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Douglas Development Corporation – Hero or Horse’s Ass?

It seems like nearly every time I nominate a building for a horse’s ass award – it either belongs to or someone references Douglas Development Corporation. Their Web site says:

Since its inception in 1985, Douglas Development has tallied redevelopment successes in the District of Columbia, as well as suburban Maryland and Virginia. Douglas Development has earned a reputation for creating value and a “sense of place” in underdeveloped yet emerging areas. Douglas Development continues to win praise from the press, community leaders, and neighbors for its pioneering work in enhancing communities.

Douglas Development has earned a reputation for trusted stewardship in the redevelopment of historic buildings. Douglas Development is passionate about restoring the pride and history of mixed-use buildings. All members of Douglas Development’s design and construction teams are handpicked by Douglas Jemal, President of Douglas Development, for their abilities to appreciate and preserve the legacy of each historic building. Development project teams include nationally recognized design architects, leading historical consultants, and proven construction managers.

While on this weekend’s walkabout I couldn’t help but notice tons of vacant buildings with the Douglas Development logo on the side – advertising for lease or office space available. There were tons in Chinatown/Penn Quarter (and pictured below the gigantic space near the NY Ave Metro station) not to mention the Wonderbread Factory in Shaw.

More background from the Douglas Development Web site says:

Mr. Jemal branched into real estate in the early 1980’s, purchasing his first parcel at 425 7th Street, NW, in 1981. Since then he has focused on purchasing and developing distinctive commercial properties in urban areas such as: Wonder Plaza (the former Wonder Bread bakery) near Howard University; Jemal’s Park & Shop (on Connecticut Ave, the oldest strip shopping center on the east coast); the historic block of 7th street between G and H streets in Chinatown; and the historic Woodward & Lothrop (Woodies) Building at Metro Center. Mr. Jemal believes in the hands-on approach to development and he is actively involved on a personal basis in the design, construction and leasing of all his properties.

Mr. Jemal is particularly noted for his unprecedented success in preserving historic architecture while transforming properties into viable and successful retail, office and residential sites. Mr. Jemal’s retail background provides him with valuable insight into the needs of the eventual tenant during the construction process, as well as with the proper mix and placement of tenants once leasing commences.

So I’ve heard folks call Douglas Development a savior and I’ve heard folks call them a lot worse. What do you guys think: Does the company preserve “historic architecture while transforming properties into viable and successful retail, office and residential sites” or do they sit on vacant properties for an unreasonable amount of time contributing to the blight of many city streets? Or is it far more complicated than that?

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