Case Study: Agora at The Collective

Washington, D.C.


W.C. Smith has been involved in repositioning the Navy Yard and Washington DC’s booming waterfront initiatives. Agora, which is part of The Collective, is one of W.C. Smith’s significant development projects and a prime example of a transit-oriented development that leverages a network of multi-modal transportation, pedestrian access to the site, and a highly connected community in the southwest quadrant of the city. The LEED Silver building features 336 loft-style residential units and 35,000 Sf of grocery retail. The site, located in an emerging neighborhood adjacent to an elevated highway, posed a unique design challenge. To mitigate this, the design stacked a ground-floor market and two levels of above-grade parking below the residential tower raising it above the highway to create vast city views. Additionally, the above-grade parking, which further segregates the building’s uses, is framed by a “white box” creating a billboard effect and a lasting impression from the highway.

A long, zigzag building seemingly floats over the “white box” that harbors parking and building amenities, yet also serves as signage for the grocery store. An aluminum metal panel and screen system, used as exterior cladding, creates a staggered pattern that screens the garage from public view and enriches the architectural language with textured facades at an intimate level, playing with light, shadow, and transparency. The zigzagging façade—a more abstract version of the exterior articulation of the neighboring building on the site—is faceted to mitigate the noise from the elevated highway.


The interiors concept for Agora introduces a contemporary residential feel that brings the new, vibrant street life of Southeast, DC—a formerly heavily commercial area within its walls. The impressive amenities suite consists of an exciting and interconnected series of vertical spaces infused with colors and rich textures along multiple floors. The “porous” interior concept allows for a comfortable and connected urban flow to continue from the neighborhood experience to the lobby, shared spaces, and ultimately, to the individual units. This occurs while maintaining a sense of connectivity to the local flavor and ambiance. Even the selection of finishes and accessories were carefully curated along with an exceptional portfolio of original paintings that create both drama and repose.

We subtly sculpted and choreographed our spaces with light that engendered an emotional connection. By using strategically employing materials, technology, and light— quartz and granite countertops, net lighting, providing connections for a ceiling fan or light kit in the bedrooms, and wood laminate flooring—we have designed and styled the Agora in a contrapposto balance between a crisp, minimalist palate in the private residences and a bold, lush playfulness in the amenity spaces that show a decidedly urban character.


The ground floor Whole Foods offers residents and the community a much-needed neighborhood commodity. Having Whole Foods sign on to become the grocer for the site was a huge win for the development team. The 30’ grid required by the retailer (typically multi-family projects use a 24’ grid) pushed the team to use innovative design strategies. Rather than a very thick, and costly, transfer slab that would have allowed them to use the classic 24’ resident grid system, the slab thickness was used to increase the slab-to-slab height and in turn, allowed more glass to be used in the units.

The signature offering of The Collective is the ability to use all the amenities at Park Chelsea, Agora, as well as the upcoming phase, The Garrett. With a combined 100,000 square feet of amenity space, The Collective offers unique spaces to accommodate a range of interests. The unique amenities in the Agora alone offers something of interest for every resident:

  • For Music Lovers: A sophisticated lounge environment with a self-playing Steinway piano. Plus, the option to sync a device with the Bluetooth speakers built into every amenity space.
  • For Fitness Gurus: A sleek state-of-the-art fitness center drenched in natural light. It boasts a separate studio space for private training, a virtual boxing training unit, a Peloton Spin Room, Fitness OnDemand, a Jacob’s Ladder machine, TRX Training Station, and other high-end cardio and strength training equipment.
  • For Mindful Residents: Two secluded Relax/Recharge rooms that each offer a water pressure massage bed, ambient lighting, and the option for mood music.
  • For Foodies: A fully equipped demonstration kitchen complete with a brick oven. The perfect space for chef-led cooking demonstrations and interactive classes. We’ve even hosted a Chopped-style Challenge for residents.
  • For Golfers: A professional grade golf simulator room that doubles as entertainment space with multiple TV screens, comfortable soft seating, and a wet bar.
  • For Sun Worshippers: A modern rooftop with jaw-dropping views designed to create a sleek outdoor space that reflects the chic indoor spaces.
  • For Fur Parents: A rooftop dog park designed to celebrate our urban surroundings while also offering a safe and fun area for dogs to play and relieve themselves in.
  • For Social Butterflies: A large game room with floor-to-ceiling windows that’s perfect for hosting groups interested in a low-key afternoon of pool, shuffleboard, or just channel surfing.

Urban Design
Interior Design
Sustainable Design

Completed 2018

300,000 SF Residential
45,600 SF Retail
334 Apartments

Construction Type
Concrete Frame High-Rise

LEED Silver