Last week, the General Services Administration (GSA) put a 2 acre property up for auction on the Georgetown waterfront in Washington, D.C with a starting-bid of $500,000. The property is commonly known as the Georgetown Heating Plant and includes an 8-story Art Deco building on more than 90,000 square feet of land. The property is one of a kind, and potentially the only site left with an opportunity to build a hotel, office, or condos with views of the Potomac. The GSA itself refers to the property as a “landmark with monumental potential.”
In all likelihood, the purchaser will be some large institutional developer from another city (or country) backed by a big investment fund run out of NYC. The rest of the story is also fairly easy to predict, the winning bidder will spend the next few years or more entangled by a handful of local residents in an us-vs-them battle where community benefits and profit go head-to-head.
But that doesn’t have to be the case. What if instead, the larger community had the opportunity to buy the property? What if for the first time, you could invest in and own a piece of the profits created from this type of project; be able to weigh the trade-offs between community benefits and profits first hand?
We understand that redeveloping the property will have its challenges. It has been a power plant for decades so the dirt is environmentally polluted. There are zoning and historic oversight issues. Perhaps the biggest complexity is the local neighborhood wants to preserve green space and limit the amount of new development at the site. On the other hand, it is one of the best located redevelopments sites in the city.
By allowing local residents to invest and own the redevelopment, can we cut the Gordian Knot of neighborhood entitlements? Managing change in neighborhoods is always about finding win-win compromises. By getting everyone involved and invested, we can change the “us-vs-them dynamic” that is so toxic to the development process.
There would obviously be a lot of work involved. We would of course need to find a developer who wants to build this project under a new model of public-private partnership. But if we can, we have the potential to create a better way to build and own real estate development in a neighborhood context.
The asking price for the property is currently $500,000. In all likelihood the final sale price could exceed $15 million, which may be too large a number to raise through the Fundrise model at this stage. But then again, the demand for this opportunity could be greater than we expect. We can’t know for sure, but with enough support form the Fundrise community we are willing to do our part to try and make this happen.
If you’re interested in owning and redeveloping a piece of Georgetown, join Fundrise and let us know by commenting below!