While renovating a four-level condo in Park View, Washington, D.C.-based developer Eric Hirshfield came across a small issue that soon became the listing's biggest selling point: a marijuana grow closet. Homebuyers shouldn't be too surprised if they see other developers jumping on the bandwagon. According to Hirshfield, two Washington, D.C.-based developers reached out to him with interest in doing the same, but he was reluctant to give the names of them. While it may be legal to possess, gift, and grow marijuana in Washington, D.C., Hirshfield said, "It's a little murky and grey at the federal level."
Because of this, Hirshfield is unable to describe his amenity as a marijuana grow closet or even to stage it with marijuana or similar looking plants when showcasing the listing to homebuyers. Hirshfield told Curbed DC, "With any conversations I have with my buyers, I call it a grow closet for herbs, but there's always a wink wink, and they understand." Below, see what Hirshfield had to say to some of Curbed's questions like how on earth he got the idea (let alone the balls) to build a grow closet in his listing.
Where did you come up with the idea for a marijuana grow closet as an amenity?
I had this bonus closet. It didn't belong to any bedroom, and it also had a lot of chases and bulkheads running through it like plumbing, and ductwork, and electrical. Everything was kind of running through that closet. So, even though it was a bonus closet, it wasn't really a great closet to use for hanging clothes. It could have been used more to put boxes in. So, I kind of was looking at it, and I don't know how. Just something came to me. I had all the plumbing, electric, drainage, water, and air conditioning–just about everything running through there, and I thought, "You know what? I'm going to turn this into a grow closet." I don't want to say it was an "afterthought" because that sounds kind of cheap. I've been doing development for a couple years, and I might have pondered doing it for a while now.
Do you expect to add more marijuana grow closets in future condos or apartments?
So, I just sold two condos in Park View. I have contracts on two properties that I'm looking to buy. One is in Mount Pleasant. One is in the Petworth area, but I haven't settled on those. For my next two projects, I will definitely put grow closets in, and now that I know that I'm putting them in, I can kind of design for it because this was kind of added to the throw-away/bonus closet. I may put it in the wet bar area. Keep your beer, wine, and stash together.
My lawyer kind of coached me through it because of Initiative 71. It's not the law of the land. It's the law of the city. So, I call it a grow closet. I stage it with other plants and herbs. With any conversations I have with my buyers, I call it a grow closet for herbs, but there's always a wink wink, and they understand. So, that was another concern that my lawyer had. He said, "Do not stage it with marijuana plants because then you're implying that you're selling marijuana."
The buyers, because they had government jobs, they said they were just using it to grow seedlings and herbs, which may be true, but you still kind of have to work around the federal aspects of it. You're allowed to grow. You're allowed to give gifts. You can't sell it. If you grow your own stuff, you're not breaking any law.
Do you think developers should jump on the bandwagon?
Yes. I got two emails yesterday from two different developers. One of them just said, "Bravo. That's great," and the other group was thinking about doing it in one of their projects and loved that we had the balls to be the first ones to do it. I think it will become a selling trend. It's kind of like the wet bar of 2015.
Why might developers shy away from adding marijuana grow closets to their residential units?
Because it's a little murky and grey at the federal level. I'm a small developer. I can see if somebody like JBG did something like this, they might get in trouble because they have offices in different states. I don't know. It's just so new. It's such a novel law that people don't get it. They haven't read the fine print. They don't really think it's legal.
Are there any other unorthodox amenities you're thinking of bringing to life?
I've done a pool on the roof with a large hot tub. That was a big hit. I've also done rooftop outdoor kitchens. I think that's kind of been done, but it's still novel.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
· Curbed Interviews archive [Curbed DC]