Most people know JBG Smith as the biggest developer in Washington. Its luxe mixed-use buildings have changed the landscape of places such as Shaw and soon will be doing the same for Crystal City (or as the company would prefer you call it, National Landing). In the latter locale, JBG Smith will be landlord to Amazon while transforming the surrounding neighborhood into a playground of restaurants, shops, and apartments for its employees. But last year, just as all the HQ2 speculation was hitting its peak, the developer was rolling out another important project that hasn’t gotten as much attention. Its Washington Housing Initiative, in partnership with the Federal City Council, is one of the only programs of its kind in the US—in which a for-profit developer has committed to offering at least 2,000 units of affordable workforce housing by raising funds from private investors.
In May, JBG Smith announced it had raised $78 million, most of it from large banks, to get started. So on an oppressively humid afternoon—in a blissfully frigid conference room at its Friendship Heights offices—I sat down with CEO Matt Kelly and executive vice president of social-impact investing AJ Jackson (who runs the initiative) to talk about how they’ll pull this off. Also on the agenda: what Amazon’s arrival will mean and why West Coast NIMBYs are worse than the ones here.