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Howard Inks Deal With MRP To Build Apartments Next To 9:30 Club

Howard University has entered into another deal with a real estate developer to build apartments on one of its properties in the booming Shaw neighborhood. 

A rendering of MRP's apartment project planned on the Howard-owned site at 2133 Ninth St. NW.
A rendering of MRP's apartment project planned on the Howard-owned site at 2133 Ninth St. NW.

The university signed a ground lease with MRP Realty for the 32K SF parking lot property at 2133 Ninth St. NW in a deal posted Dec. 20 to the D.C. Recorder of Deeds. MRP Realty principal John Begert tells Bisnow the developer plans to build about 310 apartments with roughly 5K SF of retail on the site, which sits directly north of the popular 9:30 Club.

The developer is partnering with Chicago-based apartment REIT Equity Residential and The Gideon Cos. on the project. It is working with SK+I Architecture to design the building. The team is in negotiations for a construction loan, Begert said. 

MRP, Gideon and Equity Residential plan to pursue matter-of-right development, meaning they wouldn't have to go through a zoning approval process. The partnership aims to begin work on the project by April, Begert said.

Howard said it selected the MRP team 10 months after launching a competitive developer selection process. The university worked with Alvarez & Marsal and Lerch, Early & Brewer on the deal. 

"This was a complex transaction which included multiple parties in order to achieve maximum density and impact," Howard University Head of Real Estate Development Anthony Freeman said in a statement provided to Bisnow. "Howard is one of the most active institutions in the nation executing these types of commercial initiatives."

The lot at 2133 Ninth St. NW where MRP Realty plans to build 310 apartments.
The lot at 2133 Ninth St. NW where MRP Realty plans to build 310 apartments.

The site is across Ninth Street from where MRP and JBG Smith are preparing to deliver The Wren, a 433-unit project anchored by a Whole Foods. Begert said those apartments will deliver in February and the grocer is expected to open this summer. He said the Whole Foods will be another driver for apartment demand in a neighborhood already teeming with bars and restaurants.

"I think [Whole Foods] will be a game changer for Shaw as far as daytime traffic and activating the north side of Shaw and integrating the campus and the students," Begert said. "It will be a pretty big deal."

As part of the new project, MRP plans to extend W Street NW through the site to Eighth Street, creating a new east-west connection in the fast-growing northern section of the Shaw neighborhood.

The Wren 965 Florida Ave. NW
A rendering of The Wren, the 433-unit Whole Foods-anchored project at 965 Florida Ave. NW.

The project will be the latest in a series of multifamily buildings to be constructed in the area.

The 256-unit project on Parcel C of JBG Smith's Atlantic Plumbing development site was expected to deliver in Q4, the REIT said in a November investor report. The first phase of Atlantic Plumbing in 2015 delivered 310 apartments, a Landmark movie theater and other ground-floor retail directly to the east of MRP's latest project. Atlantic Plumbing also includes a 62-unit condo building. 

The ground-lease agreement between MRP and Howard states that the developer must notify any potential tenants about the proximity of the building to the 9:30 Club and the likelihood that the club's music will be audible from the building. 

Begert said the building will be primarily composed of studios and one-bedroom units and target a younger renter demographic. 

"It's a predominately single, young-adult crowd in Shaw," Begert said. "We went with a retro-luxe look and feel because of the 9:30 Club and the history of Shaw and the Howard community is such a huge part of the neighborhood, so we tried to integrate ourselves into those things."

For Howard, the project continues the university's strategy of partnering with developers to turn its underutilized properties in valuable areas into revenue-producing assets. Last year, Howard selected a team of Edens, Fivesquares and the Menkiti Group to develop two historic buildings on a 2.2-acre site at Georgia Avenue and V Street NW. 

The university partnered with Jair Lynch Real Estate Partners to redevelop a former Howard dormitory just north of Meridian Hill Park into a 206-unit apartment building, a project it completed last year. Howard also partnered with Urban Investment Partners to turn two former dormitories just east of the Howard University Hospital into 162 apartments. 

"This is yet another example of successful partnerships with premier regional and national developers to breathe new life into neighborhoods, while retaining fee ownership of the university's robust portfolio of assets," Freeman said of the latest MRP project.