Jair Lynch is embracing a process for its Wharf-adjacent project that’s spooked other developers

By Alex Koma, October 15, 2021 – 12:04 pm

Jair Lynch Real Estate Partners is pursuing a big new mixed-use project across the street from The Wharf — and it’s willing to embrace a strategy that’s spooked many other developers to make it happen.

The D.C. firm is nearing the submission of a planned-unit development application for the project, envisioned as 530 apartments over 6,000 square feet of retail in place of an old office building at 800 Ninth Street SW.

That would make it just the second PUD application submitted to D.C. planners this year, per city records. As recently as 2015, D.C. developers were submitting dozens of PUD applications each year, according to research from the D.C. Policy Center, showing just how far out of favor PUDs have fallen with the local development community.

That’s because the planned-unit development process has always been time consuming — it involves negotiating with the community over amenities and benefits, in exchange for more density or height — and has gotten substantially more complicated as a wave of lawsuits have targeted PUD approvals in recent years. And D.C.’s appeals court has increasingly sided with development skeptics in those cases.

D.C. officials have tried to reverse that trend, of course, by making changes to the city’s Comprehensive Plan and urging the Zoning Commission to write orders that will withstand court challenges, but, plainly, the market has yet to respond in kind.

Nevertheless, Jair Lynch Vice President of Development Ruth Hoang said a PUD is probably the right fit for this Southwest D.C. project, based on her company’s conversations with the community. She estimates that pursuing an amendment to the city’s zoning map to advance the project — a tactic developers are increasingly embracing to avoid the PUD process — would save her company six to eight months of work, but she’s willing to take the risk.