Bernstein Back to its Roots

Back in the early 70s, The Bernstein Companies were known for upscale condo conversions like the Colonnade, The Cathedral, Claridge House at 25th and K, Boston House near Brookings, and the Carlyle on Columbia Pike. Then it got out of that business for 30 years. Now it’s back, in what some are calling a revolutionary and promising new niche: smaller, starter condos in Southwest DC.

We snapped this yesterday of Bernstein COO Marc Duber, right, with deal partner Brian Barlia of Peak Companies and condo sales king David Mayhood in front of their Waterfront Tower at 3rd and M, SW. Five years ago after Bressler & Reiner gave a “notice to demolish” to tenants of the building, which allowed them the right to buy, they searched for a developer and hired Bernstein. A year and a half ago, they moved to an adjoining twin rental as Bernstein gutted and renovated all 123 units, adding amenities like open kitchens, hardwood floors, and even $2 million of all new windows. Torti Gallas has been the architect and Abdo the general contractor. 

Oh, and it’s originally an I.M. Pei buidling from the 60s (the extent of our research was this big picture book). The buildings are each 88k SF and eventually Bernstein wants to add two similar ones on what are now the buildings’ parking lots. It believes that SW, though transitional, will soon become a vibrant neighborhood with its huge new Arena Stage, broad new 4th Street bisecting the a soon-to-be-completed Waterfront office development leased by city agencies, 55k SF Safeway, and centrally located Metro stop.   

With units (like this Linowes decorated studio, in which Bernstein VP Greg Rooney pretends to be at home) priced as low as $200,000, 3% down required for income-qualified FHA loans, and $8,000 first time homebuyer’s tax credit, effective down payments required are near zero. We were blown away by the huge basement laundry room because: 1) you can check online to see which washers and dryers are available; 2) no kidding, the machines will text you when your laundry is done (or if they’re just lonely?); and 3) they added a big fitness center next to it to use while you wait. 

Marc says big lobbies are out, so instead they created a smaller and high style “Delanoish” one with community rooms for coffee and breakfast on weekends. Outside, a broad green expanse, loggia, and pergola. (We don’t quite understand those words, let alone know how to spell them, but the point is they’refancy.) Marc says they were emboldened to create this product because in 1976 they were told they were crazy to try to sell 330 studios at Claridge House for $29k each—and they sold within 60 days. 

Source: Bisnow