Although Morgan Greenhouse was accepted into a graduate program for architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, the Bethesda native saw an even brighter opportunity in the form of an empty retail space on U Street downtown. The 29-year-old District resident is the founder of verdeHOUSE, a four-year-old company that turns vacant and underused spaces into temporary event venues, while also working with real estate professionals to market vacant properties including retail shells and warehouses. Greenhouse talked to WJW about what it takes to run her own business, how it has evolved and her involvement in the Jewish community.
What gave you the idea to come up with the concept of verdeHOUSE?
It was the middle of 2009 and I was working as an architect. I left the firm and I had applied and enrolled into graduate school to get a master’s in architecture. Once I left the firm for a little break in between work and school, I started taking vacant retail spaces throughout D.C. At first it was for fun, to let artists run wild in the space. I got a permit and let artists have their artistic freedom. It got great exposure because of that. Other people started emailing and calling — I didn’t really have a business to my name yet — saying that they needed a unique space to host an auction, or a gala, or an exhibition to raise money for a nonprofit. I started renting them the spaces. I eventually called school and deferred. That was birth of verdeHouse. Six months later I met with a business partner.
What was verdeHOUSE’s first project?
The first project involved a female sculptor at a space on 12th and U. It was a really cool sculptural installation that was done in the basement of this retail space. It had a lot of shock value.
Creating a company like this doesn’t seem easy. What are some of the skills you have that made it possible to create verdeHOUSE?
Having vision. Being able to see opportunity between business and creative spheres. Finding where there’s an opportunity in bridging the creative and real estate or business world. Passion and drive are critical, especially if you’re working for yourself and constantly having to overcome hurdles. Embracing the mistakes allows you to grow and become that much better. The learning how to deal with problems and conflicts well and productively has been surprising and beneficial in running a business.
What’s your involvement in the Jewish community?
I like to think I spend a lot of my free time Jewishly. I’ve been on the Young Leadership Board of the Jewish Federation for the past four years, in different capacities. That started with co-creating ImpactDC. I also worked with the ConnectGens Fellowship. Both were really awesome because they bridged personal and professional and helped generate community and helped entrepreneurs to develop concepts that will improve communities locally and worldwide. More recently I was the vice-chair of engagement. I also participate in the Glass Leadership Institute at the Anti-Defamation League.
How is verdeHouse branching out?
We branched out and helped develop a luxury event space in Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif. It was our first major project outside of D.C.
How else would you like to see verdeHOUSE evolve?
Developing what we’ve been doing in the past two years, about discovering
unexpected perspectives of development and creating value and improving communities on different scales. Working in new neighborhoods. I would love to see more of that. Doing what we’re doing and applying it to more diverse communities.