Where urban luxury meets suburban blandness

Washington, D.C.

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Eric Ripert’s WestEnd Bistro, located inside the Ritz-Carlton hotel at M and 22nd street NW, has had all the makings of a D.C. hot spot since opening last November. There’s a celebrity chef, trendy $13 cocktails, locally sourced dishes — and views of an Exxon gas station?

Check out the latest in today’s Express.

The D.C. bubble

Washington, D.C.

There’s been a lot of talk as of late about the U.S. housing bubble. Nationwide, the trends don’t look all that great. According to the Times, “existing and new home sales declined sharply in the first quarter of this year and permits for future construction in April were down 28 percent from their year-ago levels.”

It’s a bleak picture — but one whose brunt force is being felt in recently overbuilt areas, like Las Vegas, Florida and Kazakstan (blame Borat!). But, as the Times points out in an op-ed, there are other regions, like the NY-metro area, where the “boom of the last few years will simply fizzle out into an extended period of flat or slowly rising home prices and sales.”

But what about here in the nation’s capital?

May’s condo housing report is out. And it shows inventory down 12.8% and contracts up 15.7%. The median price is essentially holding steady, down less than $5,000 to $350k.

Does this make it a seller’s or buyer’s market? It seems that currently the area’s housing market is in something of a holding pattern — and only time will really tell how things pan out here.

Magic in the hood

Washington, D.C.

My apartment is across the street from the landmark Washington Hilton, better known as the Hinckley Hilton, after the assassination attempt of President Reagan that took place there in 1981. My parents have stayed there while in town and while it’s centrally located, the hotel can feel somewhat dated. The rooms are tiny, restaurants pretty mediocre and the whole experience a little blah – especially when compared with the boutique options springing up around Dupont Circle.

Now, news that Earvin “Magic” Johnson has joined forces with others to purchase the hotel for $290 million. And the joint venture has pledged to invest $100 million to upgrade the hotel. Expect updated rooms, renovations to the gym and pool areas, a new spa, construction of a coffee bar and possibly a new upscale restaurant.

No word on the regulation-sized basketball court.