The location and timing of this multifamily 315-unit rental project sound like a page from a market analyst's dream scenario. Take a classical brick design reminiscent of bygone times, fill it with hip, roomy apartments, and drop the whole thing into an underserved market just a few hundred yards from Old Town, Alexandria, Va. As if that's not enough, residents can walk to a subway stop just 800 feet away. And a new Patent Office building is under construction next door, which will house more than 8,000 relocated employees.

These factors combined may explain why the units, ranging from 623 square feet to 1,059 square feet, rented so quickly (averaging 23 units per month) and stay rented so well.

"We went in and struck a deal to purchase the property pretty quickly," notes Jim Butz, executive vice president with JPI Construction. "This company is big, and we're funded (and owned) by General Electric, so property owners know that when we say we'll close, we do. That helped the deal go through."

With the green light given, JPI wanted to produce something a step above the competition. Designers took note of nearby Old Town, which has a special appeal for residents in the area because of its historic architecture and sense of established community. "We had built this kind of donut-shaped product before," Butz notes. "But [in keeping with the Old Town theme] here we did everything at a high level of detail, with old pine plank floors and distressed finishes."

The brick exterior of the building covers only 30 percent of the surface--with less expensive siding on back elevations. But the designers made best use of that brick by installing exterior lighting to capture the public eye during evening hours when many people are out walking. And special attention was lavished on public spaces, with plenty of exposed brick, bright colors, and moody lighting throughout the lounge and bar. Fanciful wrought-iron work even brings a hint of tradition to the modern exercise room.

Category: Apartments--rental; Entrant/Builder/Developer: JPI Construction, Vienna, Va.; Architect: Niles Bolton Associates, Alexandria, Va.; Landscape Architect: Land Design, Alexandria; Interior Designer: Carlyn and Co., Great Falls, Va.

Eric Kieley Photography

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This used to be railroad property," notes Jim Butz, executive vice president of JPI Construction. "Over many years, they dumped a lot of fill in here, so that gave us a real engineering problem. We looked at removing the soil, but that would have meant seven acres of land at 40 feet deep, which would have been a huge hole and taken a long time." Instead, the company decided to build the whole substructure on 40-foot-deep concrete pilings. "We built the two garages first, using 1,400 piles, each one 2 feet square," Butz recalls. "Even the swimming pool is on piles, due to the weight of the water. We had two crews working full time for three months to get that part of the job done."

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