Why The Developer Building Buzzard Point's First Mixed-Use Project Doesn't Think He's A Traiblazer
Perhaps it takes a nine-year career as a Navy pilot to gain a greater appreciation for the land below. That could be how Naval Academy grad Scott Zimmerman came to found Capital City Real Estate in 2006.
Scott founded the company with some financial backing from a few investors and EagleBank. Principal and design lead Brian Papke joined the firm in 2008, and brother Brent Zimmerman came on board two years later.
Scott and Brent, native Washingtonians, are bullish on DC revitalization and residential restructuring.
For many years, Scott says, there was only Foggy Bottom and the West End, Georgetown and the upper Northwest. “And you had poverty everywhere else,” he says. “DC, for the first time, is developing neighborhoods and subcultures.”
That’s one reason why Capital City recently purchased a half-acre lot west of the Anacostia River at Buzzard Point for $9.8M. The planned condominium building will be the first infill project in the area.
Even the deal was unusual, arranged privately through a contact. “It wasn’t brokered. It wasn’t marketed,” Scott says. It came through “a friend of a friend” who alerted Capital City director of acquisitions and development Jerry Zayets about its availability.
CCRE's in-house acquisition team looked at the land from a money perspective; for viability and constructability; and whether the deal made sense in the current economic climate. They vetted it from every angle, “and in the end we believed we could make it work,” Scott explains, pointing to nearby attractive facilities such as the Wharf, Nationals Park and the planned stadium that will become home to DC United.
Jerry lauds the deal by pointing out how rare it is to find virtual waterfront property available along the DC shoreline. “True, private waterfront land is incredibly, incredibly limited in this area,” he says.
Jerry had worked for CCRE earlier and his background in developing multifamily units was a major factor in his rehiring about a year ago. He’s charged with development entitlements and acquisitions, mainly in the 20- to 200-unit opportunities.
Developing the Buzzard Point purchase into 107 condos in a mixed-use project will become Jerry's baby. The developers hope to have a shovel in the ground in about a year. They’re also looking for an appropriate name for their water-view project and hoping that the DC government might consider renaming the area after something more inviting than a carrion eater.
Scott says Capital City wants to plant its flag in areas where development is underway.
“We’ve had our eye on the H Street corridor for a long time,” he says. Hence the company has submitted a PUD application for a 180-unit residential construction at 1701 H St NE, just off the main drag of the hot H Street corridor.
In addition, Scott believes the H Street boom will continue past 17th Street and down Benning and Bladensburg roads as well, creating another outstanding development opportunity.
“We’ve never thought of ourselves as trailblazers,” Scott says. “We see ourselves as opportunistic." Scott says CCRE is just building on the momentum that's already there—one link in a chain that is already in place. Capital City won’t purchase a property and then figure out what to do with it, he adds.
But CCRE's H Street and Buzzard Point developments sure feel like pushing the envelope, considering its 180-unit development on H Street is on the east side of the Starburst intersection commonly believed to be the end of the main drag. And even though DC United stadium is being built, CCRE's condo building will be the first big new project to open in the Buzzard Point area.
Trailblazers or not, Capital City is constantly looking at dozens of new construction opportunities each week, even in such far-flung areas as suburban Maryland and Northern Virginia. It’s a very competitive market.
“You can’t take a break for a second,” Scott says. “On the other hand, you’ve got to make sure we’re doing the right projects, that we can do them the right way.”
In addition to Buzzard Point and H Street, Capital City has three developments in pre-sales: a 40-unit project at 2237 Champlain St NW in Adams Morgan, a 20-unit new construction at 3035 15th St NW in Columbia Heights, and a 25-unit project at 301 H St NW.