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Jair on Authenticity

Monday, March 1st, 2010

Jair - 525

“Washington was a very manageable place for me as a young person. After elementary school, I attended Sidwell Friends School and also started gymnastics. That created a very broad world for me because I had my neighborhood, my school, and my sport, all in very different places that didn’t overlap at all.

I wanted to work in the neighborhoods where I thought one could create authentic places, areas like Shaw and U Street.

“Sidwell is urban with strong attempts to create diversity, but a largely upper-middle-class school student base. Gymnastics was in suburban Columbia, Maryland. In Columbia, you saw kids pampered, in a good way, by their environment. And I grew up in a middle-class neighborhood, Shepherd Park, where most kids went to parochial schools. Our neighborhood was full of aspirations, of people wanting to move up the economic ladder. Traveling among these three worlds taught me about the notion of place really early in life. That very much weaved into the desire to be in real estate.

“One of the reasons I came back to D.C. from California in 1998 is that it didn’t really change much in the ten years I was gone. You still had those three worlds, and they really didn’t talk to each other. I was still very lucky to be able to move among those three worlds. The connectivity among these places creates the new buzzword that everyone talks about now — authenticity. I wanted to work in the neighborhoods where I thought one could create authentic places, areas like Shaw and U Street. As a firm, we have been working for the last 12 years to make those places have a soul. We are mindful of the past as we move forward.

“This authenticity reflects a huge shift in urban development. Now, we have a young population much larger than the baby boomers who had been the bulk of our demographic weight and dictating policy for the last 40 years. There are 60 million baby boomers and 150 million Gen X and Gen Y-ers. These young people want urban and authentic. Developers are recognizing that and responding. Some will do it well and some won’t. We think we do it well because we start with the people. When we imagine things, we try and think about what people will need five or ten years out from now.

“We have a very systematic approach to creating space. It involves thirty steps and identifies location, need, customer, and how the space interacts with the neighborhood and its assets. Once we do that, it becomes like an engineering project. You work step by step and go around in circles, over and over, until you come up with a project. It is not much different than trying to come up with the best cupcake or cell phone. You have design, research, finance, and marketing teams, who all work around the clock through forty iterations of something to create a product that will endure. We do the same thing with real estate.”

Jair Lynch is President and CEO of Jair Lynch Development Partners. Jair was a two-time member of the United States Olympic Team. In 1996, as captain of the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team, he won a silver medal on the parallel bars.

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