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Jair Lynch Plans Office As Part Of New Rhode Island Avenue Development

The properties along the south side of Rhode Island Avenue, directly to the west of the Metro station, that are the subject of the rezoning application.

A wave of new multifamily and retail development has moved forward around the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station, and the latest developer in the area plans to add office to the mix. 

Jair Lynch Real Estate Partners and Wilkes Co. filed an application last week to rezone a series of properties along Rhode Island Avenue for high-density mixed-use development. The 2.8-acre site is directly to the west of the Metro station and across the street from MRP Realty's massive Bryant Street project.

The application, which the Washington Business Journal first reported, didn't detail the exact mix of uses planned for the project, but Jair Lynch Real Estate Partners CEO Jair Lynch told Bisnow the developers are including an office component in their mixed-use plans. 

"The intent would be to develop office if the market would provide it, and hopefully this plan will give it the flexibility to land an anchor tenant," Lynch said. 

The Rhode Island Avenue corridor doesn't have much office space, but other neighborhoods in Northeast D.C. have emerged as new office submarkets in recent years. Developers have built several office buildings in NoMa, one Metro stop south of Rhode Island Avenue, and some office developments have also been built around Union Market and H Street.

Jair Lynch owns a 90K SF office building at 609 H St. NE, next to the Anthology apartment building it developed, and it signed two new tenants there in July to bring the building to 85% leased. 

"I think it's important for us, whether us or Wilkes, to develop some office here," Lynch said of the Rhode Island Avenue site. "As we've seen on H Street, one of the things that's helped the retail stay alive on H Street is because we were able to have a mix of residential and daytime and retail together that creates a great dynamic."

The application would rezone a series of properties totaling 2.8 acres with 628 feet of frontage along Rhode Island Avenue, in between the Metro tracks and Fifth Street NE. It would change their zoning to MU-10, allowing for mixed-use development of up to 90 feet, or 100 feet with inclusionary zoning. The change would give the developers the ability to build residential, in addition to office and retail.

Lynch said the development team has yet to form its exact development plans, but it intends to use the 2011 Rhode Island Small Area Plan as a guide. That plan says the site could support over 510K SF of development, including a mix of office, retail and housing.

The developers plan to build workforce housing as part of the project, the application said. It indicated they will utilize a new program included in D.C.'s latest budget that offers tax credits to incentivize housing construction in certain areas. 

The nine parcels that comprise the site are controlled by multiple owners, with the Greater Mt. Calvary Holy Church owning a majority of them. The church, which sits across the street from the site, began investing in the properties in 1995 and participated in the 2011 planning process. 

The church reached a ground-lease agreement with Jair Lynch for its properties, its founder, Bishop Alfred A. Owens Jr., said in a letter to the Zoning Commission. The Wilkes Co. owns two of the parcels, and the developers plan to coordinate on a vision for the site. 

The Bryant Street development near the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station, photographed April 25.

Advisory Neighborhood Commission 5E and the Eckington Civic Association both wrote letters to the Zoning Commission in support of the project.

"Over the years, various redevelopment plans for this area have stalled for a variety of reasons. After years of setbacks, it appears momentum is building and the corridor is getting the attention it greatly deserves," ANC 5E Chair Bradley Thomas wrote in a letter. "The South RIA site is a key element to bringing much needed quality retail, jobs, and housing opportunities along the corridor, and to the residents of Ward 5."

The Jair Lynch project would be the latest in a series of developments to move forward in the area. MRP Realty broke ground in July 2019 on the first phase of its Bryant Street project, ultimately planned for 1,500 units and 250K SF of retail, anchored by an Alamo Drafthouse Cinema

On the blocks around MRP's project, two condo developments are underway: a 74-unit project from Capital City Real Estate and a 29-unit project from Lock 7 Development. On the other side of the tracks, Trammell Crow broke ground last year on a 353-unit project at 2607 Reed St. NE, directly across the street from Douglas Development's 296-unit project that delivered in 2017

Lynch said he sees the area's development as an extension of the growth that has happened in NoMa. In addition to being one Metro stop from each other, the neighborhoods are also connected by the Metropolitan Branch Trail

"The ability to get downtown through the Metropolitan Branch Trail I think will be a competitive advantage going forward to other locations in D.C.," Lynch said. "With the proximity to some of the other neighborhoods that are emerging in the area, we almost see that NoMa and extensions to the north of NoMa pulls all of that together into a district that could be pretty exciting over time."