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May 27, 2008

Big shoutout to new sponsor Carey Business School at Johns Hopkins. Check out its great real estate degree programs: covering  planning, design, land development, finance, investment, and management. Programs in both DC and Baltimore. Welcome!


We've been eager to visit the Bozzuto Group in Greenbelt, but nervous about what we'd find at a firm specializing in multi-family in this difficult market. Actually, Bozzuto is weathering its 20th anniversary surprisingly well. The 950-employee developer just finished leasing up its 496-unit $80M Arbors at Arundel Preserve in less than 12 months (a company record) and has 2800 more units under construction from Northern Virginia to Philly (1,100 rental units, 700 homes, and 1,000 units for third-party clients).


Bozzuto founders John Slidell, Tom Bozzuto, and Rick Mostyn described for us their roles in building the company: John oversees development, Rick arranges financing, and Tom "rings the bell," letting people know about the company. The three met at Oxford Development Corp. more than 25 years ago, and in April '88 started Bozzuto. At first they planned to build and manage for themselves, but when the market went bust in the early 90s, they diversified: "We wanted to eat," they told us. So they took on third party management, construction, and development. Today the company manages 25,000 apartments in addition to all its building.


They're also in the acquisitions and land development business, but only for their own account. They tell us they typically do mixed-use and "never just go out to some field on the side of the road to build," but rather focus on planned or established communities. With completed projects like The Whitney at Bethesda Theater, Spinnaker Bay in Baltimore, and The Delancey in Shirlington Village, they say "no two projects look alike."


Development SVP Doris Gantos and management company president Julie Smith tell us the rental market is stable. Indeed, catering as they do to a new generation of young renters, trends are toward higher-end amenities, like standard Wi-Fi, rock climbing walls, golf simulators, Zen gardens, salt water pools, and Wii stations. And, says Julie, "If you have a Starbucks in your building, you're golden." She says people feel, "Well, Starbucks is here, it must be good.'" Bozzuto Management's Newseum Residences, the 135 units perched atop Wolfgang Puck's The Source, and the new Highland Park in Columbia Heights, attest that renters also want retail on their doorstep. But Bozzuto's focus is not just the city; they recently started delivering units at their Monroe Place at Woodland Park Crossing, off Dulles Toll Road in Herndon. The $52M project offers 204 luxury apartment residences above ground-floor retail.


We unearthed this in a Bozzuto brochure that came out in the 80s, hoping we'd capture the guys in bell bottoms, but, nope, these ageless friends look about the same. When the three aren't in the office, they're probably on the water somewhere. Rick goes to his place at Smith Mountain Lake for wakesurfing, John to his house on Lake Huron for windsurfing, and Tom always seems to be on a river fly fishing. Last year he caught a 42 lb. Atlantic salmon in Quebec. (Editor's note:  We don't verify everything.)


CREW drew 230 to its monthly luncheon last Thursday, featuring an all-star panel of Hickok Cole's Yolanda Cole, Pillsbury managing partner Maureen Dwyer, Brandywine Realty's Janet Davis, and Studley's Lois Zambo, moderated by SmithGroup principal Elaine Gray. In discussing ways women get to the top of their careers. Lois stressed the importance of taking risks: At 29, she quit her job as a dental hygienist for one in real estate that paid on commission only. She figured she could always go back to her previous job, but somehow never did. Brokering 10 million SF and $4 billion worth of real estate will do that.       


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