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Howard University Buys Prime Shaw Corner Property From Jemal Family

The retail property at 651 Florida Ave. NW, occupied by HalfSmoke and Beauty Island.

A prominent corner retail property in Shaw has sold to the dominant property owner in the neighborhood: Howard University

The university acquired the building occupied by restaurant HalfSmoke at 651 and 649 Florida Ave. NW from Douglas Development for $7.7M in a sale posted Tuesday morning to the D.C. Recorder of Deeds. 

The property, at the intersection of Florida and Georgia avenues in Northwest D.C., is occupied by beauty supply store Beauty Island and HalfSmoke, a local, Black-owned restaurant that opened in 2016 and is now working on a regional expansion. The building is directly adjacent to a parking lot owned by the university as part of the Howard University Hospital campus. 

A Howard spokesperson confirmed the acquisition and declined to comment on it, adding that the university will release more information about its plans for the property in the coming weeks.  

Douglas Development principal Norman Jemal told Bisnow Tuesday the retail tenants, including HalfSmoke, still have long-term leases, though he didn't share the exact number of years remaining. He said he expects Howard's strategy will be to hold onto the property for the duration of the leases and potentially consider redeveloping it in the future. 

"The corner is a great corner. It obviously sits right in front of major holdings that are owned by the university. It made a lot of sense for them to own it," Jemal said. "The tenants have long-term leases; however, I think it’s a very strategic property for the university to own, given their holdings directly adjacent to it that don’t front the corner.

"From our standpoint, we recognized the very good value and will move on to other development," Jemal added.

Jarvis Commercial Real Estate CEO Ernie Jarvis brokered the deal on behalf of the seller. 

The deal was one of two sales Douglas Development closed Tuesday. It also sold the property at 5630 Connecticut Ave. NW, occupied by an M&T Bank branch, for $6.4M to Florida-based International Realty Corp., according to deed records and confirmed by Jemal. 

Howard has been active in the District's commercial real estate market in recent years, taking advantage of its significant holdings in the booming Shaw neighborhood. In August, it selected a team of developers to build over 400 units and 250K SF of office and lab space on a Georgia Avenue property it owns. It has struck several other deals with developers to build apartments on former administrative and dormitory buildings it owns. 

UPDATE, NOV. 23, 5 P.M. ET: This story has been updated to include the broker who represented the seller in the deal.