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Investors wonder if Jemals can keep properties

Jonathan O'Connell The Washington Post
WASHINGTON, DC.- NOV. 17, 2010: Developer Norman Jemal in the lobby of one of the properties he has worked on, at 1155 F St. NW, in Washington, DC. on Nov. 17, 2010 . ( Photo by Jeffrey MacMillan ) (Jeffrey Macmillan - Jeffrey Macmillan For Washington Post)

WASHINGTON, DC.- NOV. 17, 2010: Developer Norman Jemal in the lobby of one of the properties he has worked on, at 1155 F St. NW, in Washington, DC. on Nov. 17, 2010 . ( Photo by Jeffrey MacMillan ) (Jeffrey Macmillan - Jeffrey Macmillan For Washington Post)


Many people may know of Douglas Jemal's rise from record shop owner to cowboy boot-wearing real estate entrepreneur to one of the leading drivers of downtown Washington's resurgence.



Much less is known about the inner workings of Douglas Development, a private company that is owned and kept famously close by the Jemal family. But with real estate investors hovering in search of discounts, its 8 million-square-foot portfolio has generated intense speculation. Specifically: Are the Jemals, Douglas and his sons, Norman and Matthew, interested in selling some property?

The Jemals are known for elegant reuse of historic properties, such as the downtown Woodward & Lothrop building, which now houses Forever 21, H&M, Zara and the Madame Tussauds wax museum. "I think they've been at the forefront of historic preservation in Washington," said Rebecca Miller, executive director of the D.C. Preservation League.

The Jemals are also known for waiting as long as necessary to attract retailers that can do more than pay the rent, but transform a block. In offering Douglas Jemal its "Downtown Citizen" award Nov. 9, Richard Bradley, executive director of the Downtown Business Improvement District, praised him for avoiding banks and drugstores to attract retailers that make downtown a destination. "This often meant holding on to vacant properties for as long as it took to attract the right retail mix," he said.


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