The City Across the Street

The City Across the Street
The City Across the Street
By Sacha Zimmerman

With Wegmans, the International Baccalaureate, and a slew of new buildings, apartments, and shops moving in, the Sidwell Friends neighborhood on Wisconsin Avenue is about to see big changes.

For decades, Sidwell Friends School has sat perched on Wisconsin Avenue amiably looking across at the red brick façade of the Fannie Mae building, a Georgian revival that once employed nearly 3,000 people. But in 2014, when the Federal National Mortgage Association relocated its headquarters downtown, the neighborhood it left behind took a hit. The massive building and its adjoining 10 acres remained idle, while storefronts and restaurants began to disappear from the adjacent blocks.

So, in 2018, when Roadside Development and North America Sekisui House, LLC, announced they would spend $640 million to redevelop the property, the surrounding Northwest neighbors—from McLean Gardens to Tenleytown, Cleveland Park to Sidwell Friends—took notice, especially when it was revealed that the mega-popular Wegmans Food Market and the prestigious International Baccalaureate would anchor the project. Four years later, the initiative is nearly complete, and it is far, far more than just a great grocery store. The 1 million-square-foot mixed-use destination, known as “City Ridge,” is as the name suggests a city unto itself. (Wegmans will take up a mere 86,000 feet.)

“City Ridge wasn’t designed to be another enclave of a residential community,” says Richard Lake, the principal and founding partner of Roadside Development. “It was designed to become an urban village, which allows mixes of uses that drive and rely on each other.” The LEED gold-certified project now boasts 690 residential apartments across four distinct buildings; 1,200 public and private parking spots in an underground lot spanning the entire project; 160,000 square feet of office space; and 154,000 square feet of commercial space. Bank of America, Tatte Bakery and Café, Taco Bamba, King St. Oyster Bar, and Equinox Sports Club are all on tap to open this summer, with more new enterprises expected to be announced soon.

And though “urban village” gives the project an almost quaint imprimatur, City Ridge is actually something much less concrete than a collection of brick and- mortar shops and apartments: It is a lifestyle—and an aspirational one at that. With two-bedroom/two-bathroom apartments—dotted with Bosche appliances, marbled countertops, and massive exterior glass walls—starting at $5,200 a month and three-bedroom units going for roughly $10,000 a month or more, it can be a bit daunting to remember that these are all rental units, not condos. (To be fair, in one of the buildings, you can also rent a 499- foot studio apartment for approximately $2,145 and up.) But then, rent is just the start. To really enjoy the amenities at City Ridge, and for an additional monthly fee of a few hundred dollars, you can join the Ridge Club, a members- only social club that features a lap pool, a “resort-style” pool, a reflecting pool (complete with suspended chairs dangling over it from a cantilevered roof), full locker room facilities, indoor and outdoor dining, and a lounge. Ridge members can also enjoy big-screen movies onsite, special events, lectures, cooking classes, and private cabanas.

City Ridge is actually something much less concrete than a collection of shops and apartments: It is a lifestyle—and an aspirational one at that.”

Beyond the Ridge Club, there are also more á la carte amenities, like Kinder- Care for families, communal workspaces and offices, an English garden, a “sky meadow,” a “maker’s roof” for tinkerers, a library, a lecture hall, golf and soccer sports simulators, outdoor flatscreens, outdoor cooking stations, indoor and outdoor yoga (including aerial yoga), and a 24/7 concierge. What’s more, each of the four residential buildings has its own theme or vibe. The Branches, with no small studio apartments, seems more family-friendly or perhaps suited to cultured retirees; the Coterie, which is designed like the Flat Iron building in New York City, is the artsy, sculptural building; the Botanica is for those more in touch with nature and green space; and the Crescendo, unsurprisingly, is larger and pricier, the apogee of the residences.

Meanwhile, lending a certain intellectual caché to the project, the International Baccalaureate (IB) will take over the historic Fannie Mae building. Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, the IB, a nonprofit that offers rigorous educational and degree programs in schools around the world, will open its new Global Centre for the Americas at 3900 Wisconsin. The group is planning to host major events and festivals around international culture and education on its sweeping front lawn. City Ridge is building on those plans with its own public and private events that are already happening. In June, the development screened An American in Paris on the lawn, hosted a French Open watch party, and held a book launch event for Meant To Be, the new novel by Emily Giffin.

For the Sidwell Friends community, City Ridge is bound to be both a boon and a bust. It’s an easy opportunity to grab groceries at pickup, but it may add yet more traffic to the Wisconsin Avenue thoroughfare. City Ridge is also the site of Sidwell Friends’ former playing fields. So where once we ran and competed, now we can grab a latté and do aerial yoga. There goes the neighborhood!

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