A look inside Gallaudet University's real estate strategy — and JBG Smith's big role in it

The project, which is still in its early stages, is expected to bring in more than 2,000 new residential units and 500,000 square feet of retail space.JBG Smith's 1 million-square-foot mixed-use project is expected to bring in more than 2,000 new residential units and 500,000 square feet of retail

A look inside Gallaudet University's real estate strategy — and JBG Smith's big role in it

Gallaudet's ambitious plans to redevelop its 99-acre Northeast D.C. Campus in partnership with JBG Smith Properties, (NYSE: JBGS), are still moving but are slowed down by high interest rates and construction costs, as well as the waiting for regulatory approvals.

The nation's first institution of higher education for deafblind, deaf and hard-of-hearing people has several other projects in the works. These include leasing space for the transportation fleet, building an entrance to the campus that also serves as a memorial for Black deaf culture, and updating certain campus buildings.

There is no partnership bigger than JBG Smith. The goal is to convert parking and construction landing spaces into approximately 1 million square foot of apartments and retail centered around Gallaudet parcels that front Sixth Street NE, across from Union Market and between Florida Avenue & Penn Street. JBG Smith has a ground-lease on the site. The Bethesda-based developer has filed documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission listing the estimated number for multifamily units as 820 and the retail space at 60,900 sq. feet.

Roberta Cordano was appointed to the role of Gallaudet president in 2016, during the early phases of planning. Since then, the vision of this development has changed. We're creating a neighborhood in which Gallaudet can be a more active member of the community.

Dominic Lacy said that the University's Chief Operating Officer, Dominic Lacy, has not set a date for the groundbreaking. Gallaudet is evaluating the credit markets with JBG Smith. The District has approved the second stage of the planned-unit project. Meanwhile, the development team is working to secure activation permits, so that the partners can begin construction once the costs have stabilized.

Cordano’s real estate strategy is based on the idea that Cordano University should open up to the NoMa area more while maintaining its identity as a community for deaf people and signers.

"Business community members will be able to experience our signing community. Cordano stated that they will be able to experience the benefits of our community as we continue to grow and expand. As the community grows and expands, we must also ensure that there is a safe place where sign language not only exists but can thrive.

Lacy explained that this will involve constructing a path between the JBG Smith Project and Gallaudet’s campus. Cordano's anchor for Gallaudet’s ‘new front porch’ is the future Louise B. Miller Pathways and Gardens, A Legacy to Black Deaf Children. This memorial will highlight the history of the Black mother who won a lawsuit in 1952 with other Black parents of Deaf children to get her son admitted to the Kendall School, which is located on the campus.

Cordano stated that 'people can come through this entryway and see how the Black Deaf Community shaped America's History with Brown v. Board of Education. Beginning with Louise’s story as an educational justice pioneer and her relentless fight for her son, and other Black deaf Children, to access education on our campus'. Cordano said, 'I believe that this is now transforming from a simple development to a tourist destination with a significant impact on tourism, the economy, and development in D.C.

The memorial will be located at the entrance to Sixth Street, just across from Union Market. It will include a rectangular water feature with three rooms as well as gardens. The memorial's construction and design will be led by the Center for Black Deaf Studies at the University of Minnesota, along with the Boston-based MASS Design Group, and Minneapolis-based landscape and urban design firm TEN x TEN.

The university has entered the silent phase of a capital campaign called 'Necessity Of Now', in which it is trying to raise $23million to pay for the memorial. The public phase will begin later this year and construction will start as soon as the fundraising is completed, which Lacy hopes to be by late 2024.

Lacy stated that JBG Smith will require Gallaudet to relocate its transportation fleet storage and maintenance facility. The new building, located at 2266 25th Place NE, is leased by Douglas Development. Lisa Benjamin, of Newmark, represented the university in this deal. Douglas was represented by a JLL team.

Lacy stated that the institution will have three capital priorities on campus in the next 5 to 7 years: updating the library, creating a hub of student experience, which consolidates recruitment, enrollment and the registrar’s office in one place, and replacing older dormitories.

Lacy explained that the university hasn't yet decided whether these projects will be new construction or renovations. It will depend when construction costs stabilise. His team is currently looking at public-private partnerships to accelerate the process.

Lacy stated that they are prioritizing student experience and are planning to invest in their physical spaces. We have worked hard to be strategic and targeted in how we allocate our capital budget.