Jim Abdo, 55, is a Washington developer whose firm, Abdo Development, has been a key player in the city’s residential and commercial growth over the past 20 years. He lives in the District with his wife and two children.
I really think the genesis of that is coming from millennials. And millennials are a very interesting group to watch. Because if the term “less is more” ever really made sense, it is for this generation. And candidly, they’re right. This is a concept that absolutely makes sense, and it needs to be in the nation’s capital. I think it’s going to resonate with a lot of people. Just the other day, I came up with our new tag line.
Hotel Hive. Buzz more, spend less.
And that can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but it’s all good, here in D.C.
You said it, not me. [Laughs.] That’s not what I was thinking.
Wow. I feel good about what we’ve done as a company because we’ve gone into areas of the city that other people have ignored and overlooked. And we did it, I think, in a very socially responsible way. We didn’t create a renaissance in these corridors through a process of pushing people out. We helped make neighborhoods contribute to the tax base of the city again, and we’re also very proud of the fact that 90 percent of our workforce is D.C.-based.
I think so. You’re speaking to someone who is a product of workforce housing and a product of public schools. And I want this city to be able to be a place that my parents could have moved to and that we could have lived in. There are answers on how to get there, but I don’t think we’re remotely there yet.
Well, it’s a very big issue. And it’s a term that I think a lot of people struggle with. Gentrification with open participation for people at all levels is a great thing. But when you start getting into gentrification where you’re changing the entire socioeconomic diversity of a city and you’re excluding certain people just to bring others in? That’s not good. Great cities don’t do that. They’re represented by people of all incomes.
Today, there is no quadrant of the city that is not in play. There is opportunity everywhere. I think some of the most beautiful areas of the city are east of the river. And I think that is an area where you’re going to see some tremendous changes taking place.But again, it needs to happen in a responsible way. You can’t allow things to happen where the diversity of the city, the diversity of individuals’ economic situations, is completely pushed aside and it just becomes a city of people with nothing but six-figure incomes. That would be a real shame.
When I think of projects that are the most impactful, I really love what we did on H Street [NE] when we purchased the old Capital Children’s Museum. We were very upfront to people who were worried about change in that corridor that we were not here to push anybody out. I really felt strongly that that development could be a real catalyst for positive change, and if you look at what’s happened on H Street since we took on this old, beat-up building, you see a corridor that has become one of the most sought-after retail and residential corridors of the city — in some people’s eyes almost overnight.
They’re huge. When you look at what’s left on the list of items that really need attention, that’s number one. When you start seeing neighborhoods being reignited with the growth of families and children, that’s a beautiful thing to see. But what you also find is that people with children of a certain age, they’re having to exit from these communities and neighborhoods where they’d really prefer to stay because of concerns about education and access to it.
I’d just make it one big Starbucks.