Offers to buy Paulo and Pedro Petrovitch's garage started coming in more than 15 years ago.
Their popular auto-repair shop at 14th Street and Florida Avenue NW sat on a spot that was increasingly in demand for development as the District's real estate market boomed.
But the Petrovitches sat tight, waiting for a buyer who would give them the one thing they wanted: a little extra time. They wanted to close the doors properly on their 35-year-old shop, which over the years had tuned the cars of former mayor and now D.C. Council member Marion Barry, former defense secretary Robert S. McNamara and now- imprisoned former representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R- Calif.).
"The problem we had in selling was that you put it on the market and you scare away everyone," said Pedro Petrovitch, 61. "The people in the past thought, 'They're nothing but body-shop men, what do they know?' Well, they didn't know who they were dealing with."
The brothers had higher offers. The day before they finalized the deal, another company offered more but was unwilling to play by their rules.
"Everybody wants money, don't get me wrong, but we didn't like that style," Pedro Petrovitch said.
Demolition of the four-story Petrovitch Auto Repair garage is scheduled for this week. Level 2 principals Jeff Blum and David Franco said their 180-unit condominium project, View 14, is expected to open in summer 2008.
The $80 million development will include the condos, a 20,000-square- foot gym and 16,000 square feet for retail space. The condos will range from studios starting at $259,000 to penthouses at just under $1 million.
Blum said that Level 2 has had discussions with Washington area restaurant groups and national retailers but that he would like to include space for a locally owned organic grocery store.
"We hope it will create a critical mass for shopping," Blum said. "That neighborhood is really underserved right now."
The Petrovitch site and a 200-unit, $90 million project across the street are the first major projects for District-based Level 2 Development, whose joint-venture partner is Centrum Properties Inc. of Chicago.
Level 2 has completed two small projects, a 12-unit condo conversion on Chapin Street and a six-unit development near Florida and 14th.
To comply with District affordable-housing rules, seven of the 180 units in the new project will be priced for people with 80 percent of the area median income. The group also is giving $1 million to a nearby low-income-tenant association.
The property comes with some baggage. Comcast Corp. has satellite dishes and an antenna on one corner of the lot, so Level 2 Development will pay to have the dishes removed and move the antenna to the top of the new building once it is completed.
And after years of auto work, soil on the site has been contaminated with motor oil. The cleanup could cost about $1 million, the developers said.
Blum said the Petrovitches were "very sophisticated and smart" in their approach to the sale, noting that they had been courted by a "Who's Who" of condominium developers in the District.
The brothers were born to Russian and Polish parents in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Paulo came to the Washington area in 1962 to work at a Lincoln dealer and was joined by his brother five years later. Their repair shop started as four spaces in an alley on 12th Street NW in 1969 and grew into a neighborhood fixture with a three-month waiting list.
"People realized, 'They'll fix anything, these guys,' " Paulo Petrovitch said.
Since closing the shop at the end of September, the brothers have approached their retirement differently. Younger brother Pedro hauled most of the garage's equipment to a barn he built on his 116-acre farm outside Germantown.
He said he plans to work on his many "toys," including a 1929 Ford Model A, a 1972 Mercedes and two Harley Davidson motorcycles. He has pared back his ambitious farming plans. He bought 80 cows and 16 horses but found the work too taxing and now is down to 13 cows and five horses.