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John Wilkinson, The Boundary Companies

Washington DC

John is part of Bisnow's Ascent community of up-and-coming commercial real estate leaders. The top developers and investors under the age of 40 descend on the Ritz Carlton in South Beach Nov. 2-4. See who's attending and apply to be considered for one of the few remaining spots here.

John has always wanted to be an entrepreneur. And from helping an energy drink startup get off the ground to establishing his own development shop that now controls over a million square feet of existing and to be developed real estate, he hasn’t lost that spirit. His firm is barely a year old, but with support from big names in DC real estate, it’s hoping to rise into the city’s next cutting-edge investment firm.

Wilmington, DE-native John spent his college days at Cornell, where he was also a member of the Big Red’s lacrosse team. After graduation, his entrepreneurial ways led him to snagging a position with BAWLS, the energy drink company that had recently launched. BAWLS got started right as the energy drink trend was nearing lift-off, and John received a crash course in growing a firm from the start while living and working in NYC and later Miami, where the BAWLS HQ was located.

After the company was recapitalized, he began searching for a new career path, and realized that real estate matched his skill set well, since it involves so many different business disciplines. A stint as a broker in CBRE’s Philadelphia office followed, where he performed tenant rep and investment sales work. After moving to his wife’s hometown of DC in 2004, he knew he wanted his next position to be on the principal side, and turned down more lucrative offers from brokerage firms to work for The JBG Companies.

 

At JBG, John would work on projects across all asset classes, including the 51 Louisiana Avenue office building, the 2400 M Street apartments, and Atlas condominiums. Looking to get on the acquisition side of the biz, he left JBG to work for family friend David Cheek at another private equity real estate shop Meridian Group. While there, he worked on a bevy of syndicated deals and helped the firm raise its fund. But John’s entrepreneurial spirit wouldn’t die down, and he soon harbored thoughts of opening up his own real estate investment firm, and even talked to local private equity shops about financially backing a new venture.

He brought his pitch to his old mates at JBG, who actually convinced John to come back for a second stint with the firm, this time in the investments group. After two successful years, he decided to finally launch his own firm this past January, starting The Boundary Companies—a name suggested by his former JBG mentor Kai Reynolds.

John says Boundary is targeting assets across the board with limited downside risk and the potential for substantial value creation in the emerging neighborhoods of DC. Residential, both for sale, and rental, will be a significant focus, he adds, and Boundary has already acquired or assembled 1M SF-plus of development sites. “We want to continue to grow and evolve while maintaining our creative and nimble style” he says.

Starting any new business can be stressful, but John says the renaissance of Washington—with its rapidly changing demographics and seemingly endless list of submarkets on the rise—makes it an exciting time to go out on his own.

When he’s not assembling parcels or reviewing the next deal, John can probably be seen hanging with his family—wife Libby and two young daughters. (Another daughter is on the way, says.) As you read this, he's traveling to Paris with Libby (currently director of development at the Crossway Montessori Community) to celebrate the couple’s ten year anniversary. The former college lacrosse player still stays active playing any sports he can when time allows.