Kalorama experiencing notable property deals

Real estate: Government of France to sell half an acre


A pair of recent real estate transactions in Sheridan-Kalorama have attracted national headlines: the Obamas renting a house at 2446 Belmont Road NW, and Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner purchasing 2449 Tracy Place NW right around the corner. But two other deals may have a longer-term impact on the neighborhood. Representatives of the French government announced Monday that they will be selling half an acre of their five-acre ambassador’s residence, potentially allowing the development of up to four homes on Kalorama Circle NW. And at the other end of the neighborhood, residents have applauded plans to convert the former Textile Museum into one large single-family home — putting an end to concerns it could become a disruptive diplomatic property or a multi-unit residential building. Both projects were discussed at Monday’s meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2D (Sheridan-Kalorama).

Alex Venditti, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage representing the French government, told residents not to expect any immediate change at the Kalorama Circle site. The sale of the land hasn’t yet been marketed, and any buyer would need to return to ANC 2D for regulatory review before constructing any project. But Venditti emphasized the rarity of open space becoming available in the desirable neighborhood — it’s already heavily developed, and its status as a historic district restricts tear-downs.

“It’s going to be a unique and significant way for someone to build,” Venditti said. “Based on our analytics that we’ve been doing … it’s certainly going to draw in some unique folks that might be interesting.”

A French official at the ANC 2D meeting said the sale reflects a broader policy. “We’re just thinking globally about our strategy in real estate, and we’re starting to decrease a little bit our properties around the world,” he said.

The ambassador’s residence itself sits at 2221 Kalorama Road NW, about half a block from the circle, but French holdings also include three lots along a never-constructed segment of Belmont Road that would have run between Kalorama Circle and Connecticut Avenue NW. These lots, located near the circle’s northeast section, comprise the half-acre that will be listed for sale. Venditti said a single buyer will be expected to purchase the three lots together, and then would likely consolidate or subdivide them in another arrangement.

Based on zoning guidelines for the site, Venditti presented a pair of possible options for the property: a single grand mansion occupying the entire half-acre site, or four large homes — two directly on Kalorama Circle and two more behind them. He said that a church or school use would also be legally permissible.

“I think we’re going to receive a tremendous amount of attention, based on where it’s located and the significance of having that much land available in this wonderful neighborhood,” said Venditti.

Venditti and Elise Ramer, a spokesperson for Coldwell Banker, declined to comment further but said more information on the listing will be released later this month.

Meanwhile, ANC 2D voted 2-0 to support a Historic Preservation Review Board application for minor exterior additions and renovations at the former Textile Museum. Architect Ankie Barnes said the buyers of the sprawling property — a 0.8-acre lot with two connected historic homes — will use the 27,000-square-foot building as one single-family non-diplomatic house. The Textile Museum discontinued its longtime use of the 2320-2330 S St. NW site in 2013 to prepare for a move to the George Washington University campus, and the property first sold for $19 million in 2015.

The latest buyers, whom Barnes did not identify, had been looking around Sheridan-Kalorama and eastern Georgetown before selecting the property. “They’re a really nice family and they absolutely love it,” Barnes said.

City records show that the property was last sold in October for $23 million, and Barnes said interior renovations to convert the building from an institution back to a home will require an extensive investment. In the 1970s, large areas of the historic interior had been gutted, he said — “it’s a tragedy, but it’s also an opportunity because it allows us to put something back.”

ANC 2D members praised the plans, with Ellen Goldstein calling them “ambitious and tasteful” and chair David Bender adding that he’s relieved about the singlefamily use.

“This is far greater than what I had envisioned would happen to this property,” Bender said. “I thought there would probably be a battle of changing the footprint totally, and fighting condos going up in the backyard and everything else.”

Another resident chimed in: “Bravo, thank you, thank you!”

Barnes also sought to alleviate concerns that the buyers planned anything but owner-occupancy of the property.

“This is not going to be a bed-and-breakfast or anything like that?” Bender asked at one point.

“I imagine they’ll have beds and serve breakfast,” Barnes quipped, “but they won’t take money for it.”

Goldstein also asked whether the new owners would expect to hold large events.

“Probably two or three sizable parties per year and some smaller functions — but it won’t be an institutional use, but residential,” Barnes responded. “And maybe they’ll ask you to come.”

At Monday’s ANC 2D meeting, residents and commissioners also aired concerns about impacts from neighborhood’s highest-profile upcoming residents: the Obamas and the Trump/Kushner household, as both properties will require Secret Service protection.

Residents are concerned about a loss of parking around the two locations, and the possibility that Belmont Road could be closed altogether to non-residents between Tracy Place and Kalorama Circle.

Tom Lipinsky of Ward 2 D.C. Council member Jack Evans’ office said his colleagues have been pushing for information from the Secret Service, and are also encouraging the D.C. Department of Transportation to limit parking on one side of each street to Ward 2 residents.

Neighbors are particularly worried about the spillover effects if Islamic Center of Washington worshipers park on previously unaffected blocks once new restrictions are in place along Belmont and Tracy.