by Joyce Finn
Hip urban dwellers in our national capitol have David Franco and Jeff Blum of Level 2 Development, LLC to thank for new exciting apartment options. Founded by the two partners in 2003, the firm has prospered through the economic recession by addressing the increased need for rental and mixed-used buildings. Level 2 Development delights in bucking the more traditional architectural styles common throughout the city in favor of its distinctive bright and sustainable designs, and both
The 14th and U streets corridor, once notorious for the start of the 1960s race riots, is now one of the most sought-after areas in America’s cosmopolitan seat of government. View 14, a high-rise apartment building completed near the intersection in the fall of 2009, with spectacular views of the US Capitol and the Washington Monument, is a monument itself to responsible construction and community engagement.
At the outset, the challenges faced by Level 2 Development included clearing the View 14 site of an automotive shop and a Comcast satellite-dish farm with six dishes and a large tower antenna. In order to not disrupt service to Comcast’s customers, satellite feeds from neighboring areas had to be brought in before the dish farm could be dismantled and replaced by a 150-square-foot roof-tower antenna beyond street view.
Once construction began, Level 2 Development made sure to include a number of sustainable elements, including storm-water management systems, low-heat glass, and recycled interior finishes with little to no toxicity. These kept energy costs low for the building itself, but the measures also helped minimize strain on the area’s overall electrical grid.
The high-rise is now both conveniently located and spacious. It has easy access to two Metro stations, and on the ground floor and below-grade levels there are 34,000 square feet of retail space, including restaurants, a fitness center, and cafés. Apartments range in size from 450 to 1,600 square feet with rents ranging from $1,800 to $5,000 (for the penthouse units). Amenities for the residents include two on-site Zipcars, a bike-sharing program, a game room, a Zen sculpture garden, a business center, and a green roof garden with trees and a grilling area. When the nine-story building opened, its 185 residential units were leased in less than 12 months with 95 percent occupancy.
Franco says he also lives in View 14 and knows all the stakeholders. “We prefer to live and work in the neighborhoods we develop,” he says. “Obviously we can’t live in every neighborhood, but we try to stay close to the people that we serve. Because we’re able to live and work in these neighborhoods, we have our eyes and ears to the ground and can respond to issues within the community.
A lot of out-of-town developers often miss out on key community details.” Franco and Blum sometimes even go beyond their own facilities in caring for neighborhoods. After conducting work on View 14, the pair also contributed $1 million to a Ward 1 neighborhood tenants association to help renovate a 48-unit affordable-housing cooperative just a block away.
Level 2 Development tries to take such a local approach on all its properties, and even after they’re completed the firm continues to actively engage residents with discussions on pending issues through the local Area Neighborhood Commissions (ANC). “When we have a development, we can easily present our plans and ask for feedback and engage them with their issues and concerns,” Franco says. This in-depth neighborhood intelligence helps determine what retail shops go into the ground floors of the mixed-use properties, preserving larger community goals and personality—and thus ensuring continued local trust in Level 2 Development’s future endeavors.