Rents Too High?

Part 2: The Landlords’ Perspective

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Landlords often speak publicly, mostly about properties they’re promoting or in favor of a proposed development. Ask them to give details or name names, however, and most choose to talk off the record. They don’t want you to see the sausage — their particular sausage, at least — while it’s still being made.

“You’ve got to get a balance and have the right mix to attract different people from all kinds of demographics to keep Georgetown healthy,” one property owner said. “I don’t want to duplicate myself up and down the street. Of course, you are looking for quality people.”

Georgetown has always been a merchant town; consider the history of the waterfront and the C&O Canal. “People have lived here because of the merchants,” another building owner said. “It’s different now, but the town still attracts residents because of the amenities, aside from where the schools are. Residents and retail are separate but connected. It depends on your perspective.”

Reacting to a residential real estate agent’s complaint about the number of empty storefronts, one landlord said the city has been overeager with its yellow Vacant Property stickers, slapping them on occupied space in some cases. “The city is raising taxes on vacant property. I know there are not as many vacancies as yellow stickers.”

“Most people don’t understand how long it takes to work through a lease deal, and approvals take time,” another landlord commented. “Some buildings that look empty are under lease already.”

But are rents too high? Most offered muted, qualified reactions. Some said they work with longtime tenants to make the relationships last.

Maybe it’s about more than rent. Landlords have been known to talk to other property owners when they think a new tenant is not the right fit — whether it was EastBanc’s Anthony Lanier complaining when Chipotle arrived next to his Coach store or a certain landlord recently asking the Weaver brothers about their signed lease with Wawa.

Part 1: Rent too High?

Part 3: July 26.

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