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Bruce is baaaack!

J Street Development founder Bruce Baschuk and the Randall Hagner company will be announcing this afternoon that Baschuk is buying Hagner, marking the first time the venerable 103 year old firm has passed out of family hands. Closing is set for tomorrow.

BASCHUK TO BUY RANDALL HAGNERIn an exclusive interview withBisnow on Business in his L Street, NW, offices yesterday, Bruce told us he's been looking for a strategic acquisition for six months, and had first met Hagner CEO John Sargent (a grandson of the founder, who has been at Hagner since 1974) about three years ago. Sargent called Baschuk, and the two became veritable habitués of the Mayflower Hotel café, talking and negotiating ever since. Sargent has agreed to stay indefinitely with Hagner, which will continue to operate under its own name. They have become good friends, and Bruce even went as his guest this weekend to the exclusive Alfalfa Clubannual dinner.

J Street Development has six employees and so far has focused on buying and selling properties in NoMa, of which he is showing us a map in the picture above. (We noticed it was a CBRE map.) Hagner has 156 employees and does about half commercial real estate services and half residential. Bruce sees Hagner as strategic because it has brokers that can sell and lease his developments, the steady cash flow that comes from a $20 million annual revenue stream, a broad Rolodex of residential and commercial real estate contacts, and a storied reputation.

Raised in Queens, Bruce started at Ernst & Ernst in New York and came here in 1981, he says, "flat broke," not having been to DC since an 8th grade trip. He found his calling in commercial real estate, raking in enough money at Coldwell Banker, Barnes Morris, and eventually as head of CB's Washington office that he could stop out in the early 2000s to devote himself to coaching a high school lacrosse team, directing Jubilee Enterprises' housing charity, spending quality time with his wife and four kids, and even learning to fly and scuba dive. He came back briefly to run theMorris Cafritz company, and then two years ago started J Street, which with Fidelity purchased a three acre parking lot five blocks north of Union Station. Within a year and a half, Tishman Speyerapproached him to buy much of the lot at a nice premium, and he accepted. Observers think Tishman is already well in the money on the deal. J Street kept the balance of the block, 1111 North Capitol,which is currently occupied by the Smithsonian as a space to create exhibits, and appointed Shalom Baranes as project architect for development there.

At J Street, Bruce works closely with partner Jay Bothwell, who designed and constructed many of Hines' area buildings (Columbia and Franklin Squares, Gannett headquarters, etc.), and COO Peggy Crowley. Among his models are people who, Bruce says, have done both well and good: Jim Rouse, Joe Horning, Chris Smith, and Ray Ritchey. Promising more dramatic announcements down the road, Bruce says his aim is simple: to create the best real estate services and development company in town. How big will he be getting? He quotes Ritchey: "Best doesn't mean you have to be biggest."