D.C. developer Doug Jemal has a philosophy and he is sticking to it: buy whatever historic buildings he can get his hands on and figure out what to do with them later.
In recent years, the model has worked out well. Jemal and his sons have taken buildings the family bought when they were crumbling and vacant and rehabbed them into the type of funky, unique office space that tech firms adore. Living Social leased space in a handful of Jemal buildings near the 7th Street corridor, including the Acme Stove building near the convention center, and the start-up incubator WeWork leased 33,000 square feet in the Wonderbread Factory in Shaw.
Some of the buildings the Jemals buy are unique enough that it isn’t immediately clear how they would be best used. The Jemals tried for years to get office companies to lease space in the dome of the Citadel, an old skating rink in Adams Morgan, only to ultimately build apartments there instead.
Douglas Development has discussed many ideas for the old Uline Arena (also known as the Washington Coliseum), including a movie theater, an REI outdoors store and apartments. The newest vision is for office and retail.
The Jemals’ model may be tested as they try to redevelop the former Hecht’s warehouse, at 1401 New York Ave. NE. They attempted to lure the Washington Design Center there. Now the plan is to convert the building for apartments. Will people want to live in the Hecht’s warehouse?
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