Credit: Darrow Montgomery

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What do a cascading waterfall, a tree-lined boardwalk, and a 1906 Steinway Grand Piano all have in common?

They’re each going to be rooftop elements of a new luxury building set to open soon in Shaw, and they represent a high point in the ongoing amenities arms race among D.C. developers vying for renters with deep pockets.

The building, 880 P, is the final piece of Roadside Development’s City Market at O project, a mixed-use complex occupying two square blocks in Shaw. It promises nonpareil views of D.C. from an opulent rooftop above nine floors of luxury apartments and retail.

For those who can afford it, anyway. For others, the $60 million addition may seem like the latest high-priced bastion of upper-crusters in the changing, historically black neighborhood, and within what American University professor Derek Hyra dubs “Cappuccino City” in his new book on gentrification in the District (heretofore “Chocolate City”). As currently advertised, the monthly rents at 880 P will range from $2,160 for a 423-square-foot studio all the way up to $12,000 for a 1,432-square-foot, two-bedroom duplex with two bathrooms and a spacious, L-shaped private terrace.

A notch below the latter apartment—which will be the building’s priciest—is a 1,700-square-foot, two-bedroom/one-bathroom unit marketed for $7,350 a month, followed by a 1,585-square-foot, two-bedroom/three-bathroom unit for $7,100 a month on the same floor as that enviable duplex.

Apartment listings average just under 800 square feet of space for nearly $3,500 a month. The pet-friendly building will also feature a variety of resources that residents might regularly use, including a gym and quiet nooks in common areas. (One of City Market’s existing rental buildings even has a rooftop dog park.) The project is a couple of blocks south of the Shaw Metro station and near plenty of nightlife, entailing a faster pace than farther-out neighborhoods where entire homes may cost as much to own.

The tagline for 880 P, via the project’s website? “Life at the top should always come with a view.”

Units began leasing this month, and construction is expected to conclude by August. There will be 142 apartments, which the project leader says will create an “earthy, modern” vibe. Ultimately, 880 P will have taken almost a year and a half to build—not counting months spent designing it. Some materials for the development have come from as far away as Italy, others locally.

“I wanted this to be an inspiring building,” says Richard Lake, a founding principal at Roadside. “There’s going to be more and more people interested in renting rather than owning, when their kids move away or when they have a family, because it gives them more flexibility and less of a headache. …People are living in their apartments for longer periods of time and want [comfort].”

No surprise, Roadside is promoting the rooftop, which will be available to all the residents of City Market, as a major selling point. The overall development’s first apartments opened in late 2013. Among other things, City Market boasts a large Giant grocery store inside the landmarked O Street Market building. Constructed in 1881 on 7th Street NW, the market exemplifies the Gothic Revival style. 

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City Market also contains an affordable building for seniors, Hodge on 7th, with 90 one-bedroom apartments reserved for singles and couples making no more than 60 percent of the area median income (about $46,000 and $52,000, respectively). There’s a hotel on site too: the 182-room Cambria Suites, which is within walking distance of the District’s convention center. 

Neighbors and officials have long praised the mixed elements of City Market, calling it a catalyst for Shaw’s economic growth and a model for community involvement in project planning. Alexander M. Padro, a neighborhood commissioner and the executive director of Shaw Main Streets, remembers when the redevelopment site used to be the O Street Market, a one-story Giant, and a surface parking lot.

“The part where 880 is actually used to be where the dumpsters were for the Giant store and a portion of that store,” he says. “[Roadside] has always been very responsive to the community.” 

Padro says the developer contributed over $250,000 as part of a community-benefits package and won approval from the D.C. Zoning Commission, allowing it to build more densely than regulations would have otherwise permitted. The money has supported improvements to the Kennedy Recreation Center located across the street from City Market, sports equipment and uniforms, the D.C. Public Library, and clean-teams run by Padro’s group. Neighbors wanted, and got, senior affordable housing. Given this history, Padro says it’s key not to view 880 P “as a stand-alone component.”

With its introduction, more retail is expected along 9th Street NW, though specific tenants haven’t yet been announced. It could help bridge the area near the convention center with U Street, and boost desirable foot traffic along the north-south corridor both during the day and after work.

Nevertheless, on paper, a rundown of the rooftop features of 880 P can sound like D.C.-development mad libs, or an open-air vista on steroids: a waterfall measuring 30-feet-wide by 16-feet-tall over a reflection pool, firepits, a boardwalk that meanders around trees, a kitchen, and an herb garden. (“You can snip some rosemary,” Lake says). The new rooftop will connect to the one at 800 P St. NW—one of City Market’s existing buildings—which has a sizable lap pool. (“Another [swimming] pool would have created two energy zones. This creates an oasis-feeling up there.”)

In Lake’s telling, the proverbial cherry on top might just be a shared music room that will feature a 1906 Steinway Grand Piano. “We found there was a number of artistic residents, but no place for them to practice,” he says, mentioning guitar, violin, and trumpet players. “It’s an opportunity to have fun. If you lived in your own house, you would have no problem playing an instrument.”

Lake admits these amenities and the associated price tag aren’t within everyone’s reach, or to everyone’s taste. But he bets that 880 P will attract enough people to fill the building. Besides, there are already 20 residents from City Market’s other buildings who’ve agreed to move in once it opens: They got first dibs on the new units as a kind of reparation for the construction work that’s gone on next door. One man moved into City Market two weeks ago to guarantee himself a spot, Lake notes.

“880 fits the people we’re already tracking,” he says, adding that Roadside and Bozzuto—its property manager—were surprised that the development’s original tenants skewed older than they had projected, tending to be professionals in their mid-thirties and including some who have had children. “We’re starting to see more and more strollers, a ton of dogs,” the developer adds.

As Shaw has transformed, so have the particular desires of its residents. “It becomes this place where you really don’t want to leave,” Lake explains of his vision for 880 P and a completed City Market. “This is where my dog walks, or where I take my aerobics or spin class, or where I play cards in this room, or where I play music with people. That’s what we’re aiming for.”