Tuesday, November 08, 2005

MERIDIAN HILL: Jos. A. Bank Meets Imperial Italy

PERHAPS YOU'VE SEEN those ads on CNN in the past few weeks for Jos. A. Bank Clothiers where there's a video montage of that well-dressed, man with more than his fair share of blondish/brownish hair out on the golf course, strolling on the beach with his wife, showing off an architectural model to co-workers in a big boardroom meeting, surprising his wife with a nice bottle of wine, lovingly embracing his daughter who may be doing schoolwork, and other such scenes of success ... all the while a man with a grand English accent is reading off words or phrases like standards, quality, winning attitude, etc. (Essentially, that man in the ad is more successful than you because he shops at Jos. A. Bank Clothiers, the chain that can be found in malls and lifestyle centers from coast to coast.)

FOR THOSE WHO KNOW WHAT COMMERCIAL I'm talking about, I now encourage you to visit the website for the Il Palazzo Condos at 2700 16th St. NW. I'm probably wrong, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was produced by the same production company as the Jos. A. Bank commercials, just with a tutti frutti mix of Italian phrases and close-up shots of Renaissance architectural features. Replace quality with magnifico, standards with bene arrivate and winning attitude with molto bene. All hail 16th Street's new ambassadors! Condos are coming to the former Italian Embassy!

I think it's wonderful that the old embassy is being put to good use, but if you go through the montage a couple times, you'll see that many of the new condos going in at the site will be housed in a multi-story glass and masonry tower to the historic house. So think something out of the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor meets the Villa Borghese, or as its developers (Spaulding & Slye Colliers/Castleton Holdings LLC) put it: "Magnificent meets modern." Let's hope the place isn't completely gutted. I say, why add Corian countertops when there's probably Carrera marble inside already?

ASSUMING THAT IL PALAZZO WILL SELL OUT (The Washington Post says that units are going for $500,000 to more than $2 million), the project should reclaim some of the old glory that Mary Foote, the late 19th century Washingtonian hostess and widow of Missouri Sen. John Brooks Henderson, originally envisioned for the 16th Street corridor. (Mary Foote lived in a castle-like stone mansion on what are now the Beekman Place condos just down the hill.) With her plans to move the White House up 16th Street to Meridian Hill foiled, along with her vision to have President Lincoln's memorial and the vice president's residence built there, she can now rest in peace knowing that the Renaissance palace up the hill will be used for grand living, just how she would have wanted it. ... Now if only the National Park Service could sweep out the heroin junkies out of that scary covered staircase to the public park down the hill that Mrs. Foote eventually convinced Congress to build for her, she may rest more comfortably.

AND DID YOU NOTICE THE LION as the word "Magnifico" raced across the screen? If I'm not mistaken, that's actually one of the lions that guards the William Howard Taft Bridge that carries Connecticut Avenue over Rock Creek. That's at least a 10-minute walk away. But then again "this private, gated community is within easy reach of everywhere you want to be."

>> "Going Mondo Condo" [The Washington Post]
>> "Recreating the Village Green" [DCNorth]


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