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September 3, 2008

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No, this is not a belated review of Marlon Brando's movie, but of progress at Forest City/Vornado/Bresler's 13.5-acre Waterfront Station at 4th and M, SW, one of the biggest changes made to that quadrant of the city since the urban renewal of the Sixties. We went to see it this morning and realized that construction is a lot like the Army: You dig a perfectly good hole in the ground, then you're told to fill it right up again.


What would Martians think is happening at Waterfront if they saw this? Fortunately, we had an expert to ask: "We'll be getting to grade in the next couple of weeks," development manager David Smith told us. He said Phase Two starts above grade and they're about to close on financing. Meanwhile, we saw workers using hovercraft-like devices to smooth concrete being poured out of a giant cauldron. David says there's also progress on the tenant front: Safeway and CVS signed leases in July "for a very long time, and we're working with Bank of America." He says the existing Safeway will remain in operation until the new space is built out for a 55K SF urban concept store. "Once that's open, we'll go back and demolish the old store, probably around May 2010."

Condo Authority

We risked life and limb to get this aerial shot from neighboring Tiber Island condos. (The doomed Safeway is on the right and in the middle will be a 4th Street extension splitting the site in two.) The Waterfront/Southeast Univ. Metro will remain in operation during construction. With the D.C. government (Dept. of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, and the office of the CFO) slated to occupy 500K SF by March 2010, and a bevy of restaurants and shops planned, David says Metro will be critical to the area's success.


Everyone knows Turner/Tomkins, but another huge NY-based contractor is also on the scene here, though with a much smaller local footprint: 110 year old Tishman Construction. We visited mid-Atlantic leader Steve Dalton last week in his 18th St. office.  Although no longer related to Tishman Speyer—the latter split off 30 years ago—Tishman is famed in the Apple as the Port Authority's original construction manager for the World Trade Center and now the same for NY developer Larry Silverstein on the replacement Freedom Tower.


In DC, where it's been operating since managing Reagan Center construction in 1989, it finished the Atlas Theatre on H St, NE last November, will complete the 340k SF American Pharmacists Association HQ next spring, and is underway on a massive, multi-year FDA Consolidation Project in White Oak involving 17 buildings on 160 acres. Steve's here two years, following 25 years working mainly for others in New York. Here he shows us a mechanical dog a colleague bought him at Sharper Image that he uses to guard important papers on his desk. He got his architecture degree at Columbia, and is married to an Italian at the World Bank. They just got back yesterday from a long Labor Day weekend in Rome. 


Steve demonstrates the intrusive technique he used with the late Johnny Carson in the '80s when Steve was project manager for  luxury units at Trump Tower. He rang the bell at Carson's door, not thinking he'd be there, didn't recognize him, and pushed past him looking for another worker in the 10,000 SF pied-a-terre. But that's nothing. He says Donald and Ivana Trump insisted on doing a personal walk through with him every day to critique his work.


Steve with Jeff Dodd, who heads construction here and has worked 24 years at Tishman. Steve wants to reallocate work here from 60% construction management/40% general contracting to 80/20. They're already making waves—blast waves, literally. In working on the Pharmacists site, blasting caps and explosives had to be escorted across town to be detonated four basement levels down. Despite emails to the adjacent State Department warning of noise and vibration, many of America's diplomats ran worried to the windows when Tishman started work. [Poke Steve.]

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