By Carolyn Weber The architects at Cunningham and Quill enjoy a challenge, especially when those challenges turn into opportunities to create lively projects on otherwise dull sites. The firm's latest accomplishment is Tenley Hill, a mixed-use building that bridges the gap between a commercial and residential zone in an upscale Washington neighborhood just blocks from the subway.

With 83,000 square feet of residential space and another 22,600 square feet of offices and retail, this project is truly mixed use. But the uses are quite separate from each other. The retail and office space fronts to busy Wisconsin Avenue, while the residential entrance is on a quiet side street. Neighbors were concerned with the bulk of the building, so the architects broke down its scale with three levels of flats; nine, two-level units with individual roof decks; and five, three-story townhouses. The low-scale townhouses, with projecting bays of wood and glass, reflect the character of the surrounding homes.

The interiors of the 38 units, priced from $289,000 to $1.5 million, have contemporary, light-filled spaces. "Several of the west-facing units have views that are miles long out into Virginia," says architect Lee Quill. The floor plans, which range from 2,000 to 4,000 square feet, were all customized by sophisticated, mostly move-down buyers. With 100 percent pre-sales, the project sold out before the second story was even built. "We think it's our job to push the housing range here in the District of Columbia," says Quill. "We need to provide a new type of residential infill housing for people coming back to the city."

Category: Condominiums; Entrant/Builder/Developer: PN Hoffman Construction & Development, Washington; Architect: Cunningham & Quill, Washington; Landscape Architect: The Fitch Studio, Washington

Photo: Dan Cunningham

Tight Squeeze

The site was quite compact for a varied program that includes parking, office space, retail, and several types of housing. "The site was challenging, with a surprisingly steep slope that is now hidden," says architect Ralph Cunningham. The slope actually helped the parking situation. The commercial parking is on grade (behind the retail), and the residential parking is one level below for a total of 75 spaces.

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