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Katie Wilmeth | Photo: Abby Greenawalt | April 2, 2013
Television host-turned-entrepreneur Bryan Ashby turned his idea for luxury work-life balance into a Del Ray revolution.
In an age when the concept of work-life balance is endlessly debated and deconstructed at dinner parties and in the comments section of controversial articles, Bryan Ashby has quietly found his own version of “having it all” in a quaint corner of Del Ray.
The full-time entrepreneur and part-time real estate developer is the man behind The Lofts of Del Ray, an innovative mixed-use project that is helping to transform the Alexandria neighborhood from a pleasant suburban area to an attractive option for young urban professionals who want to live and work in a creative community.
“As an entrepreneur, I never have enough hours in the day, so wasting time on commuting is abhorrent,” says Ashby, who’s development experience includes a stint on the former HGTV show Building Character. “Frankly, a luxury condo above a commercial unit, as far as I could tell, this was my only option.”
So he, along with several business partners, set out to build their own Shangri-la on an empty lot more than seven years ago. Unlike other standard mixed-use projects, which designate a specific use for each unit, Ashby’s Lofts allow tenants to lease or buy one of the 15 units for commercial or residential purposes—allowing the Loft’s community to develop organically. Securing the “out of the box” financing was tough at first, says Ashby (hence the seven-year wait), but his project set the tone for change in Del Ray. And in the time since Ashby first laid eyes on the vacant lot, the neighborhood itself has continued to evolve with more retail and residential moving north up Mount Vernon Avenue.
Today, The Lofts are nearly full, with businesses, such as Silverback Strategies, Bisoux Salon and Ashby’s own Nine Yards Media, and residences.
Working with New York-based architect Pedro Porro and Grammy-nominated graphic artist Neal Ashby (Bryan’s brother, who is also a partner and commercial tenant in The Lofts), the entrepreneur’s sleek 1,660-square-foot condo features an open floor plan with a twist: a master bedroom and bath combo with a 17-foot vaulted ceiling, a custom frameless glass shower in the middle of the room, a fireplace sculpted of stone and walnut finishes, and front and back decks off the bedroom, perfect for late-night cocktails.
The Lofts, Ashby says, are “an artisan space, custom in every single aspect.”
It’s that type of customizable space that attracted Bisoux Salon, set to open this month.
“We kept looking for a building, and it just wasn’t there, says Del Ray resident Krista Depeyrot, who owns Bisoux with her husband Philippe. “There wasn’t something edgy enough where someone had put some vision into it,”
After 18 years at Christophe Salon in DC, the couple decided to make the move to Del Ray when they spotted a “for lease” sign on a first-floor unit of The Lofts. Finally, says Depeyrot, “there was an artistic community with eclectic businesses, and I felt like we fit in there.”
As does Ashby. And what’s next for the accidental real estate mogul?
“I just want to walk upstairs after work, have friends over, and cook and play my guitar for them,” he says. “I just want to enjoy what I’ve created.”