No Vacancy on 16th Street

by Will Smith

No Vacancy on 16th Street: Figure 1
The Argonne on Columbia Road

There has been a lot of talk recently about how tight the rental market is in the DC area. In July, we reported that apartment buildings had ratcheted back the aggressive promotions they’d been running throughout last year. Then last week, market research firm Delta Associates announced that vacancy rates for Class A and B apartments in the area dropped to 2.5 percent, making DC one of the most competitive rental markets in the country. And on Monday, The Washington Post’s Jonathan O’Connell reported that local developers are scrambling to build apartments to take advantage of the current “boom” in rentals.

Despite my awareness of all of the above, I was shocked at just how tight the rental market had become when I started looking for a new place.

Two weeks ago, I began my search for a new apartment. I wanted a one-bedroom in a professionally-managed building near 16th Street Northwest, somewhere along the corridor between P Street to the south in Logan/Dupont and Park Road to the north.

My first call was to Peabody and Theoharis Management, which runs three buildings in the area: Hightowers at 1530 16th Street NW, Washington House at 16th and Florida, and Park Tower on 15th Street across from Meridian Hill Park.

“We’re fully leased up,” Christina Theoharis told me. “It’s strange. We usually have about two vacancies per building per month, but I’m full through the end of November at the earliest.”

I then tried Carmel, which owns a handful of buildings throughout the area. They told me that only two studios were available at the 276-unit Argonne at 1629 Columbia Road NW. Three of their other buildings along 16th Street — Richman Tower with 72 units, the 64-unit Sarbin, and Park Marconi with 44 apartments — are 100 percent leased for the next 30 to 60 days.

No Vacancy on 16th Street: Figure 2
The Camden Roosevelt, 100 percent leased

The next call was to the Camden Roosevelt, the 198-unit former hotel at 16th and Florida. “We’ve been 100 percent leased for three months, and our projected occupancy for the next three months is the same,” said leasing consultant Jaime Garcia.

Exasperated, I asked him if it’s always so full. “Not really. In the past six months, we progressed from 95-percent leased to 97, then to 99, and finally to 100 percent,” he said, noting that a unit came available on Saturday and was rented by Tuesday.

I decided to call next door to 2112 New Hampshire, which has 173 apartments and great views of the fountain at Meridian Hill Park. “All I have currently is a junior one-bedroom,” the leasing agent told me.

Getting desperate, I tried Hilltop House at 15th and Euclid. Nothing. The 300-unit Envoy at 2400 16th Street had two units available, but they were both studios.

Finally I found something at Dorchester House, whose claim to fame is that JFK lived there with his sister in 1942. Of all the 395 apartments in the sprawling complex at 16th and Euclid, they had but a single vacancy, which was, mercifully, a one-bedroom. I applied immediately.

“Compared to earlier this year, it really has tightened up,” Debbie Kaplan of rental brokerage Urban Igloo explained, noting that it’s especially tight in popular areas like the 16th Street corridor where I was looking.

One hint she offered to prospective renters is to look at new buildings that are leasing up for the first time, many of which still have blocks of units available. The only caveat is that such buildings are typically Class A (read: pricey).

None of this is to say that it’s impossible to find a place to rent, of course, and admittedly my search was confined to a popular section of Northwest. But prospective tenants need to realize that it is solidly a “landlord’s market” these days and should plan accordingly. If you’ve got your heart set on a certain neighborhood, particularly if it’s a popular one, start looking at least 60 days before you plan to move. And if you find a place you like, don’t assume it will still be there in a week.

As for Dorchester House, I haven’t heard back yet as to whether my application was accepted. In the meantime, if anyone out there has a line on a good one-bedroom, let me know before it is too late.

See other articles related to: renting in dc, dc area market trends

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/no_vacancy_on_16th_street/2570


  1. Rich said at 7:16 pm on Wednesday October 13, 2010:
    It is rough out there, no doubt. I looked for two months, which required sleeping on some couches, until i found something. The most important thing to keep in mind is that if you find something you like, jump on it quickly. Good luck.
  1. Joe said at 8:25 pm on Wednesday October 13, 2010:
    Did you try that dump "Park Meridian" at 2637 16th St.? It seems to have a high turnover rate, probably due to the roaches and bedbugs.
  1. Jamie said at 10:04 pm on Wednesday October 13, 2010:
    Will, I have a lovely 1BR just for you at The Artisan in Penn Quarter! $2,100 / month...call me and I'll give you a deal 😉 http://www.postlets.com/rts/4456115
  1. Janson said at 10:18 pm on Wednesday October 13, 2010:
    Don't forget to try other william c smith properties: http://www.williamcsmith.com/search.asp?apt_region=27 The calverton is an amazing deal (when there are vacancies), in my opinion.
  1. Laura said at 2:50 pm on Thursday October 14, 2010:
    If you don't get the place, I'd try looking on craigslist for condo owners who are renting out their places. All my apartments I have found on craigslist and have had pretty good experiences so far.
  1. Rebecca said at 8:38 pm on Sunday October 17, 2010:
    I (literally) just moved out of a large one bedroom in the Century at 2651 16th Street, across from the Polish embassy. A Calomiris building. Not a lot of amenities, but great price and location (and now there's at least one opening!). http://www.calomiris.com/WWW/THE CENTURY.htm
  1. Jenny said at 3:13 am on Sunday October 31, 2010:
    The article mentions looking at "new buildings" that are leasing for the first time. Could someone tell me the name of any of these buildings? I'd be interested in renting there, even if the rent is high, but I don't know how to find out about them. Thank you!

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