Author: Daniel J. Sernovitz, Washington Business Journal
Published: May 11, 2021
Jair Lynch Real Estate Partners has leased nearly all of the empty retail and office space at The Shops at Penn Branch — more than four years after it reached across the Anacostia River to acquire the property formerly known as the Penn Branch Shopping Center — thanks to a flurry of deals with tenants including Chipotle and a cajun restaurant from the owner of D.C.’s Po Boy Jim.
The D.C.-based developer has signed about 9,000 square feet of retail leases at the 89,000-square-foot center, located at 3200 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, and has fully leased the property’s 16,000 square feet of second-floor office space to a mix of local and national tenants. That activity builds on momentum Jair Lynch hoped to generate when it signed a 20,000-square-foot lease with Planet Fitness in 2017. Since then, with the aid of property management and retail leasing firm Rappaport, it has sought a mix of neighborhood-supporting merchants to fill out the remaining space, said President and CEO Jair Lynch.
The center was previously home to a D.C. Municipal Services Center and a substation of the Metropolitan Police Department.
The developer spent about $7 million to renovate the property, which was more than half empty when Jair Lynch acquired it, and those steps helped support the property’s existing merchants and draw new ones to the site, Lynch said. The anchor fitness center has also helped generate additional foot traffic, even during the pandemic.
“Hillcrest and Penn Branch are these strong, home-based communities that need services and need foods, especially if they’re not going out to restaurants, and the ability to get food delivered to them,” Lynch said. “We invested in the property, so we improved everything from sidewalks to signage to storefronts, and allowed the existing restaurants to survive. As a result of that, we’re able to show that there’s daytime traffic that’s in the area, and I think that has really helped the retailers get comfortable with it.”
Joining fast-food chain Chipotle, which announced ambitious expansion plans on Monday, are: Shark’s Fish and Chicken, replacing the former Star Pizza; a pair of brands from the Black-owned Miskiri Hospitality Group, Miss Toya’s Soul Juice and Miss Toya’s Southern Cajun Kitchen; and Highlands Café, from Penn Branch resident and chef Moe Garay, whose first restaurant opened along the 14th Street corridor in Northwest D.C. in 2008.
Chef Jeffeary Miskiri of D.C.-based Miskiri Hospitality Group is behind other restaurants, including Po Boy Jim and is expanding to the Hyattsville Arts District with Suga & Spice. He said in a statement his company is committed to serving the communities where its businesses are located and looked forward to opening at Penn Branch.
Jair Lynch, with the aid of Civitas Commercial Real Estate Services, has also landed office tenants including the D.C. Office of State Superintendent of Education, Bluerock Care, North Capitol Collaborative and KBEC Group. Combined, those retail and office leases bring the center to about 96% leased.
The leases were signed over a period from June 2019, for the State Superintendent of Education, to earlier in May, for Miss Toya’s. Representing the tenants in those deals were: Sean Harcourt, H&R Realty, for Chipotle; Marc Rosendorf, Rosendorf Group, for Miss Toya’s; Fletcher Gill and Victor Dambrosia, The Genau Group; for North Capitol; Adrian Dominguez, Gittleson Zuppas Medical Realty, for Bluerock; and Timothy Foley, Studley, for the State Superintendent.