Walking past the Moderno condominiums at 12th and U streets last November, Morgan Greenhouse was captivated by the vacant ground-floor retail space. The budding architect and art enthusiast imagined transforming the empty shell, with its stark white walls and high ceilings, into gallery space.
And in a matter of weeks, she did just that.
Greenhouse, 26, convinced the developer, Lakritz Adler, that allowing a group of local artists to create an installation at the site would be a great way to market the property for free.
The exhibit, entitled “Spleen,” drew 300 visitors over the course of three days and was covered by a number of media outlets. The developer was so impressed that it welcomed more events and recommended Greenhouse to colleagues, fueling the formation of VerdeHouse.
The District company has secured unoccupied space throughout the Washington area for a slew of creative companies, nonprofits and universities, which have hosted fundraisers, wine tastings and other gatherings.
VerdeHouse has helped facilitate more than 15 events to date. The company charges users a consulting fee ranging from $1,200 to $4,000, depending on the size of the space, duration of the event and client’s financial wherewithal.
“Their business concept is unique,” said Daour Diawara, manager of business development at the Washington, DC Economic Partnership. VerdeHouse was a finalist in the organization’s 2011 business plan competition. “In less than a year, they already have something to show for it.”
A former architectural designer at Gensler, Greenhouse was planning to get a master’s degree in architecture before happening upon that space on U Street. The Bethesda native, however, found the prospect of building her own business more enthralling.
“I really wanted to create something and realized that there was need here,” Greenhouse said.“Space is a huge commodity in the city, and using it to its full potential can be transformative.”
One of Greenhouse’s most challenging, and favorite, projects was finding space for Georgetown University’s symposium on the development of CityCenterDC last month. The school wanted to host the event somewhere overlooking the project, bound by New York Avenue and Ninth, H and 11th streets NW. Greenhouse called all of her contacts until she found an empty floor in an office building at 1099 New York Ave. NW that offered sweeping views of the construction site.
As client requests poured in this year, Greenhouse brought on a full-time partner and three part-time advisors. The all-female staff have diverse experience in real estate, architecture, economics, interior design and marketing. They typically hold meetings in the lobby of the Renaissance Dupont Circle or Hotel Palomar in Rosslyn to keep costs down.
“Having relationships with the right people makes all the difference in growing the business,” said Christin Martinelli, 34, a partner in VerdeHouse. “We find ourselves surrounded by other young entrepreneurs, sharing the same momentum, and that networking has been beneficial.”
With low overhead and steady demand, Greenhouse anticipates the company will break even before the end of the year. By then, she hopes to have signed up more clients for temporary retail space.