REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Cream of the block: Hip (w)edgy mid-town condos


ADDRESS: 10 Cream Street 



ASKING: $439,000



SIZE: 1,271 fin. sq. ft.

LAND: 0.0

CURB APPEAL: 9 out of 10

LISTED BY: Loring Woodriff, 466-2992 

We've reviewed a wide variety of properties this year– places as far afield as Waynesboro, Gordonsville, Syria, and Montpelier, and oddities running the "sublime-to-the-ridiculous" gamut from a Stanardsville castle to a "thermasteel" styrofoam structure to something in Lake Monticello.

So it's only fitting that we end the year back in the heart of the 'ville, and this week we toured a one-room-deep apartment in a metal and glass building that looks on its narrow, wedge-shaped lot beside the train tracks like a hatchet flung to earth by some frustrated modernist woodsman.

Concrete, metal, and glass figure so prominently in the design that the agent's brochure proudly boasts "no brick or hardiplank," perhaps a jab at the conventional creations that seem to be filling every available inch of open space within the city limits. Placement of stairwells and an elevator between units mean there are no shared walls, so each unit is as insular and as "detached" (and presumably therefore quiet) as is possible for units to be within an apartment building.

The ten units the complex designed by architect Bill Atwood and dubbed "Cream Street 10" range from two studio apartments to two-bedroom, two-bath penthouses. Constrained– or blessed– by the dimensions of the unusual lot, every unit in the building is just one room deep, which means there are windows on both sides of most rooms providing unexpectedly dramatic views of the urban landscape toward the Corner on the front (over the tracks) and of the Southwest mountains from the back (the Cream Street side).

The soft housing market has slowed construction on the project, which was originally scheduled to be completed by Thanksgiving (Daniel and William Walter of DKW Development are the builders). But that hasn't kept two of the ten units from selling. On the top floor, two units were combined into a dramatic penthouse– the only one in which such an adaptation will be possible– that enjoys not only the striking views but also the only completely private patio– four stories over the tracks. (Each end-unit has access to space on the spiral-staircase landing best described as a "patio"– it's easy to imagine a small table, chair, or grill out there– but in no other way resembling a traditional patio.)

The unit we toured is nearly complete. Like the others, the two-bedroom, two-bath model on the top floor has maple plank flooring in the central living area and hallways, carpet in the two bedrooms, and "nothing plastic anywhere." Faithful readers of this column will thrill, as we did, to realize that boast translates to tile and granite in the bathrooms.

In fact, because of the building's wedge design, the master bath in this unit has one of the most unusual and appealing showers we've seen– a contained tucked-away space made entirely of dazzling white tile.

The kitchen, located at one end of the large entry/living area, has stainless appliances, granite counters, and futuristic track lighting in addition to the now ubiquitous suspended glass globes over the island. Large casement windows are the most striking aspect of every room– even the connecting hall with the washer/dryer utility closet has a large horizontal window near the ceiling.

Each unit has two entries, ample shelving built into closets (with solid wood doors, the agent was quick to note), and a security system and smart wiring. Each has access to a community storage facility on the ground floor, parking on a concrete (not asphalt) lot (another welcome, and rare, design decision), and what seem to be relatively reasonable condo fees (the two-bedroom units are $180/month; the studios $100/month). Electric heat pumps provide forced-air heat and AC.

Since only one of the units is "finished," buyers have the freedom to design their space as they wish. One of the units already sold, for example, has unusual sliding doors and acid-etched concrete floors instead of hard wood. 

The appeal of this building is its severe modernity and its simplicity– one room deep is a most unusual concept, but one that the architect and builders have executed with skill. Situated mid-way between downtown and the University, the place will probably draw young-ish professionals (single or childless; this place is not for kids) who want to walk (or bike) everywhere and who will be charmed rather than infuriated by the sound of the choo-choo rumbling beneath the huge windows day and night.


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