Developer Tim Chapman raised eyebrows in real estate circles when he broke ground on a 118-unit apartment building east of the Anacostia River in the fall of 2008, when most builders were still in retraction mode.
Chapman said that project went so well, however, that he is ready to try another.
The developer said he is under contract to purchase an auto body shop at 1708 Good Hope Road in Southeast D.C., on the border between Anacostia and Fairlawn, that he plans to develop into a 188-unit apartment complex with 25,000 to 30,000 square feet of retail. He would not disclose the price.
The repair outfit, called Murphy’s Auto Body Shop, is at the intersection of Good Hope and 17th Street. It is four blocks east of the headquarters for the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development, which moved there two years ago.
Chapman did not accomplish everything he wanted with his first building east of the Anacostia, called the Grays on Pennsylvania, after Washington’s Negro league baseball team. Despite scouring the East Coast in search of candidates, he did not attract a sit-down restaurant (“The biggest problem I had finding a restaurant last time was I didn’t have a left-turn lane”). He also switched management companies midstream, going with Bozzuto Property Management, and sued his general contractor alleging “defective and delayed construction.”
But Chapman could not rent his apartments fast enough. He says the building, at 2300 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, is packed and that there is a waiting list of hundreds. Rent is about $1,194 for a one-bedroom, and there are limits on the income of renters because the project was financed using federal tax credits. “I think we’re getting a healthy mix between people who already live east of the river and people that used to live west of the river but can’t get everything they are getting here for the price that they’re paying for it,” he said.
Chapman and the D.C. government also convinced Yes! Organic Market founder Gary Cha to open one of his grocery stores in the Pennsylvania Avenue building, with the city issuing a $900,000 grant for the build-out plus tax exemptions. Chapman and Cha — both well connected in D.C. political circles — then formed a partnership aimed at building other groceries-plus-apartments projects in emerging neighborhoods of the city.
Chapman said the newest project does not require zoning changes and could go under construction next spring. He said the apartments may be geared toward senior citizens.
“I just fully believe that east of the river is where, if you are a young developer with a financial statement to get something financed right now, that’s really the place you want to go,” he said.