Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Shaping the Face of DC Through Development: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Jair Lynch, President and CEO, Jair Lynch Development Partners

Chris Gladstone, President, Quadrangle
Matt Klein, President, Akridge
Stanley Sloter, President and CEO, Paradigm
Rich Bradley, Executive Director, Downtown DC BID

CREW DC hosted “Shaping the Face of DC Through Development: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow” on Wednesday, April 25th at the Capitol Hilton Hotel. CREW members and guests gathered for a sold out lunch and to listen and participate in the discussion on commercial development over the past decades in shaping Washington, DC today, and what DC will look like in the future.

Jair opened up the conversation by asking the panelists to answer: What are you most excited about? What keeps you up at night? What should we all be thinking about in the future? Chris talked about the Marquis Hotel next to the Convention Center and new apartment buildings going up on Massachusetts Avenue. Chris said the effect of federal spending is what keeps him up at night and also what we should all think about. Matt said he is most excited about 7550 Wisconsin Avenue, a DC-quality building, in downtown Bethesda. Also, Akridge opening the Fairgrounds at Half Street near the Nationals ballpark and they have a new building with 270 units opening up, also on Half Street. Matt said he is most concerned with private sector spending, and asks, “How do you pull private sector out of the bottom?” Stan talked about his company’s multi-family projects going on all over DC. Stan said the big issue for the region is transportation. This is the key to making this a vibrant region, and we need some work. Rich said he is shifting his thinking – he is thinking of himself as an asset manager. Rich talked about the compression of office space and how the population of DC has shot up in the past few years, and we should be thinking about how our developments and our city will handle this increased density. Rich said he wants to make sure our region can grow and take advantage of this increase in numbers, and he says there is a real need for the city to develop an investment strategy so we have the infrastructure to support the growth we are seeing.

Next Jair asked the panelists how the past decade or so in development has impacted our region today. Matt answered that Mayor Williams taking office was one of the most significant impacts for him because there were many projects coming up in the East End – credibility grew for businesses and residences in that part of the city. Matt said there was a sort of 90’s urban restoration, but DC didn’t see it. It wasn’t until a few years ago that our population shot up. Stan commented that the housing priority under Mayor Williams gave multi-family the ability to compete to be in the city. Chris brought up inclusionary zoning and affordable housing. Rich said that the Bid represents a collective self-interest and cooperation among developers.

Last topic was – What does the future hold? How will DC look ten or twenty years from now? Is the compression we are seeing going to force urban living like some major European cities – Paris, for example? Matt said Gen X and Gen Y have basically reversed what the baby boomers were doing; they are much more urban versus suburban. It is now most desirable to live in the city, and we need to focus on supporting that. We need to think about streetcar roads and regional rail (i.e. Union Station and Amtrak). Rich said we need to come up with a whole different way to finance our infrastructure. We need to fund something like the streetcar system from the government, but also private sector. Stan said housing has become smaller in general. People are looking for proximate amenities and social spaces to their residences and office buildings. Shared social space is a bigger deal now. We need to think about space differently, Chris said. Total space will be less, but there is a higher rent per square foot. Rich noted that somewhere around 2007 we became more entrepreneurial – we need to think about how this will change office spaces and long-term leases. Will someone want to sign a ten-year lease?

The consensus among this panel of industry experts seems to be consumers need confidence in the economy, and the private sector must invest in order to supplement government funded projects that will allow for an even stronger DC Metro Region.

Click here to view a list of attendees.