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WBJ interview with local developer Jair Lynch

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This week's Washington Business Journal (Friday, February 1, 2008) includes an interview with local developer Jair Lynch.


Jair Lynch is one of the companies that comprise the Vision McMillan Partners, the group that will be developing the McMillan Sand Filtration site.


Jair Lynch will also be participating in the development of Northwest One where Sursum Corda is presently located, just south of Truxton Circle.


I have copied in the WBJ interview below for you:



Friday, February 1, 2008

Raising the bar


Washington Business Journal - by Melissa Castro Staff Reporter



Carrying an Olympic silver medal and degrees in civil engineering and urban design, Jair Lynch set out in 1998 to transform his hometown into the type of world-class city he visited with the U.S. gymnastics team. Lynch, now 36, and his "urban regeneration" company will help redevelop Northwest One as part of the District's "New Communities Initiative."


How did you get started in D.C. real estate development?


When I came back to D.C., I interviewed with developers, and I knew "urban" was going to be the next big thing. But they all thought I was crazy. Because of my tech experience, they wanted me to go work out along I-66 somewhere. So I started my own development company in the third bedroom of my Shaw house. All I had was a laptop, a cell phone and a dream.


What did you envision at that time?


I knew there was incredible housing stock in D.C., and the Metro Green Line was finishing in the mid-1990s. There were public infrastructure projects starting, like the new convention center. Coupled with the historic aspect of U Street and the universities, Shaw and U Street and parts of Capitol Hill were primed for redevelopment and reinvestment. I knew those neighborhoods were going to turn.


What was your first development deal and how did you convince the bank to loan you the money?


My first major fee development project was the Thurgood Marshall Center in Shaw. It's a mixed-use building that was the first African-American YMCA. A nonprofit trust owned the building, and we had to convince them that we had the skill set and the community sensitivity to develop the building. It also helped that the board chair [like Lynch] went to Stanford. They had been working on a development plan for years to make the entire building a museum. Unfortunately, that was not "bankable." The stars finally aligned when the upper floors were reprogrammed to office space, the first floor was maintained as a museum/conference center and the ground floor was reserved for a school. This helped the deal become "bankable," with the final piece of funding coming from the District. Finally, with the help of an anchor tenant, the project went into construction.


Tell us about Northwest One.


It's going to be a chance to redefine a neighborhood that was part of urban renewal in the '60s. A number of factors -- flight from the city, crime and schools in disarray -- allowed this area to go down, down, down. This is the last piece of the puzzle in NoMa [north of Massachusetts Avenue]. We're going to produce over 500 units of affordable housing and 1,000 market-rate units, plus a 225,000-square-foot office building and 100,000 square feet of retail.


You've said the goal of the project is to have everyone who currently has a unit in that neighborhood able to return to a brand-new unit at the same rate. How will that be accomplished?


You develop an office building that has land value that you can use to cross-subsidize affordable housing, plus you build another 1,000 units at market value. It's a cobbling together of private equity, city money and all these resources.


What's been the biggest challenge you've faced in working with a community?


Oprah! [Laughing]. We saw that there was a large group of artists being displaced from the community, and we saw underutilized government land ... in Ward 7. So we came up with the idea to build a library and artist live-work housing. We planned a series of community meetings to introduce this idea of an artist live-work space and leveraging assets to achieve multiple goals. Right before the first meeting, Oprah had a show about pedophiles. So in our first community meeting, the entire buzz was, "How can we have pedophiles living in our attics and coming down into the living room to assault children?" Mixed-use in their mind meant a multifamily house, not a library with separate living units on top of it. Everything we prepared for the meetings you had to throw out the window and start over with explaining the meaning of everything. The project failed, and two years later Arlington was building affordable housing above a fire station. That was painful.

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