June 16, 2015

Behind the Scenes:
NoVa's $1B Innovation Center

Real estate developer Ralph Rocks took a small helicopter from the Watergate 60 years ago and landed on a runway that would eventually be Dulles Airport. On a hunch, he scooped up farmland around the future airport and it's where his family, decades later, broke ground yesterday on an ambitious new project.

Innovation Center South, being developed by Rocks Engineering Co, is over 1.6M SF of residential, commercial, hotel and retail on 12 acres in Herndon, including over 1,000 multifamily units. The project sits at the Silver Line's last stop before the airport and yesterday's groundbreaking marks just the start of the infrastructure, which will cost Rocks Engineering and Fairfax County about $45M. The ceremony, which drew about 200 people, including state and local politicians, also marks the beginning of Fairfax County's plan to build a $65M, 2,100-space parking garage for bus and rail commuters.

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Ralph's grandson and Rocks Engineering and Rocks Cos managing director Michael Rocks (above) tells us the price tag could potentially get close to $1B when all is complete. The idea of a Metrorail was not even in the works when Ralph bought the acreage, and the family has spent the last few decades on residential projects, a hotel and retail on some of the land. This is the last piece of the puzzle.

Penzance is developing the project's 500k SF of office and is in the design process. Michael says there's already been lots of interest from corporate tenants and multifamily developers. Rocks also plans to build high-rise apartments and a hotel. The office and at least one of the multifamily projects are expected to deliver around the time of the Silver Line Phase 2 at the end of 2019.

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Sun Life Acquires Bentall Kennedy in $560M Deal

Sun Life Financial has acquired real estate investment manager Bentall Kennedy Group for $560M. Bentall Kennedy will become a unit of Sun Life Investment Management and the two firms will combine their real estate investment management teams. Sun Life has been looking to expand its investment management unit, which provides investment services to third parties. The combined teams will serve over 550 institutional clients and investors and have over $47B in assets under management. The deal is expected to close in Q3, subject to standard closing and regulatory requirements.

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This is the Life

Remember when lawyers dressed in starched white shirts and ties? These guys have it figured out—Shulman Rogers calls itself "the downtown law firm in the suburbs," specializing in commercial real estate, M&A, and litigation, but not having to hassle with parking. This morning we joined Larry Shulman, who co-founded the firm in 1972, and managing shareholder Sam Spiritos for breakfast in one of the 11 eateries they have around their offices at MoCo's Park Potomac. Their other specialties? Larry's an oatmeal guy, and Sam is egg whites.

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ANNOUNCING ESCAPE ASCENT 2015
For New Generation Real Estate Leaders
Nov. 4-6, South Beach, Fla

Under 40ish? A commercial real estate developer or investor and in charge of deals at your firm? Then we encourage you to apply to be considered for our invite-only retreat, Escape Ascent—the curated gathering for real estate principals who build bonds through shared experience and thoughtful discussions. Hear from leading geopolitical scientist Peter Zeihan, thought-leader Sean Stephenson, TED main stage presenter and architect Marc Kushner, and more. Apply here.

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Union Station Owner: Let There Be Light

Courtesy Shalom Baranes Architects

As Union Station plows ahead toward a transformative redevelopment, $8B will be invested into a renovated station, new tracks, parking garage, bus bays, millions of square feet of office, residential and retail space. As part of the massive project, the 107-year-old train terminal will be rehabilitated, and the Union Station Redevelopment Corp wants to see more light, more open walkability and a preservation of the historic station's character. In an expansive, three-volume Historic Preservation Plan, compiled over the last two years, the USRC wants to open up its interior plaza to create better flow, more natural light and accommodate ridership that is expected to double over the next 20 years, when Akridge's 14-acre Burnham Place is expected to start delivering. [HN]

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These Local Golfers Just Won The Masters
(Well, Received Their Masters from the Same Place)

This pic is from PB Dye Golf Club near Frederick, MD, where alumni of the Johns Hopkins real estate program held its annual golf outing. How do you know your golf event has been visited by real estate designers and developers? The post-match photo features great use of perpendicular lines, height differentiation and color. Pictured: American Preservation Partners' Andrew Agetstein, Bozzuto's Mike Henehan, Standard Property's Joe Ouellette, COPT's Bob Bergin, Ditto Development's Martin Ditto, Clark's Lynne Goldberg, Cascade Realty Partners' Matt Clinebell and Dantes Partners Kofi Meroe.

Those pants! The unofficial "Best CEO" Award goes to Martin Ditto, who hailed an Uber from DC so he could work during the ride to the event. To top off the day, Cushman & Wakefield's Jorge Rosa (a co-organizer of the event) and his wife, Lara, welcomed the birth of Camila Lara Rosa, their third girl.

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Housing Market Hits Pre-Recession Highs

New houses are being built at a rate not seen since 2007. New residential permits in May hit 1.28 million nationwide, a jump of 12% over 2014 and the most in eight years, according to the Commerce Department. There's no surer sign of confidence in the market than houses being built at a breakneck pace, notes the Washington Business Journal. Builders' sales outlook in May was the best in a decade. And you can couple the confidence with a strong lending market and booming financial investment, indicating a big comeback. [WBJ]

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