Camden Roosevelt: Popular With Nat King Cole and Twentysomethings

by Shilpi Paul

Camden Roosevelt

Sitting on 16th Street just south of Meridian Hill Park is Camden Roosevelt, a building that was once “the finest hotel south of New York City,” according to CityStream. These days, it is an apartment building that is almost always filled with tenants.

With a total of 198 units, the eight-story building takes up about one third of the block between V and W Streets NW east of 16th Street (map). The Italian renaissance style building was built in 1920 as The Roosevelt Hotel, and the plush seating in the lobby, high ceilings, piano music, and generally stately atmosphere are reminiscent of its former life. After a lofty history in the early twentieth century housing Congressmen and hosting parties with Nat King Cole, the building wasn’t able to keep up with technologies like air conditioning and up-to-date plumbing and fell out of favor in the middle of the century. With a staggered layout, the nooks and alleys around the building even served as havens for drug addicts back in the 1980s. Now, it’s a sought after address for DC renters, evidenced by a occupancy rate that rarely drops below 95 percent.

“It’s a popular building because it is in a little nook between Dupont, Adams Morgan, U Street, and Columbia Heights,” former resident Matt Jordan told UrbanTurf.

The lobby

Redeveloped in 2000 by Summit Properties (it is now owned by Camden Property Trust), many of the public rooms were converted to serve modern purposes: a ballroom became a gym with a rock climbing wall, a public dining room became a sauna and steam room, a library became a media room and the enormous lobby now contains a party room, bar, wine cellar, theater and business center. Despite the transformation, the common areas still have an old fashioned feel, with chestnut wood paneling and chandeliers.

“I used the amenities like crazy,” Jordan said, noting that he took advantage of the gym, the pool table and the business center regularly. To access all those amenities, residents need to pay an extra fee on top of a rent that is slightly above market rate for the neighborhood.

The apartments are largely one and two bedrooms, with a few studios and three-bedroom units sprinkled in. The smallest studio rents for $1,650/month and the largest three-bedroom goes for $4,200. Two-bedrooms, which range from 879 to 1,445 square feet, start at $2,350/month. Right now, there are just three available units — a studio and a couple two-bedroom, two baths.

Despite the high occupancy rate, not all tenants are singing the praises of the apartment building. One unhappy renter created a website dedicated to revealing what he considered the “deceptive practices” of the building: The Camden Roosevelt Deception. The handful of posts center around neglectful management and extra, unexpected fees for things like cable, amenities and some utilities. The resident was so upset with the management that he spent a Saturday wearing a sandwich board outside the building, discouraging people from living there. UrbanTurf’s attempt to contact him was not successful, and it appears that the domain is no longer actively maintained.

While there is at least one naysayer, for those willing to pay for proximity, amenities and a grandiose atmosphere, Camden Roosevelt offers a way for DC residents to experience a hotel-apartment lifestyle from the Jazz age…complete with a rock climbing wall.

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/camden_roosevelt_popular_with_nat_king_cole_and_twentysomethings/5024

1 Comment

  1. DCster said at 11:35 am on Friday February 3, 2012:

    I remember this building when it was used as a senior living center.  I doubt it had the same occupancy then as it does now - and obviously it didn’t have all of the current amenities.

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