

“The built environment is the great work of art. It contains all other works of art. Our ability to work on that, to help direct what that built environment is, is the great pleasure and honor of what all of us do. We’re not just creating a product, luxury or otherwise. It’s a responsibility, and privilege and a delight,” said Bill Higgins, Principal, Higgins Quasebarth & Partners.

About Urban Pace

Urban Pace is the Mid-Atlantic leader in development real estate services including marketing, sales, leasing and advisory. As a Christie’s affiliate, we are the only firm with luxury and global reach. Founded in 2001, our team is the experienced authority having worked on more than 250 communities from large master planned sites to urban boutique buildings. We specialize in condominiums, townhomes, apartments and new construction sites across all price points. Combining our strategic approach and proprietary technology, UP Velocity™, we have a track record of driving traffic and revenue with extraordinary results.  As part of a billion dollar entity, The Long and Foster Companies, we have unmatched resources with a network of 11,000 agents and a dedicated Asia Pacific team.

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