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D.C. Developer Faces Lawsuit for Unpaid Work



Norfolk-based contractor Robinson Gareiss is suing Jemal's 411, a company owned by Washington-based developer and urban revivalist Douglas Jemal, for failing to pay $54,697 for renovations made to a commercial office suite at 411 E. Franklin St.

The building housing the suite is owned by Jemal and assessed at $15.8 million.

Jemal, who famously transformed the Chinatown area of Washington from a blighted strip to a glitzy, high-priced tourist destination, 10 years ago began a sweep through Richmond, buying up a slew of high-profile properties such as the old Central National Bank Building on East Broad Street, the former Interbake Foods cookie factory off the Boulevard and the East Main Street building that houses the Department of Environmental Quality.

Jemal has long planned to renovate historic holdings in Richmond into mixed-use revivals. For the former cookie factory, which Jemal bought for $6.7 million in 2005, plans call for a lifestyle mecca with shops and residences. But then the economy tanked, and many of Jemal's plans stalled. 

“The market really just hasn't been great and financing hasn't been great,” Jemal says.

According to the lawsuit, Jemal's 411 hired Robinson Gareiss for renovations to a 1,352-square-foot suite, including demolition, plumbing, painting, flooring and electrical work.

“RGI has never been advised … that any of the work fully performed … is in any way defective or that the amounts for said work are not due and owing,” the lawsuit says.

Jemal, who has not filed a response to the lawsuit, says he's unfamiliar with its details. He says nonpayment for construction is “not uncommon” when there may be an issue with the work performed.

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