Whether you consider it to be a flat-out sacrilege or a smart, transit-oriented housing solution, there’s no arguing that the proposed conversion of Washington, D.C.’s Patterson Mansion, the last grand dame of a bygone era still standing at Dupont Circle, into an upmarket micro-apartment complex is a sign of the times if there ever was one.

Completed in 1903, the Neoclassical-style mansion was designed by turn-of-the-century starchitect and bon vivant Stanford White for Chicago Tribune editor Robert Wilson Patterson and his wife, Nellie, who had purchased the lot at 15 Dupont Circle NW for $83,400 three years prior. The final cost to build the 36,000-square-foot home was estimated at $200,000 — roughly $5.25 million if it were built today.

The Patterson Mansion remained within the Patterson clan — and, for several months in 1927, was the home of Calvin and Grace Coolidge while their main digs at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. underwent extensive renovations — until the death of Cissy Peterson, the journalist daughter of Robert and Nellie, in 1948 when the property was deeded to the American Red Cross (much to the chagrin of Cissy Peterson’s estranged daughter, Felicia, who challenged her mother's will). Having no real need for a costly-to-maintain Italianite manse, the Red Cross sold the 16-bedoom property in 1951 to the Washington Club, an exclusive women’s club in need of a permanent home, for $450,000. Over the years, the Washington Club made many changes within the mansion and added a non-historic, two-story addition to the property in 1956.

In 1972, the Patterson Mansion was entered on the National Register of Historic Places.

After a 2013 proposal that would have seen the 112-year-old Patterson Mansion be transformed into a luxury boutique hotel was scrapped after meeting resistance from the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board, The Washington Club, currently in the process of disbanding due to dwindling memberships, sold the white marble palace in late June to developer SB-Urban for $20 million, the most expensive D.C. real estate sale of 2014 thus far. Sotheby’s International Reality deemed the mansion, sold for $6 million under its original asking price, as being fit for a “embassy, foundation or association headquarters, social club or, once again, as a personal residence." 

SB-Urban’s plan to covert the Patterson Mansion into a 92-unit micro-apartment complex and add a sleek seven-story addition to the property (the non-historic wing added in 1956 would be demolished) was granted a full blessing by the Historic Preservation Review board this past February, paving the way for June’s sale.

While the principals of SB-Urban, B.F. Saul III and Michael Balaban, have remained relatively tight-lipped about the nitty-gritty of the conversion, it’s certain that furnished luxury rental units of no more than 400-square-feet — “exquisitely diminutive crash pads-à-terre of modern urban living” as the Washington Post calls them — are the focus of the project.

A majority of the micro-units, mostly studios, obviously, will be located in the Hartman-Cox Architects-designed addition connected to the mansion proper via an all-glass passageway that cuts through a landscaped interior courtyard. However, some of the units will be located on the upper floors of the original building. The mansion’s lower public floors, including its grand ballroom and library (pictured below), will be converted into decidedly more Millennial-friendly common areas such as a gym and lounge.

With an exception granted by the Board of Zoning Adjustment, no new on-site resident parking will be generated according to District Source. However, SB-Urban plans for the micro-apartment complex to have secure, on-site bike parking and an in-house bike repair shop. Bike- and car share memberships will be available to residents of the new building which is located within close distance to several bus lines and the Dupont Circle Metro Station. 

Rents for the teeny-tiny units, geared toward deep-pocketed Millennials who don’t mind forking over a pretty penny for a high-end shoebox, will start at $2,500 per month. Leases will be offered on a short-term basis. There will also be eight affordable units within the development as required by law.

While obviously a bittersweet affair, particularly for the remaining members of the Washington Club, the sale of the Patterson Mansion to a micro-apartment developer has generated some strong reactions, particularly with regard to how it will impact affordable housing options in the District. Any thoughts, D.C. residents? Do you think super-dense, transit-oriented micro-housing at Dupont Circle will prove to be beneficial or disruptive? Do you think this is an appropriate reuse for a historic property?

Via [Washington Post], [District Source], [CityLab]

Photos: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division/Wikimedia Commons

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