The NYTimes analyzes Washington's economic boom

Oramenta Newsome, executive director of Washington, DC LISC, is interviewed and quoted in this NYTimes story analyzing the ever-changing economic success of Washington, DC.

Washington's Economic Boom, Financed by You

11 Jan 2013 - Annie Lowrey, The New York Times


One damp morning this winter, Jim Abdo was looking through architectural renderings at his office in Logan Circle, one of the many leafy Washington neighborhoods anchored by a statue of a long-dead guy riding a horse. Abdo got his start as a property developer by buying decrepit buildings and modernizing them, and his headquarters shows off the trick. The adjoining storefronts had been stripped bare and rebuilt, all warm wood and cold glass with exposed brick and beams. It looked like a Brooklyn design studio or a Silicon Valley start-up, or at least how those offices might look in a Nancy Meyers movie. But Abdo has built his business in the unstylish land of think tanks and tepid salmon lunches and boxy women’s suits.

Abdo, a lithe and neat man with salt-and-pepper hair, was wearing jeans and a trim pullover and excitedly explaining how he was going to raze the office we were sitting in and replace it with more of his signature “luxury but affordable,” as he put it, rental units. He showed me a photograph of our location, a corner with a busy coffee shop with outdoor seating, a high-end rug store and the Abdo Development office. In the next slide, the buildings had been replaced by a handsome new glass-and-brick stack of a building, custom-built for white-collar professionals paying $3,000 in rent, all made possible by their low-level but cushy private-sector jobs. “We’re looking for those kids just out of law school who’ve come to Washington and they’re working 14 hours a day, but they want a place that isn’t a group house,” he said. “It’s for people who want to say, ‘I’ve arrived.’ ”

Eager to show what arriving in Washington looks like these days, Abdo escorted me into his hulking Range Rover with a two-digit license plate — assigned to him by the former mayor Anthony Williams, who is godfather to his son — and we barreled south across the Potomac. The first destination was Gaslight Square, a pair of condo buildings featuring units with double-height living rooms and Wolf ranges, just across the river from the high-end shopping district of Georgetown. (There’s room for a third building, which Abdo plans to break ground on soon.) Abdo pushed open the door to a model unit, and we walked in on a sandy-haired 20-something in a fleece jacket signing papers. “I didn’t plan that,” Abdo said, feigning a red-handed gesture. “We get lots of first-time buyers from Northrop Grumman, CEB” — the massive defense contractor and the corporate advisory firm — “places like that.” Continued[+]...

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Article Type: News