We shot up I-270 the other day to pay a visit to Rockville’s Foulger-Pratt. The developer’s been around since ‘63, but in the last few years zoomed to attention as it transformed downtown Silver Spring into a hot exurban center. Now they’re moving on to a similar venture nearly twice as big: the 2.6m SF redevelopment of the East Campus of the University of Maryland. How on earth did they win the job over other world-class finalists like Monument, Federal Realty Investment Trust, Clark, Bozzuto, and Capstone? They asked the university committee that question themselves (only after the deal was safely done), which replied, “You wanted it more.”
Brent Pratt, Bryant Foulger, and Argo Investment’s Richard Perlmutter at FP’s Rockville headquarters last Friday. We could tell they’re successful because they stayed around for us instead of cutting out early for Labor Day—which we were tempted to do. Brent runs the construction side while Bryan supervises property management; both also do development. Richard’s their in-house money guy. He told us that though most competitors go outside for “Wall Street money,” FP puts all its own equity in its deals.
Pretty pictures show the future. What’s driving the transformation? Richard says Maryland is currently in the top 20 research universities, but wants to be top 10. They’ve looked at other university towns like Boulder, Madison, and Charlottesville for inspiration, seeking an environment that makes it easier to attract top faculty and students. It will be upscale, they say, not a place for 25-cent beer. They told us locals are “crying out for change,” and FP sees the University as a seriously underdeveloped asset. Forty retailers are clamoring to talk with broker Marc Ratner of StreetSense, and FP predicts the project (to start in three years and take about five more) will be a big catalyst for other development.
And that’s not all, folks! FP is scheduled to break ground shortly on the first office building in its luxury mixed-use community, Park Potomac, at the corner of 270 and Montrose. They have one of the six future condominium towers complete with another set to deliver in spring. Down-sizers and young professionals already occupy 60 units (average price $1M).
FP has developed about 9m SF with another 5-6m in the works. Their emphasis now is on transit-oriented properties. Bryant says that since DC traffic is the third worst in the country, they can’t go wrong from by focusing FP’s projects around the Metro, so they have become a big proponent of high-density, smart growth. Most of the company’s property is in Maryland, and about 35% in NoVa. They want to do more in DC. And more in multi-family; a recent coup was getting Dick Knapp from KSI.