Q&A: Jonathan Egerton Shares Leasing Strategy For DC’s The Kelvin
It’s no secret that COVID-19 took a toll on the residential rental market, especially in Washington, D.C, where multifamily landlords struggled to sign new leases as wary renters weren’t sure what was to come.
That should have been the case at the 312-unit The Kelvin, which opened its doors in June of 2020, right after the pandemic hit.
Located at 1250 Half Street SE in the District’s Navy Yard, the heart of D.C.’s sports district, The Kelvin found itself with a seemingly impossible task of delivery and leasing in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, amid the first lockdowns, the urban exodus, and the uncertainty of what would come next.
And yet today, it’s just a handful of units away from being fully leased.
Jonathan Egerton, general manager for The Kelvin, spoke to Commercial Observer about this milestone despite the circumstances and the strategy for building a strong, thriving community in the process.
Commercial Observer: What is the appeal of The Kelvin?
Jonathan Egerton: The appeal of The Kelvin is multi-faceted: Our units are modern, luxurious and tucked away between curated amenities that have quickly turned into gathering spaces for our [community]. Below our 312 units is 60,000 square feet of retail space that is home to retailers like Kilwins and Tap99 and soon, Silver Diner and Swingers Navy Yard. Just across the street is Nationals Park, which combined with the convivial spirit of Half Street, has created a further sense of comradery for our residents within the Navy Yard Community. All of this, plus the thoughtful and engaging events that have brought our residents together despite the pandemic, has enabled our team and the building to thrive.
What was your initial leasing strategy for the building?
Our team implemented a number of strategies, many of which played into our proximity to Nationals Park, by offering free tickets for residents and highlighting our rooftop with direct views into the stadium. But, as we began leasing in the early days of the pandemic, much of our initial strategy was about striking a balance between unit pricing and concessions, and showcasing the potential of Half Street with the National’s 2019 World Series win and new retailers coming to the neighborhood.
What challenges did the pandemic create?
Many of the challenges leasing offices faced over the last year centered around renters and their desire to continue living in cities within close proximity to one another. We also were faced with the transition from largely in-person leasing activities to online and virtual communications with residents. Because of this, our team was laser focused on maintaining consistent and meaningful communication with prospective and existing residents to make the leasing process as smooth as possible. We worked hard to maintain the same communications efforts as COVID-19 restrictions were lifted in order to ensure the safety of our residents as they accessed our on-site amenity spaces like our state-of-the-art fitness center.
How were you able to maneuver around those challenges to promote leasing activity?
Our team worked to identify what was most meaningful to potential residents, especially in relation to COVID-19, and developed a strategy that would not only mitigate those concerns but also create a strong sense of community and pride among residents. Not being able to meet potential residents in-person for the first few months of leasing meant we needed to quickly pivot to offer virtual tours that felt as comprehensive as an in-person walk through. We also created regular, enticing concession packages that allowed residents to confidently make the decision to live at The Kelvin.
What sort of initiatives did you implement to get that done?
Our team utilized tools like Rentgrata to connect potential and current residents, which gave both the opportunity to get a real sense of what life at The Kelvin is like and established personal relationships between residents before many even moved into the building. For our virtual tours, we relied on Realync to provide a custom, high-quality experience for potential residents that was comparable to in-person tours. In terms of amenities, we encouraged residents to remain patient while our team created the processes to ensure residents could safely access on-site spaces and created countless opportunities for residents to experience the comradery of Navy Yard through virtual and socially distanced resident programming like a Yappy Hour for our furry residents and Pride-themed karaoke and now, through free tickets to Nationals games and in-person events like our recent comedy night.
How much space remains and what is being done to get the property to 100 percent?
We are currently more than 97 percent leased. Our team is focused on fully leasing the building by the end of the summer and we are offering a free month of rent on select homes.