They Make DC: Popularise

1351 H Street NE
Courtesy of Popularise

If you haven’t heard, there’s a revolution under way and you my e-friends, can all be a part of it. It’s called Popularise, and it will change the way we interact with our community.

Popularise is a bottom-up approach to real estate that is challenging the norm and breaking barriers, creating an authentic conversation about how a neighborhood is built and who is given an opportunity to participate in the discussion. By going online, users can submit ideas for what is built in a space–a real-life Sim City of sorts (go on 90’s babies, you know you love it already). Simply said, you decide what goes into your community. Yet this has never been done in this way, until now.

The responsible trailblazers are brothers Ben and Daniel Miller and associates Brandon Jenkins and Kenny Shin of WestMill Capital. But these DC natives are not your usual old school real estate developers. For starters, they wear high tops, listen to Daft Punk, ride their bikes to work and are as good at cooking as they are at eating. But don’t take their young swag as a sign of inexperience. Though they sleep little, they dream big.
Popularise site
Courtesy of Popularise

“We know it may seem a little crazy, but really it’s the current model that doesn’t make any sense. You have big money, Wall Street types with no vested interest in the community making short-term decisions without thinking about long-term consequences,” said Jenkins. “Who wants to live in a neighborhood full of corporate chains with banks and drugstores on every corner? We believe Popularise will become the norm, because ultimately, the neighborhood is your customer, why wouldn’t you be asking them what they want?”

The Popularise boys have seen the city transform and now want to become part of its continued growth. They have chosen DC as the model for this crowd-sourcing approach to real estate, but hope the concept will someday expand to other cities. Their first location is a vacant building at 1351 H Street NE, right next to the Rock & Roll Hotel. Whether it becomes a high-quality retail store like DURKL, or a pizza joint and cocktail den, they are allowing those who will most benefit of the development- the local residents- to go online and be heard.

While this creative thinking is commendable, the Popularise team is well aware of the risk involved in turning a system literally on its head. Not knowing what concept will ‘win’ or how the community will react to the end result is of course a daunting reality, but they are creating a platform for debate where none existed before. “Ultimately, our goal is to use the community feedback as a tool to help us build the best project possible for the neighborhood…We don’t view the process as a win or lose situation” says Jenkins. “We would love to take several of the ideas that have been suggested and do three great projects on the street.  A neighborhood is a constantly evolving place and we want Popularise to become a platform for a community to help shape that growth.”

So the question is this: If you had the power to build a new place in your neighborhood, what would you build?

Let the popular rise up. Submit your ideas, I know I have.

While it was Georgetown that brought me here, it was the city that kept me here. I was born in Colombia but spent my teenage years in London, yet have never felt more at home than in the District. I believe the best way to get to know a place is through its cuisine, and plan my life around sharing good food with good people. Lover of lattes, bacon and bourbon. This is Why I Love DC .Follow me on Twitter or Email natalia(at)

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