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Jim Abdo Talks Gaslight Square Inspiration And Design (Part I)

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Below is the first part of our conversation with Jim Abdo, owner of Abdo Development and builder of the next luxury condo building on Clarendon Blvd called Gaslight Square. Check back later in the week for part two of the conversation, to see floor plans, and hear about ways the building is more efficient than most.

Why are you calling this your 'greatest hits' project?
Gaslight Square is everything I've learned in development over the last twenty years. We studied the unit types that have the highest absorption in the market and the ones that sell for the highest price. That is just the economic point of view. We also looked at the funnest, coolest, hippest units that we love the most. I call it the "ooh-ahh" factor. During the building boom there were a lot of vanilla box products hitting the market. All of those were designed for investor demand and people were buying them like they buy stocks. Our product has always been designed for the end user—the people who are actually going to live in it.

What 'greatest hit' have you had the most success with?
Lenders and buyers are always concerned with square footage or FAR (floor area ratio), but I have the concept of cubic footage. When we re-design old schools, convents, even old Victorian houses we are always looking for how to create interior height. I'm interested in volumetric space. A lot of lenders don't like that because how do you put a price on air? Early in my career I financed a lot of projects myself because I had to prove that this concept—the concept of drama—would sell. The higher priced units in Gaslight have ceilings nineteen feet high and even the flats have ten-feet high ceilings. When it came time to finance Gaslight senior lenders would all tell me that they love the design, but they were worried about the penthouses. There were too many of them (approximately twenty-seven) and they are all double-height, which is expensive. I told the lenders that those units were the ones that would sell first and so far we have sold $12 million worth of them.

Tell us about the structure of the building.
Since the building is only five stories high it could be built out of wood frame, instead of concrete and steel. Maybe ninety-nine out of a hundred builders would do that, but I don't like that concept. The noise transfer between walls is high, the floors move, you can have nails sticking out of sheet rock. Also I don't like the image that stays in my head when I drive past a stick-built job in February and all the wood is there soaking wet.

Gaslight is a set of three buildings that will be built in eight unit sections, with an elevator straight down the middle. Residents can pull into their private parking space, swipe their card in the elevator and zoom directly into their unit. There are no hallways or concierge desk. People will own their own floor, front to back.

Check back in later in the week when Jim Abdo tells us more details about the interior space and we look at some floor plans.

Gaslight Square

Clarendon Boulevard , Arlington, VA 22209