Robb LaKritz and Josh Adler - Shaw/Petworth

Article Published in OnSite Magazine - Summer 2007

Georgia Avenue is at a crossroads, say development partners Robb LaKritz, left and Josh Adler. They have bought several properties near Georgia and New Hampshire avenues NW to develop spaces for neighborhood services such as banks, yoga studios and restaurants.

Robb LaKritz used to walk around his Shaw neighborhood five or six years ago lamenting the empty and abandoned buildings.

“I was really curious why economic development wasn't happening in my backyard,” say LaKritz, at a time a senior advisor in international affairs at the Department of Treasury. “This is sort of like a parlor game in D.C. Why is that building vacant? Why isn't there a coffee shop there?”

In a very un-Washington way, however, he decided to do something about it. He partnered with fellow Treasury official Josh Adler to buy a building at 1525 Ninth St. NW, just two blocks form the new convention center. A tax lien and residential zoning complicated matters, but the pair persevered and redeveloped the project, leasing the main floor to an insurance company and creating two residential units upstairs.

It wasn't long before LaKritz and Adler quit their day jobs to become full-time developers. LaKritz wondered about the destitution of Georgia Avenue every time he drove u[ the corridor. “Why is Georgia Avenue this way? This is a beautiful corridor, “ he thought. “This is a boulevard.”

After moving to Petworth in 2003, LaKritz began talking to residents and discovered they were clamoring for a sit-down restaurant. LaKritz/Adler bought a 6,000 square-foot boarded-up barber shop at 3646 Georgia Ave. NW south of the Petworth Metro station. In 2005, the renovated building opened with a yoga studio on the second floor. A restaurant, Temperance Hall, opened last year. They partnered with Joe Englert, an H Street NE developer and bar owner, on both the building and the restaurant.

LaKritz has tracked down the owners of all sorts of vacant buildings, only to have his offers rebuffed. “The guys who own these buildings don't want to sell,” he says. “They just want to speculate.”

The duo now is working on the Moderno condominiums just off U Street, and they have several properties on Georgia Avenue. In January, they bought the triangular parcel at Georgia and New Hampshire avenues NW and the vacant 4,600 square-foot Petworth Pharmacy building at Georgia and Upshur Street NW. They are negotiating deals to buy other small parcels to accommodate neighborhood services. So far, they have provided all the equity for their projects, but La LaKritz says they may begin to seek outside investors.

LaKritz takes a philosophical approach to the area's renaissance.

“Responsible revitalization is demand driven,” he says. “It's not about bringing the suburbs into the city. It's about the enhancement of a community.”

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