A week ago today, I attended an auction downtown for a prime piece of property in Tenleytown, at the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Brandywine Street, N.W.
After a tension-filled bidding war with a representative from American University, developer Doug Jemal came away with the win. For five million dollars, he strolled out of the building with rights to the property and a thick roll of architectural plans within his possession (though someone else was carrying them, so Jemal was free to glad-hand).
At the auction, I talked to some attendees—-many of whom were “just there for the show,” as one person put it—-about what might become of the parcel. One developer thought luxury apartments with retail on the bottom. No one believed the new owner would continue the condo project, once slated for the land.
Jemal contends that his company will repurpose the shuttered pool hall at the site, instead of aiming for new construction.With underwriting for residential projects increasingly wanting, residential development was never likely, at least in the short term. More distantly, project approvals for the Maxim, as well as project plans by Cunningham & Quill Architects,’ transfer under the terms of the sale, leaving a clear path toward residential development for one of DC’s few developer that seems capable and inclined to buy and hold.
But at least one executive of a prominent developer that examined the site thinks the only real strategy is a long term retail plan. “The problem with the site is that anyone picking it up needs to carry it for a long time. Doug Jemal, more than anyone else in the city, has a greater ability to bring in high profile retailers…You can’t pay that amount ($5m) and get a short term lease; I think in a way it could be good for the site. The FAR price was high by any standard, [Jemal] was bidding like a guy who had an idea for how to utilize the site; its certain to remain retail for at least a decade.”