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Fast-Growing Development Company Launches Projects In Bethesda, Northeast D.C.

A 33-year-old D.C. developer is growing his firm with for-sale residential projects targeting his fellow millennials. 

Acumen Cos. Chairman Abiud Zerubabel

Acumen Cos. Chairman Abiud Zerubabel tells Bisnow his company is launching new projects in Downtown Bethesda and on the H Street corridor targeting young homebuyers. 

Zerubabel founded Urban Investment Group in 2009, and in 2017 it merged with Acumen Cos. The company has developed over 1M SF in real estate around the D.C. area, including 500K SF in the last two years. The Washington Business Journal last year named Acumen one of the 75 fastest growing companies in the D.C. area, and it included Zerubabel in its 40 Under 40 list. 

The latest project Acumen is launching targets millennials looking to buy homes in Downtown Bethesda. Acumen is in the early planning stages for a 75- to- 85-unit condo project at 4824 Edgemoor Lane, Zerubabel said.

The site at 4824 Edgemoor Lane in Bethesda where Acumen plans a 12-story condo building

The proposal calls for a 12-story building on the site, which is currently occupied by a single-family home and sits less than a quarter-mile from the Bethesda Metro station.

The building would include units averaging between 900 SF and 1,200 SF with a price range from $600K to $1M. Many of the units include large closets and one and a half bathrooms, features he expects will attract millennial women. He said he doesn't see many offerings in the Bethesda market catering to young homebuyers. 

"All of our research has shown there is enough bigger product designed for baby boomers downsizing from Potomac, but there was not enough product that is price sensitive and driven to the millennial and female millennial market," Zerubabel said. "That demand is not met today, and we want to put a product out that meets that demand."

The developer is also in talks with companies to build an automated parking system that saves space and allows residents to call up their cars from an underground lot using a mobile application. Bonstra Haresign Architects is designing the project, and the team plans to present its proposal to the community next week. 

Acumen is preparing to break ground on another project targeting young homebuyers on the H Street corridor. 

A rendering of Acumen Cos.' project at 818 Bladensburg Road NE

The developer plans to begin construction in the coming weeks on a five-story, 32-unit condo project at 818 Bladensburg Road NE. The project, designed by PGN Architects, sits one block north of H Street. 

Most of the project's units would range from 600 SF to 850 SF, and about 80% of them would have two bedrooms. With a price point in the $300K-to-$500K range, Zerubabel said it is targeting first-time homebuyers who would split the price with a roommate. 

"As H Street is pushing east, we're seeing the millennial buyer saying, 'Where can I find a product I can be able to afford?'" Zerubabel said. "The solution we're trying to give is you can buy a $400K unit with a roommate to minimize cost."

His experience with a recent condo project at 3901 14th St. NW in Columbia Heights showed that the fastest-selling units were those with the lowest price point. Zerubabel said much of the conversation around affordable housing has focused on rentals, but he said there is a significant need for affordable for-sale homes in D.C, and that is where he expects Acumen to focus its growth in the coming years. 

Acumen is beginning to take on larger projects in D.C. and is looking to expand out of the market. The company is eyeing two projects in Northeast D.C. that would total around 250 units and a third project in the growing Park View neighborhood with around 80 units. 

"We have been growing the size of the projects we've been doing year to year," Zerubabel said. 

The company is also in the process of acquiring multiple assets in the Los Angeles area, its first market outside of the D.C. region. It is in talks to buy a portfolio with properties in Long Beach, Santa Monica and Venice, Zerubabel said. 

"Given the 2028 Olympics going there and the entertainment industry, we believe LA is a good, diverse city to have in our portfolio," Zerubabel said.