The flower baskets on King Street may have remained empty this year until Teddy Kim and Andy Reid stepped up.
King Street almost didn’t have flowers hanging from its iconic light posts this year.
As the realities of the coronavirus pandemic pushed City of Alexandria officials to tighten its budget, it appeared that the King Street flowers could be on the chopping block.
The petunias, lantana, dragon wing begonias and blue scaevola adorning King Streets lamps are all thanks to the efforts of T.C. Williams grads and local entrepreneurs Teddy Kim and Andy Reid, with backing from Alexandria Lighting and Avanti Holdings.
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Andy Reid, top, and Teddy Kim, made sure the flowers on the light posts on King Street in Old Town were in place this year when budget cuts threatened the program.
“We thought it was something we should do because it adds a lot to the city and shows the community pride that makes Alexandria so special,” Kim said this week.
It was early April when Kim and Reid found out the flowers were at risk in necessary pandemic budget cuts.
Working with Alexandria’s parks department and city staff, Kim and Reid used schematics from the previous years and worked with wholesalers to find plant materials, including the basket base, soil and flowers. The two made multiple trips to Maryland to bring back materials from places like Garden Artisans in Annapolis and Six Flags.
After purchasing a trailer and watering tank, Kim and Reid worked for about a week straight to fill the 240 flower baskets that run the length of King Street in Old Town — Kim would usually hold the ladder and Reid would go up and do the planting, covering three to five blocks each day.
“We literally brought life back to the street as we installed,” Reid said. As they planted, store owners and residents walking on King Street thanked them.
Growing up in Alexandria, both Kim and Reid said their parents instilled the value of giving back to the community. Reid’s parents were both public school teachers and both loved to garden, and Reid is now setting up a new landscaping company, Reid Outdoors, LLC.
“With that there’s a lot of pride — Titan pride, Alexandria pride — and I think the flowers and taking care of your community is also a show of pride in the community,” Reid said.
All summer, the two have been watering plants between midnight and 3 a.m. multiple times per week. With on-street outdoor dining late into the nights and early deliveries for King Street stores starting around 5 a.m., the midnight to 3 a.m. time slot was the only safe time for them to water the plants, replace flowers that didn’t thrive and do other maintenance.
Kim and Reid are not being paid for this, and neither Alexandria Lighting nor Avanti Holdings Group, where Kim is a principle, are receiving any payments. The project, including materials, labor and overhead, is valued at more than $60,000.
Reid chose hardy flowers that were disease resistant, drought resistant and native — all chosen for longevity. The flowers are expected to last through at least October.
“As we start to have frost or cold air at night, the things that don’t do well, we’ll start taking them out,” Kim said.
At a time when many residents and business owners were feeling some despondency about the pandemic, “we wanted to show hope, we wanted to show strength, we wanted to show pride,” Kim said.
Novo Properties has received unanimous approval from the Alexandria City Council and Alexandria Planning Commission to develop a new apartment project along Route 1 in Old Town.
The multifamily investor, developer and manager out of Washington, D.C. said it plans to break ground early next year on The Grayson, a 119-unit apartment complex with street-level retail. The development is named after Sarah Gray, an African American educator in Alexandria during the late 1800s and an inductee into the Library of Virginia’s Virginia Women in History program.
Novo paid $9.25 million last July to acquire a stake in the 1970s-vintage retail complex at 1200 N. Henry St. from Avanti Holdings Group, with the venture teaming up to co-develop the new project. Located just north of the Braddock Road Metro station, the development has been drawn up to incorporate reprogrammed ground floor retail space as well as a daycare that has been redesigned to improve its layout and accessibility. Novo is exploring retail brokerage firms at this time.
“There’s a huge unmet demand for daycare in this submarket and even more now as spacing needs are changing due to COVID-19,” Novo Partner Neil Goradia said in a statement. Novo said the design changes made to the daycare and retail spaces allowed it to capture additional residential density after initially proposing a development with 115 units.
Amazon’s new home in Crystal City is expected to be a huge boon for neighboring Alexandria, where historic Old Town and the transforming Potomac Y
ard area offer potential Amazon employees the best of both worlds: a small town, suburban escape, and a fast-paced, Metro-accessible urban community, according CoStar’s latest report on the submarket. Coupled with the arrival of Virginia Tech’s $1 billion Innovation Campus in Potomac Yard, Novo said it will look to capture demand from the more cost-conscious, suburban-type renters expected to arrive with the rollout of the two campuses.
“The impact from the entry of these large employers is creating a demand for tiered apartment pricing,” Goradia said. “Not every apartment dweller will want to pay up to live in National Landing or Potomac Yards and can live a few Metro stops away for a more affordable rent and we want to capture that demand.”
Construction on the project is expected to be completed in 2022.
The new building will be between 40 and 50 feet tall with 94 units and ground-floor retail. (Courtesy photo)
Alexandria City Council voted to amend the Braddock Road Metro Station Neighborhood Plan and rezone to allow for the construction of a five-story, mixed-use building at its July 7 public hearing.
The site is on the corner of North Henry and Wythe streets, and the building will consist of 94 residential units, including seven affordable housing units. It will also include underground parking and ground-floor retail. Currently, the space is a surface parking lot and a warehouse for Alexandria Lighting Supply. Both planning commission and city staff recommended approval of the project.
The project’s applicant is Avanti Holdings Group, a local developer led by native Alexandrian Teddy Kim. The group owns several commercial properties in Alexandria’s Parker-Gray district and has been involved in several redevelopment projects designed to reinvigorate the area.
At the hearing, several speakers, including six neighbors, signed up for the public testimony period to express their concerns about the project.
Isabelle Zorro, who has lived next to the site since 1994, expressed concern about the noise and the height of the building.
Ronald Carter, another neighbor, said surrounding property owners were not adequately informed about the project. He also expressed concern about building a five-story building in a historic neighborhood.
“I am shocked, disappointed and concerned that no consideration was made to the aesthetics of our historic neighborhood,” Carter said.
The attorney for the applicant, Cathy Puskar, assured city council that her client notified the neighbors within the the required time and has been working with neighborhood groups. She also said that Kim is committed to keeping the community’s interests at heart.
Neighbor Jariel Rendell was supportive of the project but said the building did not include enough affordable housing.
“This is not an appropriate, sufficient affordable housing allocation given the times that we are in with the unprecedented unemployment,” Rendell said.
Councilor Mo Seifeldein agreed that affordable housing is a concern of his but ended up voting to amend the plan and allow the building.
Other concerns posed by the neighbors included traffic, privacy and construction vibrations damaging the foundations of historic houses.
Puskar answered the concerns by stating that the building is consistent with the Braddock Road Metro Station Neighborhood Plan and the building is in compliance with the city’s requirements for affordable housing.
“While I appreciate the neighbors saying they are not opposed to the development, requests to change the height and density of this building would render the project unviable,” Puskar said.
Additionally, Avanti Holdings plans to donate money to the Housing Trust Fund, the Braddock Community Amenities Fund, the Braddock Open Space Fund and the City’s Capital Bike Share Fund to address concerns about community benefit. Puskar also said that adjacent property owners can receive a pre-construction assessment of their home in case there is damage to the home cased by the vibrations from construction.
After a lively discussion, city council voted unanimously to approve the measure.
“I really appreciate the input that was provided. I think it informed the final product and we really appreciate the thoughtful engagement that happened on this,” Mayor Justin Wilson said.
A big change is coming to a triangular piece of land in Alexandria that hasn’t changed much at all in more than 70 years.
The 0.8-acre site at 1200 N. Henry St., less than a half mile north of the Braddock Road Metro station, was built up with one- and two-story industrial buildings in 1945, according to an Alexandria staff report. The proposal slated for review by the city’s Planning Commission on Tuesday would replace those uses with a 115-unit multifamily building — including 11 affordable units — a 10,000-square-foot day care center, ground-floor retail and 137 underground parking spaces.
The applicant, 1200 N. Henry Street LLC, is an entity of Avanti Holdings Group. Alexandria-based Avanti, led by principals Teddy Kim (he of The People’s Drug and Chop Shop Taco), Keinan Ashkenaziand Greg Salvaggio, has largely tackled smaller warehouse-to-office conversions and retail projects to this point. This will be its largest endeavor to date.
Designed by Davis Carter Scott Ltd., the seven-story building has a triangular footprint and rises to a maximum height of 85 feet along the western edge, where it is closest to the Braddock Gateway campus and a planned extension of North Fayette Street. A 20-foot high retail podium would front Route 1.
The site, where North Henry and North Patrick streets begin, is just south of the Route 1 bridge carrying traffic toward Potomac Yard. It is really the first thing drivers see as they come south toward Old Town. City planners, who recommend approval, say the proposed development offers “high-quality architectural design with a signature gateway element” at its northern entrance, a publicly accessible plaza, underground utilities and a $20,000 contribution to Alexandria’s Capital Bike Share Fund.
Cathy Puskar with Walsh Colucci Lubeley & Walsh PC is the LLC’s land use attorney.
Teddy Kim saw early potential in the Parker-Gray neighborhood. The Alexandria native had graduated from Virginia Tech University with a degree in urban planning when in 2004 he initiated the process to buy a house in the neighborhood that was for sale by owner.
Kim, who was working in government contracting at the time and making about $30,000 a year, quickly ran into problems with securing financing. After his initial lender fell through, he turned to local mortgage broker Clay Greenway.
The process of buying the house, in the end, took months, but it piqued a lasting interest for Kim in real estate.
“I was able to fix the house up, pull out some equity and buy some new houses. That was the start of everything,” Kim said. “Within 12 months, I was onto my first commercial building.”
Kim set his sights on the former Electro Steam Generator Corp. building at 1000 Bernard St. He transformed it into office space and, in the process, found a passion for redeveloping commercial buildings.
“With the residential stuff, it wasn’t so much a passion then because I wasn’t really transforming anything,” Kim said. “The reason I started with residential was because of the low barrier to entry. You can get a lot more financing on a residential asset than a commercial asset. When I went to buy the warehouse, I designed it [and] I built it.”
Kim used some of the building’s existing features in the renovation and pulled design inspiration from his own background, including his grandfather’s Naval history. For example, on the building’s exterior he used metal in a gray reminiscent of Navy Destroyers and nautical elements like cable and natural wood for finishing touches.
Nearly 15 years after buying his first property, Kim’s company, Avanti Holdings, owns
several commercial properties in Alexandria, including multi-use space Madison Collective, which signed tenants tattoo studio Marlowe Ink and the soon-to-open Chop Shop Taco, Zweet Sport and Grateful Kitchen Co., at 727 N. Henry St.
Kim is also involved with a number of restaurant projects. Along with Chad Sparrow, Justin Sparrow and Larry Walston, Kim was part of the founding team at Mason Social, which opened in 2015. He’s since left that restaurant, but recently worked with another team to open quick service restaurant and bar The People’s Drug in the former Bittersweet Catering location.
His strategy is infill development, or developing vacant properties within already highly developed areas. He’s had extra incentive to redevelop Alexandria, where he has a vested interest. Kim was born and raised in the city, and opted to return after college to build a career. It’s where he plans to continue to invest.
“As you see D.C. really coming into this high value, a lot of people are moving into the city from other states and cities and into this area as a whole,” Kim said. “Alexandria is one of the best cities in the country.”
Kim was raised in Alexandria during a time when the city wasn’t necessarily a hot real estate market.
He grew up with his grandparents near Fort Ward Park in the 1980s and has memories of playing with neighborhood friends until the sun set.
Meanwhile, the area hadn’t hit its stride just yet.
“In the 80s, D.C. was still the murder capital of the world,” Kim said. “There wasn’t a lot going on. It was kind of the wild, wild west in Old Town and in Alexandria, in general.”
He attended several local schools, starting with what’s now the Basilica School of St. Mary’s and then moving to Alexandria City Public Schools, including Douglas MacArthur Elementary School, George Washington Middle School, Minnie Howard and, finally, T.C. Williams, from which he graduated.
As a student at T.C., Kim studied computer science and even worked at Electro Steam Generator Corp., the building he would go on to buy, for a time. Kim initially wanted to be an architect, but an advisor at T.C. convinced him to pursue computer science instead.
He headed to Virginia Tech with the intention of studying that, but didn’t engage with the classes or material. He made the switch to urban planning, which he said married his creative and analytical side.
After graduating from Virginia Tech, Kim moved back to his hometown during a time when the region was doing well economically.
“I started to see D.C. picking up. … A lot of the principles I was learning [while studying urban planning] dealt with things like revitalizing the waterfront. I could see stuff like that happening, so it was really exciting. I decided to stay here,” Kim said.
He learned about real estate by researching on the internet and turning to Greenway for mentoring and advice. Since helping him buy his house on Pendleton Street, Greenway has watched Kim grow.
“He was a young kid who had never purchased anything. He didn’t really understand the whole process of it. Back then … you met face-to-face when you did an application. We hit it off. He was really genuine and really eager to know everything on how mortgages
worked, what the process was,” Greenway said.
All these years later, Greenway said he isn’t surprised that Kim has successfully built a real estate portfolio of his own.
“There’s so many people I talk to that never get [it] or they get it, but they never act on it,” Greenway said. “That’s one of the things I like about Teddy – he’s so driven and he goes for it, which is what it takes.”
Many of Kim’s biggest real estate opportunities have come together as a result of long-running relationships and a lot of persistence.
Mason Social came about in that way, over frequent conversations with the owner of 728 N. Henry St. Kim had seen the building – which had long hosted frequent T.C. haunt Esmeralda – become vacant, and saw potential for a neighborhood spot. Once he got in contact with the building’s colorful proprietor, he would visit him at 700 S. Patrick St. frequently – sometimes twice a week – and talk to him about his life, never hesitating to ask about the building at the end of the conversation.
“I ended up hearing about his life over a two-year period and going to this gas
station on a regular basis of about twice a week,” Kim said. “We became friends. I would always ask him about the restaurant and he would always say ‘Come back when you have time.’”
While conversations with the owner remained ongoing, he reconnected with an old school friend, Chad Sparrow, who had also seen potential in the building. They decided to pursue it together, bringing on Sparrow’s brother, Justin, and Larry Walston. Once they opened in
2015, the accolades followed.
“The feedback from the community was great. We had people coming in saying that they moved into the Belle Pre because of Mason Social,” Kim said. “They had come from other markets like Clarendon and they were coming to a place where they appreciated something cozy, something where it’s your neighborhood spot.”
Kim exited that partnership when he decided to focus on quick service restaurant models, a category into which the recently opened People’s Drug fits. That project was also done with old friends, Seth McClelland and Ian McGrath.
“We remembered the joys of eating at the counter at [local pharmacy] The People’s Drug and places like G.C. Murphy’s at Bradlee,” Kim said. “As a kid, I remember biking there with the cards in your spokes at about 6 or 7 [p.m.] and it would be a group of five of us from the neighborhood, sitting at the counter and buying these fake candy cigarettes and a grilled cheese sandwich.”
Kim, McClelland and McGrath brought those memories and the Americana trend to The People’s Drug, which features American-inspired sandwiches and cocktails. Kim said the space, which is less than 1,000 square feet, perfectly houses the concept. Chop Shop Taco, which will open as part of Madison Collective on Henry Street, will fit into the same model as The People’s Drug.
It’s being opened in collaboration with Kim’s college friend, Kris Garcia, and chef Ed McIntosh. The restaurant’s name pays homage to one of the building’s former occupants, a “chop shop” for stolen cars.
That speaks to Kim’s strategy, which involves preserving and often enhancing a building’s historic features, while transforming it into something new.
“We’re not going to hide much of the original structure – we’re going to honor it,” Kim said.
James Marlowe, owner of Marlowe Ink at Madison Collective, said that’s something he liked
about working with Kim.
“He’s a local and is very interested in the history all over Alexandria. That was really appealing to me, but, at the same time, he wants to move forward and bring a little bit of new life, without changing everything. It’s not like he wants to tear everything down, obviously,” Marlowe said. “This is a classic building – it’s keeping that element.”
Kim isn’t someone who holds on to a building just to hold on to it – he’s always thinking about profiting from the value he provides.
“I’m always thinking about the value position I’m sitting at. In some instances, the value is capital. I’m trying to get to that place, but I’m not there yet. My value is the sweat poured into the transformation,” Kim said.
“Typically, what I like to do, until I get to where capital is my value, is getting an asset that needs some type of re-working, whether it’s tenants, construction, rezoning. I put my value into it that way and then move on to the next project. Once I get the asset where it is something that I think is the peak for the time, I decide to move on and exit to the next project.”
Kim’s company, Avanti Holdings, is balancing multiple commercial projects, including the building the company is housed in at 1605 King St.
Avanti Holdings’ logo at the investment group’s headquarters at 1605 King St., a building the company owns (Photo Credit: Mae Hunt)
The company, founded by Kim, Keinan Ashkenazi and Greg Salvaggio, started with a $2 million warehouse on Calvert Avenue that the three decided to go in on together.
They decided to make their partnership official and incorporate the company, named after the main chairlift in Aspen and after the Italian word meaning “to move forward.” Ashkenazi called Kim the brains behind the real estate.
“He has the uncanny ability to kind of weed through a lot of the details and nonsense and other things on a real estate deal that’s presented to us and very quickly analyze whether it’s a good deal or not,” he said. “… He does it with people that have been in the industry 20 years longer than him and he’s a lot sharper than 99 percent of them.”
At the moment, the company’s investments are focused within the city limits. Ashkenazi said that’s by design.
“Most of what we try to do is really improve the fabric of the city in areas that maybe just are kind of stale and old. We try to bring some vibrancy and interesting tenants,” Ashkenazi said. “We won’t just let anyone be a tenant. We try to get better, more interesting, more vibrant [tenants]. Rather than just another nail salon, we try to get something that’s a little more interesting for the growth of Alexandria.”
Kim is motivated to focus on local investments both because he knows the city well and because he keeps seeing the potential that prompted him to return after college.
“Being born and raised here is really helpful. And living within five blocks of the majority of our projects is very helpful. Hearing and knowing what the community needs is helpful,” Kim said. “Right now, as we continue to grow, we still see a lot of opportunity here in Alexandria.”
Kim said the city is poised, more now than ever, to grow.
“The fact that Old Town, as a generalization, has been slow to adopt is because these industrial areas weren’t developed until now,” Kim said. “I understand not wanting to change much of King Street when you have a building from the 1700s, but, in those areas where you have a warehouse from 1960, that’s a great opportunity to do something.”
Block by block, the Parker Grey neighborhood continues to receive new residents. The latest result of recent growth within the thriving community: The Madison Collective, a development playing host to several businesses within one block. The development, created by Avanti Holdings, is slated to open this summer at 1008 Madison St., adjacent to the corner of North Henry Street. And its offerings will be as diverse as the neighborhood it calls home: A taco shop, a juice bar, a fitness gym and a tattoo parlor will all be opening within the coming months. “What we’ve been trying to do for a long time is to keep Alexandria current, to keep it in line with other options in the DC area,” said Madison Collective principal owner Teddy Kim. “… Alexandria is quickly becoming more known as something that’s a little different than the other pockets (such as Georgetown or the D.C. Wharf).” Kim, a resident of Parker Grey, is not new to the area’s business scene: He and his business partners are the founders of nearby Mason Social. And between Mason Social, Lost Dog Café, the Solidcore gym and Sugar Shack, the new Madison Collective won’t be alone in its quest to draw neighbors in — but its offerings are different from what’s currently available, as well. Chop Shop Taco, its name an homage to the automotive chop shop that sat on the development’s land for so long, will offer tacos, tortas and other Latin-American-inspired food for lunch and dinner. Zweet Sport will help diners work off their meals with a cycling studio and fitness space. Grateful Kitchen will offer an array of juice and coffee via a walk-up window, and James Marlowe of Marlowe Ink is bringing his tattoo artistry to Parker Grey in a new studio. “It’s an interesting mix,” said Judy Noritake, president of the nearby Braddock Metro Citizens’ Coalition. “I think that Avanti and Teddy Kim … has a real understanding of who lives in the neighborhood and where the neighborhood should be going from a retail standpoint.” Madison Collective’s storefronts will open this summer, some perhaps ahead of others. And Kim says he’s looking forward to the impact the development will make within the neighborhood and the city. “I’m most excited about (Madison Collective’s) diversity,” Kim said. “I think that’s representative of the diversity of Alexandria.”
New Restaurant Harkens Back to Historic Alexandria Retail Chain
ALEXANDRIA, VA [MAY 11, 2018] – The People’s Drug opens today in Alexandria (103 N. Alfred St.) with a menu of craft cocktails and casual bites. This new neighborhood gathering place is the brainchild of Alexandria natives and T.C. Williams graduates: Teddy Kim of Avanti Holdings, Seth McClelland, and Ian McGrath all of whom have extensive real estate and restaurant experience.
The restaurant is named and modeled after Peoples Drug Stores, originally a chain of drugstores founded in Alexandria, Va in 1905 which grew to multiple locations all over the DMV. Throughout much of the twentieth century, Peoples Drug Stores were an integral part of daily American life, especially in the district. In the 1920s, the stores added soda machines and lunch counters, making them community meeting spots as much as health and convenience stores. (For more information on the history of Peoples Drug Stores, and some illuminating photos, check out this Streets of Washingtonwrite up).
Divided into shareable snacks, bowls, sandwiches and sides, The People’s Drug menu offers classic cocktails and approachable, seasonal dishes that appeal to everyone. There are vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options.
Native Alexandrian, Chef Melvin Urrutia is excited to work and cook in his hometown having recently worked as Chef de Cuisine at Ashok Bajaj’s Oval Room and prior to that, Nick Stefanelli at Bibiana.
Behind the bar and the cocktail menu is Jon Schott, a longtime DC bartender, best known for guiding Robert Weidmaier’s Mussel Bar from a beer-centric beverage program to a more well-rounded one with classic and seasonal cocktail menus. At The People’s Drug, Schott will be focused on producing fresh juice, house syrups, and quality craft cocktails.
Reminiscent of its namesake, The People’s Drug is decorated with antique bulbs and bright signage. Steps from King St., in the space formerly occupied by Bittersweet Catering, the new restaurant is finished with antique subway tiles, mirrored surfaces, and an aged tin ceiling with the original windows updated but left intact. A long, white marble bar takes up one entire wall, drink rails provide additional standing room while tables along the windows, inside and on the outdoor patio, provide more seating options.
The People’s Drug will be open Daily, 11 am to midnight.
Founded by Teddy Kim, Avanti Holdings Group strives to enhance communities through strategic and thoughtful development, with a guiding principle of improving the urban fabric that connects us all. In addition to The People’s Drug, Avanti is responsible for the multi-unit retail and restaurant space Madison Collective.