Large DC Housing Portfolio Hits the Market


Newmark Knight Frank is handling the marketing of the Washington Intern Student Housing (WISH) portfolio, a collection of apartment buildings, townhomes and rowhouses throughout Washington, D.C.

The WISH Foundation began as a way to provide safe, affordable housing for students. 

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“In the late 1990,s, my husband and I realized that there were all these students coming to D.C. who didn’t have money for food or the Metro, so we started acquiring properties offering affordable housing where they’d pay no more than what they were charged back in their hometowns,” said Jackie Lewis, who founded the WISH Foundation with her late husband Robert. “We bought prime properties because we had safety concerns for the students and found we didn’t need to charge a lot in rent as we were able to leverage the appreciation of the properties as a way to subsidize their rents.” 

NKF began marketing the properties on Aug. 27, with offers due by the end of September.

“As colleges and universities were forced to cut their intern programs short this spring, the owners of WISH thought this could be an opportune time to take advantage of the hot investment market in Washington since there is always interest in high-quality housing in these locations,” Christine Espenshade, an NKF vice chairman, told Commercial Observer. 

The WISH portfolio consists of 17 buildings across 122 units, and is a mix of traditional multifamily buildings and single-unit properties that were collected over the last 30 years. Future opportunities for the properties could be luxury multifamily, condominium conversions or co-living. 

The majority of properties are located in the Capitol Hill and Chinatown neighborhoods, but also includes 2807 Connecticut Avenue, a five-story, 38-unit building in Woodley Park. All are Metro accessible and proximate to all of Washington’s notable landmarks.

“Being able to acquire so many units in these historic locations is unprecedented,” Espenshade said. “Investors typically spend years acquiring this many assets and this is an opportunity to build a scalable portfolio at one time.” 

According to Espenshade, the properties, which also include The Congressional at 215 Constitution Avenue NE about a block from the U.S. Capitol, could command approximately $100 million

“This portfolio appeals to investors in all types of housing—luxury multifamily operators, condo converters, intern hosts or student housing operators,” she said. “Given the favorable interest rate environment and demand for housing in close-in locations, we are seeing interest from all of these investor groups.”

Lisa Benjamin, an NKF senior managing director, joins Espenshade in representing ownership in the offering. 

Proceeds from the sale of the portfolio will go back into the foundation, where WISH will continue giving to students in need via university scholarships and donations.