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This morning, I talked about how a gang of tech startups had scored a three-month lease on the Manhattan Laundry building on Florida Avenue off 14th Street NW from landlord Douglas Development. That’s not the first time Douglas has shown an affinity for e-enterprise, though. Back in 2000, Mark Ein decided to move Venturehouse into one of their buildings on 7th Street NW, injecting some entrepreneurial energy into quickly-developing area. More recently, they’ve housed LivingSocial’s 600-odd D.C. employees across three buildings near Gallery Place.
Before LivingSocial even moved into their digs on 7th and 9th Street, though, those addresses were occupied by even more startups. One of them, the Map Network, was acquired by a larger firm in 2006. Founder Shane Green has since moved onto a new project, and just leased an open-format, loft-like space on the Georgetown waterfront for his 15-person staff. But he fondly remembers those historic buildings, and thinks there’s an affinity between the space Doug Jemal tends to develop and the places where tech startups like to work.
“He kind of found older buildings that would never have appealed to a law firm or lobbying group in a million years,” Green says. “He really looked at how you rejuvenate the buildings and create very unique and distinctive spaces that were affordable. That’s the magic thing for startups. To really foster that, you want people to feel comfortable in that environment, and feel like you’re showing up to a place where the building itself is connected to what you’re doing, rather than cube number whatever.”
For Douglas, the calculation is a purely practical one. Sure, young techie types with disposable income have a salutary effect on the neighborhood around them (it’s nice to have office tenants who’ll patronize ground-floor bars and restaurants). But they also just might need more space really quickly, and want to stick around.
“The potential is just astronomical,” says Douglas executive Norman Jemal. “A company that has three employees today could have 3,000 employees a year from now…People get atached to the space where they’ve flourished, and the neighborhood where they’ve flourished.”
So, will the soon-to-be denizens of the Manhattan Laundry get to hang on to their new HQ? “It really all depends on their success,” Jemal says.
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