Solea may not have everythingit takes to create a self-sustaining urban ecosystem, but it comes close. Located in one of D.C.’s hottest emerging neighborhoods, it’s near transit, shops, restaurants, a big city park, and several employment corridors. In fact, some of those jobs are inside its walls. More than 20 percent of its 62 units are designed as live/work residences with an eye toward incubating and sustaining local micro-businesses and start-ups. That includes the requisite ground-floor spaces with commercial entrances, as well as upper-floor units (intended for professional services such as bookkeeping and immigration law), each of which is outfitted with movable walls to create office space, and two separate entrances from the hallway.

That’s not all this project is doing to preserve the neighborhood fabric. Some 35 percent of its condos are reserved for households making less than 50 percent of the area median income—local residents who might otherwise be displaced by gentrification.

Built on city-owned land and financed, in part, by the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, the structure is a concrete podium, topped by stick-built construction, with two levels of underground parking. Modest materials such as corrugated metal and stucco helped keep the budget lean, as did a few simple design moves that cost next to nothing, says architect Suman Sorg. Projecting bays, combined with the building’s U-shaped configuration around a central courtyard, provide ample daylighting and cross-ventilation inside the units. Metal panels on the south and east façades float a few inches off the main structure to create a thermal buffer, thereby moderating heat gain and improving building performance.

Project Details


Category Live/Work project
Entrant/Architect/Land planner/Interior designer Sorg Architects, Washington, D.C.
Builder Hamel Builders, Washington
Developer Jair Lynch Development Partners, Washingto

And did we mention it’s a LEED for Neighborhood Development pilot project? Green features include recycled building materials, energy-efficient mechanical systems, water-saving plumbing fixtures, and a reflective roof.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Washington, DC.