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Seven floors above a residential block off of H Street NE, a constellation of well-oiled bodies lounge across chaises and in chairs, eyes half-dimmed against the midday sun. It is June, it is hot, and it is quiet.
A handful of tanned 20-somethings sit in the shallow end of a sleek pool with books in their hands, thousands of teeny blue tiles glittering around them. Beautiful muscled men in speedos and diamonds and gold, and women in oversized designer sunglasses, chat in hushed tones over cocktails.
It’s the rare Saturday afternoon with little noise on the roof deck of Station House, a luxury apartment building in NoMa that looks more like a South Beach hotel than it does a rental building just five minutes from Union Station. Rents here can run up to $4,375 per month for a two-bedroom apartment, and its amenities include a pet spa, bocce court, and 6,220-square-foot gym with a spin studio.
The lobby boasts velvet sofas and chandeliers, the roof deck offers a commanding view of the Capitol––even the elevator platforms are decorated with glass terrariums teeming with succulents. (Property manager Roseland Residential dispersed a building-wide email in mid-June encouraging residents to call the police on homeless people living on surrounding blocks.)
But all is not well in paradise.
For months, residents have voiced discontent with the hordes of guests who use the property as a hotel and the Hill interns who are living there short-term, turning their luxury building into an epicenter, they say, of anything-goes drunken hedonism perpetrated by a rotating cast of characters looking to party. (One wrote a huffy post for PoPville, as the disgruntled wealthy are wont to do.) The property is listed as a destination on Washington Intern Student Housing (WISH), a company that finds housing for interns in, among other places, “luxury condos,” with copy ripped right from Station House’s website.
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Sins include empty beer cans that litter the pool deck on weekends and trap music that blares into dawn. Other residents say they’ve watched youngsters haul kegs and pre-inflated pool floats up to the roof. “There are interns launching fireworks off the roof. Not, like, firecrackers,” one male resident says in consternation, “but mortar boxes. It’s like these drunk interns have never been on their own before.”
Residents who talked to City Paper say they’re disturbed that they had to pay an astounding $700 amenities fee upon move-in, but see short-term guests enjoying the pool for no additional charge.
One Saturday in June, shortly after 10 p.m., officers from the Metropolitan Police Department responded to a noise complaint from the building. A resident threw a party on the pool deck with a DJ and full-fledged speaker system that attracted dozens, if not more than a hundred, people. One young couple, who came home just before the cops arrived, told City Paper they could hear the party from F Street NE.
But the rowdiness isn’t new for tenants who have lived in the building for years, watching cycle after cycle of WISH kids and tourists stay at the building. The day she moved into Station House in the spring of 2017, one female resident told City Paper, she saw a group of drunk young men chewing up the free dog biscuits provided to residents on the concierge desk, spitting them out at passersby in the lobby like a perverse fountain.
“I was very excited about the pool—but every time I went up there, there were 20 drunk, screaming interns,” she told City Paper. “It’s quieter when it’s not the summer. But they’re of course back now, and back to their old ways.”
Complaints range from the petty to the problematic. During March Madness, the same resident says, “there were all these large groups of men. Every time I’d try to walk my dog, they’d follow me around, ask for my ‘hotel room number,’ sexually harass me. [They’re] trying to follow you around asking where you live.” Weeks later, someone stole all of the desktop computers from Station House’s lobby, and there were reports of drunk guests trying to break into residents’ rooms. All of it, she says, is “very frustrating.” WISH did not reply to City Paper’s request for comment.
On Yelp, when residents have complained about the short-term tenants and hotel guests, Station House employees write publicly that they “do not market our apartment homes on hotels.com or any other Internet listing site of that type.”
But City Paper found Station House listed on hotel sites like Global Luxury Suites, AirBnB, and Hotels.com. A Global Luxury Suites employee told City Paper in a chat message on the company’s website that a three night stay in late June would cost between $1,333 and $1,608—between $350 and $440 per night, plus tax and a $100 cleaning fee.
When City Paper asked whether it’d be possible to book a room for one night, the employee initially said no, claiming that there’s “a three night minimum.” But after City Paper stopped responding to the employee’s messages, the employee said she “might get you approved for one night.”
That one night would cost a total of $625.
“If you are okay with some people coming in the building for their hotel usage, you can be happy with this place. But seriously, this place is not for rental residents anymore,” one person wrote on Google Reviews. “For me, a lot of times, it’s just more like [sic] hotel with random people coming in every day with their suitcases.” (There are also reviews from a handful of disgruntled tourists who say property managers didn’t respond to maintenance requests.)
A spokesperson from the public relations office that works with Roseland says that the company partners with “highly reputable third-party providers of corporate and extended-stay housing” in 12-month blocks, and that these partners are barred from listing the building on sites like Airbnb. “We are in the process of identifying cases in which this agreement was broken.”
In private messages to residents, Roseland executives acknowledge Station House’s presence on short term rental sites. A building representative justified the practice to one tenant by claiming in an email that contractors perform background checks on “ALL” potential guests. No third-party agent or Roseland employee ever tried to vet this reporter or perform a background check during the booking process. Residents, meanwhile, are banned in their leases from renting out rooms on third-party sites.
A spokesperson from the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs confirmed that the agency launched an investigation into Roseland’s rental practices after receiving complaints that date back to April from building residents. But one city official familiar with DCRA’s investigation told City Paper he’s not holding his breath for the agency to take action. “Zoning enforcement in D.C. is more aspirational than actual,” he laughs.