The new LINE Hotel D.C. has been the talk of D.C., so we were itching to get the backstory on the development from Matt Wexler, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Foxhall Partners. Foxhall Partners is a D.C. based design-driven commercial real estate firm, specializes in hospitality, retail, lifestyle multifamily and mixed-use development. The firm is a major investor and brains behind the vision of the new LINE Hotel in D.C., which they partnered with Sydell Group on. In addition to the LINE, Matt Wexler holds experience in a range of real estate assets and brings a strong sense of neighborhood into each project.
Matt will be speaking at our INDIE Confab: Washington D.C. this April to share the nitty-gritty details of Foxhall's projects and the changing landscape of D.C.'s hospitality scene. For now, we touched base with Matt to talk about his history in Adams Morgan, his start in commercial real estate and, of course, the new LINE Hotel D.C.
First off, how did you get started in CRE and how did the formation of Foxhall Partners come about?
Just out of college 18+ years ago, I got started in commercial real estate when JBG hired me to be an analyst. I truly knew nothing about the business (or business, for that matter) when JBG took a chance on me and I owe everything in my career to the JBG partners and colleagues -- my time at JBG was an invaluable and incomparable education in Washington, D.C. development.
In early 2000, my partners and I organized Foxhall. We saw a void in the District between the larger developers and small private investors, and also an opportunity in the urban hospitality, retail and what we call lifestyle mixed-use space here. While we couldn't have predicted that Foxhall would become so focused on "boutique" hotels, we have always gravitated to the renovation and creative repositioning of older buildings into more contemporary, dynamic ones and hospitality is a natural outlet for those projects.
Foxhall Partners’ hotel properties includes both Kimpton branded properties as well as projects like the LINE Hotel. As an owner or developer, what would you say are the challenges and benefits to a large branded project in comparison to more indie properties?
There are challenges -- and hopefully associated benefits -- in everything we do and choosing a brand / partner / management company and/or food & beverage operator are the most difficult decisions for a hotel developer or owner. Being affiliated with a brand has its perks, especially in a crowded competitive environment, but also its challenges, especially with regards to differentiation. That said, we believe our properties can and do stand out with the right collaborations and marketing in the context of a larger branded approach. With respect to the Line, Sydell completely embraced our vision for the hotel and how to repurpose a 100-year old church and create a community gathering spot. Our partner's execution there has been just outstanding and while that direction was perhaps a little more risky, Sydell's track record in New York, in particular, spoke to us and made the decision to trust in their judgment a sound one.
You have both multifamily and hospitality projects in the Adams Morgan neighborhood. Obviously, it’s one of the more hip and established neighborhoods in D.C. How have you seen the neighborhood change in terms of development over the years?
We do have quite a bit going on in Adams Morgan, a neighborhood we love deeply. When we met in 2007, my partner Brian Friedman and I were both living there so we have a shared connection, some historical memory and appreciation for both doing business in and being a resident of Adams Morgan.
Increasingly, the neighborhood has really gotten behind thoughtful development, especially of the type that residents will utilize as front step-style amenities, triggering the diversification of the commercial and retail mix. 18th Street continues to add restaurants and unique retailers that appeal to neighborhood residents but there remain pockets of redevelopment opportunities of properties where long-time owner operators still stand. Also, Columbia Road and Calvert Street have attracted more dense mixed-use development, given its larger site footprints, and the neighborhood will benefit from new residents and shops; just in the past few years, those new projects have brought Tail Up Goat, a Michelin-starred restaurant, Philz Coffee, [solidcore] and Ace Hardware, in addition to all of the one-of-a-kind spaces at the Line Hotel.
These are the type of places that Adams Morgan wants and the community has embraced them. I firmly believe the hotel will continue to be a catalyst for development in the neighborhood and serve as a long-needed anchor of sorts for a thriving Adams Morgan, both during the day and at night.
Of course, we have to talk about the new LINE Hotel. Can you tell us a bit about the vision behind the project?
The vision was my partner Brian's dating back almost 12 years ago! Before the idea of co-working even existed, Brian thought the church would become a neighborhood destination and a place where people -- from Adams Morgan residents to out-of-town guests -- would hang out. That was the idea behind the re-imagination of the church building; Sydell completely got it and knocked it out of the park.
There have been a lot of local creative hands involved in the LINE Hotel. How have those creative collaborations and projects contributed to its success?
The success truly is everyone's -- the adage "it takes a village" is particularly accurate here. There are too many to name and describe the specific impacts, but each is unique, and the people behind them team players. There is a shared culture and mind-set at the hotel, even with so many diverse players -- just like the ethos and vibe of Adams Morgan itself.
What’s the most difficult aspect about developing in D.C. and do you have an example?
Generating neighborhood consensus around new ideas and concepts that will create change in unexpected and, to some, scary ways. Almost every project that we have been involved in could serve as an example, though the entitlement process that resulted in the Line Hotel is probably was maybe the most difficult and challenging work I've done professionally, which makes experiencing the hotel itself that much more rewarding. Will share more details with those of you at the confab...
Since the focus of our INDIE Confab is centered around (and held in) D.C., let’s get some of your city must-sees.
- Favorite place to eat? Too many to only choose one: The Riggsby, Sakuramen, Sushi Ko, anywhere at The Line Hotel
- Favorite neighborhood? Adams Morgan, of course
- Favorite local shop? Union Market
- Favorite music venue? 18th Street Lounge. R.I.P Chief Ike's
- Favorite museum? Where ever my daughter wants to go.
If there was one word you could use to describe D.C.'s hospitality scene, what would it be?