Douglas Development Betting Big On Northeast DC
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As the development wave in DC continues to push east, bustling new neighborhoods are emerging where vacant warehouses once sat. Historic buildings are being repurposed into trendy new apartment and office buildings, allowing the neighborhoods to preserve their industrial DNA, evoking comparisons to neighborhoods like Manhattan's Meatpacking District and Brooklyn's Williamsburg.
Douglas Development has been at the forefront of this movement, recently completing two major redevelopment projects, the Hecht Warehouse and the Uline Arena, and the Jemals have quite a bit left in the pipeline. We snapped founder and president Douglas Jemal, center, with his sons Norman and Matthew, both senior vice presidents, at BMAC last month.
NoMa residents began shopping at the new flagship REI in Douglas' repurposed Uline Arena last month. The store is filled with the newest outdoor clothing styles, while the walls are lined with vintage rock 'n' roll posters of bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, who played in the old concert hall.
Soon, office tenants will begin moving into the space. Dutch firm Regus will open a 44k SF co-working location called Spaces, which will open near the end of Q1 2017, Norman tells Bisnow. Douglas Development is even moving its own HQ into the building and will move in around the same time.
The arena is opening in an already-developed neighborhood with Metro access, but the developer's real placemaking feat is happening less than a mile to the northeast in Ivy City.
Last November, Douglas opened Ivy City's Hecht Warehouse, a circa 1930s building repurposed into 338 residential units. The gritty building with a funky style has drawn several retailers, including MOM's Organic Market and the Nike Store. The neighborhood is also home to a number of bars, distilleries and increasingly ubiquitous brewery Atlas Brew Works, providing nighttime activities for the new residents.
The Hecht Warehouse building is already 87% leased, Norman tells Bisnow, largely because people are attracted to its history and character. He says embarking on a project of this size was the perfect first step to revitalizing the Ivy City neighborhood.
"The opportunity was a big enough property that it could actually change the neighborhood," Norman says. "You couldn’t do what we did on a small scale. It had to be on a big scale."
Now that the Hecht Warehouse has brought life to the area, Douglas is planning to redevelop more of the Ivy City properties it owns, including 1401 Okie St NE, a warehouse that used to be a Pappa's Tomato Factory. It is repurposing the building into a 97k SF retail center.
Douglas has signed Compass Coffee, which will open in about nine months, and Norman says a deal is in the works with another retailer who will be unique to the area. Douglas also owns the former Love Nightclub building at 1350 Okie St NE, which it is in the process of leasing up.
Those projects pale in comparison to what Douglas has in store across the street from Ivy City. Dubbed NewCityDC, the developer plans to build more than a million SF of development on the 15 acres bound by New York Avenue, Montana Avenue and Bladensburg Road.
The mixed-use development, rendered above, will have 550k SF of retail, 422 apartments, 18 townhouses and a 156-room hotel. Douglas is looking to sign an anchor retail tenant before breaking ground. The developer spoke with Wegmans, but Norman says the popular grocer did not have an appetite to move to the city. He says they are looking for community-serving retail tenants but also want to create a regional draw.
"We are leveraging off the success of Hecht," Norman says. "And the growing density in Northeast DC, the growth is explosive, it's everywhere."
Down on the bustling H Street NE, Douglas owns a site on the 500 block it is turning into a 26-unit residential building with 23k SF of retail. The building is expected to deliver next summer and will sit next to Jair Lynch's 307-unit Anthology building and across the street from Insight Property Group's 432-unit The Apollo building, which has Whole Foods on the ground floor.
"The more people and the more retail, the better for the community," Norman says. "Having a Whole Foods across the street is a wonderful thing to any developer."
Douglas partnered with Antunovich Associates for this project. The architect also designed the Uline Arena and Hecht Warehouse and is working with Douglas on NewCityDC and the 1401 Okie St retail project.
The Jemals are not leaving any emerging Northeast DC neighborhood untouched. On the southern edge of Brookland, near the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station, the developer is currently building the two-building Channing Place project, rendered above. One existing building is being redeveloped into 156 apartments, while a new adjacent building is under construction and will contain 139 units. The development, set to deliver in the spring, was designed by Eric Colbert & Associates and GTM Architects.
"We have two great architectural teams," Norman says. "When you get it right on a project you just know it, and we nailed it."