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Alexandria lofts can be an apartment, an office – or both

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Print this page by Paula C. Squires
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A vacant, 14-story office building in Alexandria was converted
into lofts where tenants can live, work or do both.

For $2,500 a month, a tenant can rent a space in Alexandria that provides a place to live, a place to work — or both. “The goal of the product is to give them the space and flexibility to live the life they want,” says Robert Seldin, CEO of Novus Residences, which formed a multifamily partnership with Conrad Cafritz and Cafritz Interests to develop the project.

Novus calls the Alexandria rental units “e-lofts.”

Since December, 40 of the 200 units have been leased to what Seldin describes as “an interesting and diverse mix. We have a variety of ages, a variety of household types,” everything from empty nesters to entrepreneurs.

About 12 of the current tenants use the 1,000-square-foot lofts as offices. “The rest are choosing to live there or to live and work in the same apartment. We have different kinds of small businesses [including] a law firm, a couple of photographers, a restaurant headquarters and a wellness company.”

The mostly one-bedroom lofts are  located in what was previously an office building. For years, after the U.S. Army moved out of the 14-story, 240,000-square-foot building at 4501 Ford Ave., the building sat empty — one of many vacancies among suburban office buildings in Northern Virginia. 

These empty buildings, says Seldin, have the potential to be a growth industry. “They have open floor plans, lots of space, and they’re in good locations.” A challenge is making sure that a locality’s zoning will allow for the multiple uses.  

His company already is planning another e-loft development in a vacant, 10-story Fairfax County building on Columbia Pike.  “In the next five to 10 years, our goal is to have 50 to 100 around the country. We think it’s a new and greatly improved asset class that combines the best features of multifamily with the best features of office space.”  

Novus has applied for a patent, Seldin says, on the e-loft system, which allows for a space to be used as an apartment, a workplace or both at all times. 

He declined to say how much was spent to renovate the Alexandria building into lofts. The loft concept offers more living space, bigger bathrooms and air-conditioned closets large enough to store servers and other fiber optics if tenants choose to use units as an office.  

The property also offers Wi-Fi and common areas including a fitness space, a community kitchen, meeting facilities, a pet space, two soundproof music practice rooms and an outside area for lounging, pingpong and yoga.

The lofts especially appeal to entrepreneurs because living and working from the same space trims business overhead costs. “A small office space or co-working space around here is $1,000 a month for 100 square feet,” notes Seldin. “Here you’re only writing one rent check. You’re renting an apartment, but getting an office for free.”

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