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Jair Lynch Strikes Deal To Build 530 Apartments Next To The Wharf

A conceptual rendering of the project Jair Lynch is planning at the intersection of Maine Avenue and Ninth Street SW.

Jair Lynch Real Estate Partners has reached a deal with the owner of a vacant office building across the street from The Wharf to develop a high-rise apartment project, but it still faces roadblocks before breaking ground. 

After the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced in 2019 it would be vacating the office building at 800 Ninth St. to relocate agency functions to the Kansas City area, the owner of the four-story building began looking for a redevelopment partner.

NBL Associates L.P., a company led by Michele Hagans and Marvin Lang, has owned the property since 1982. The company has now reached a deal with Jair Lynch to partner on a redevelopment of the building, the partners told Bisnow

The owner marketed the property to a select group of developers before ultimately making its selection, Jair Lynch Vice President of Development Ruth Hoang told Bisnow. She said she thinks Jair Lynch won the deal because of its reputation for getting projects done in the area, including a major mixed-use development near Nationals Park with 312 apartments, 127 condos and 60K SF of retail that delivered last year. 

"Our track record of getting through entitlements and getting projects completed, I hope, are the main reasons why they chose us," Hoang said. "They were talking with a couple of other very well-known, large development companies that work in the District, so we're excited to be selected and partner with Michele and Marvin on this project."

The two companies created a joint venture entity, with Jair Lynch as the majority partner, that closed on an acquisition of the property, Hoang said. Guardian Realty, which has worked as property manager for NBL, will stay on as a partner. NBL also worked with Greenwich Group International as the investment banker on the deal. 

The team plans to demolish the vacant office building and construct 530 apartments with 6K SF of retail on the site. Hoang said she sees the project's retail space as ideal for a restaurant or small grocer. It is working with Perkins Eastman, the same architecture firm that led the design team for The Wharf. 

The property sits at the intersection of Ninth Street and Maine Avenue SW, directly across the street from The Wharf's 800 Maine office building. Because its property has Maine Avenue frontage, Hoang said the Jair Lynch team plans to change the address from 800 Ninth St. SW to 801 Maine Ave. SW to better align with the megaproject that Hoffman-Madison Waterfront delivered in 2017. 

"The Wharf is the jewel of the city on the waterfront, so being directly across the street from it, having that retail amenity base and The Wharf as an amenity, the waterfront being there and The Anthem, all the different pieces, we're developing into a neighborhood that has a lot of amenities already," Hoang said. 

The Ninth Street and Maine Avenue SW intersection, with the former USDA building on the left and The Wharf on the right.

The development team presented its plans earlier this month to Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6D, as first reported by UrbanTurf. At the meeting, Hoang said it presented two separate options for how it could pursue the entitlements for the project. 

The first option would have the team submit a Map Amendment application, while the second would have it go through the planned unit development process. The PUD process, often lengthier and fraught with risk of appeal-related delays, includes a package of community benefits that the developer agrees to provide in exchange for the extra density. Hoang said it would also provide community benefits under the Map Amendment process even though it wouldn't be required. 

The team aims to rezone the site from MU-12, which allows for buildings up to 50 feet tall, to the higher-density MU-10 zone, which allows for buildings up to 110 feet tall. Hoang said multiple ANC commissioners were vocal in their preference of the PUD process, and while the team hasn't finalized its decision, she expects it will go that route. 

"What we’re proposing is in keeping with the Comprehensive Plan, so theoretically you should be able to do a Map Amendment and get the zoning map changed, but instead there’s a lengthy PUD process that seems to be the preferred route of the ANC and likely the Office of Planning," she said. "It adds regulatory hurdles to the timeline and obviously risk for us on the project."

Hoang said if Jair Lynch does apply for a PUD, she hopes it will file the application with the Zoning Commission by Q1. She said it still has other neighborhood groups to meet with as it works on the application and the community benefits package. 

She expects the PUD process could take as long as 24 months, and then the developer would have to obtain building permits and financing before breaking ground. In the meantime, it is renting out the building's garage as overflow parking for The Wharf, and it is looking for pop-up uses for the office space.