Commonwealth Cooperative Buys DC Apartments, Plans Rehab

South Cathedral Mansions, an apartment building in the Woodley Park district on Connecticut Ave. in Washington, D.C., has changed hands for only the fourth time since Harry Wardman and Mihran Mesrobian developed it in 1922.

Washington, D.C.—South Cathedral Mansions, an apartment building in the Woodley Park district on Connecticut Ave. in Washington, D.C., has changed hands for only the fourth time since Harry Wardman and Mihran Mesrobian developed it in 1922. The 131-apartment property was acquired recently by Commonwealth Cooperative, a recently formed group of Washington, D.C., multifamily industry vets.

The property is one block from the Woodley Park/Adams Morgan Metro station and directly across from the National Zoo. Commonwealth Cooperative’s collaborative approach with the residents, via TOPA (Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act), together with its stated commitment to historic renovation, provided the framework for a partnership with the South Cathedral Mansions Tenant Association to redevelop the property.

Beginning in November, the building will undergo a two-year renovation to provide modern amenities while preserving its historic character. The upgrades will include new unit interiors, central HVAC, revamped common areas, a new fitness center, a community space within the original carriage house, and other improvements. By reconfiguring the apartment layouts and incorporating previously unused attic space, Commonwealth Cooperative will be able add 29 new apartments, 17 of which will feature 20-foot to 30-foot ceiling heights.

South Cathedral Mansions is included in both the National Register of Historic Places and the D.C. Inventory of Historic Sites. When originally developed by Wardman and Mesrobian as part of a three-building community totaling 492 apartments, it was reputed to be the largest U.S. apartment community south of New York City.

Wardman lost the property in the run-up to the Great Depression; since 1927, South Cathedral Mansions has had just two owners. In 1961, the property was acquired by District Intown Properties L.P. on behalf of the Calomiris family. HFF represented the seller in the recent sale to Commonwealth Cooperative.

Though the deal is Commonwealth Cooperative’s first acquisition, its partners have extensive experience in the city’s multifamily market, particularly in the acquisition and renovation of historic apartment buildings. The JV is led by Commonwealth Residential and CAS Riegler, with property management provided by Oculus Realty and construction services provided by Snead Construction.