Giuseppe Cecchi, a real estate developer who became known as the Washington area’s “condo king” but left perhaps his most enduring mark on the nation’s capital as the project manager in charge of the construction of the Watergate complex in the early 1960s, died April 4 at his home in McLean, Virginia. He was 93.

He had a heart ailment, said his son John Cecchi.

Cecchi had not yet turned 30 when he arrived in the United States in 1959, an Italian engineer dispatched by the Società Generale Immobiliare – owned in part by the Vatican, the largest real estate and construction company in Italy – to explore an expansion into North America.

He soon found himself in Washington, where SGI bought 10 acres in what at the time was an industrial site on the banks of the Potomac River.

“As a European, I didn’t see the warehouses and gasworks, and I didn’t think in those terms,” Cecchi told The Washington Post years later. “I saw the river and the distance to the White House.”

That tract of land became home to the Watergate. Designed by Italian architect Luigi Moretti and built between 1963 and 1971, the complex was one of the first mixed-use developments in D.C., with luxury apartments, a hotel, offices and stores.


With it sleek, curvilinear design, the Watergate in short order became one of the most sought-after addresses in Washington, with high-powered residents from across the city’s political, business and cultural circles.

Also in relatively short order, the name of the complex entered the political lexicon following the break-in on June 17, 1972, at the offices of one of its tenants, the Democratic National Committee – the precipitating event in the Watergate scandal that ultimately drove President Richard M. Nixon from office.

Cecchi went on to form the company that became the IDI Group Cos. and established himself as what The Post described as “Washington’s undisputed ‘condo king,’” a developer who rivaled Oliver T. Carr Jr. and Charles E. Smith in their influence on the world of real estate in Washington and the surrounding region.

According to his family, Cecchi and his company developed 28 residential communities that included a total of 14,000 homes, 2.7 million square feet of office and commercial space, and 1,400 hotel rooms.

His most significant projects included the conversion of the apartments at the Parkfairfax community in Alexandria, Virginia, to condominiums; the Leisure World community in Lansdowne, Virginia; parts of the Leisure World community in Silver Spring, Maryland; and condo complexes including the Rotonda in the Tysons Corner area of Northern Virginia, the Belvedere in Rosslyn and Carlyle Towers in Alexandria.

Cecchi’s company also built office buildings including the Rosslyn Center Tower and hotels such as the Renaissance in downtown Washington. The Renaissance was built as part of Techworld, a project – never brought fully to fruition – that Cecchi had envisioned as a high-tech trade center and that represented one of the few setbacks of his career.


Giuseppe Cecchi was born in Milan on June 9, 1930. His father was the city’s chief engineer, and his mother was a homemaker.

Cecchi studied engineering at the Politecnico di Milano and spoke little English when he arrived in the United States. Living at first in New York City, he built his vocabulary on the dialogue he heard in Westerns as a frequent patron of double features at the movies.

With SGI, he developed the Watergate at the Landmark condominium complex in Alexandria before starting his own company.

Survivors include his wife of 55 years, the former Mercedes Sánchez Varela, of McLean; four children, Antonio Cecchi and Enrico Cecchi, both of McLean, Carlos Cecchi, of Alexandria, and Giuseppe “John” Cecchi, of Washington; a brother; and 12 grandchildren.

Cecchi, who became a U.S. citizen, backed Republican nominee Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential race and held several private fundraisers for him.

He played a supporting role in an earlier era of presidential politics during the saga that brought fame, or infamy, to the Watergate. It was Cecchi, scouting for tenants for his brand new building, who lured the cash-strapped DNC to the complex in 1967 by offering a favorable deal on rent.

When the DNC soon fell behind in rent payments, Cecchi argued that the organization should be evicted, author Joseph Rodota reported in his book “The Watergate: Inside America’s Most Infamous Address.” His superiors overruled him, and the DNC remained. In the hours after the 1972 break-in, Cecchi was alerted to the incident that had occurred in his building – and that would give it a permanent place in political history.

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