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February 28, 2008

Big shout-out to great new sponsor Uniwest Commercial Realty.  Check out their featured property on the right: Fort Evans Plaza II in Leesburg, delivering this Spring. Welcome to our new friends!


Seems like the headline above is the topic of every conference these days, but it's actually the official name of a breakfast GWCAR holds each year, including this morning the Capital Hilton. Boston Properties regional chief Peter Johnston summed up panelist views by saying things are either "really good or really bad" depending on your geography and asset class. HFF's Andrew Weir said in the repricing of risk, CBD trophy is still holding up, but the jury is out on areas like western Fairfax. Carlyle's Chip Lippman said the credit crunch has been positive for him:  weeding out leveraged buyers so "now people like Andrew Weir return my calls." They agreed DoD spending is tightening, and DC is seen as only a secondary market for foreigner buyers.


Vornado president Mike Fascitelli, down from NY to keynote, is flanked by two legends of Washington real estate—Bob Smith (son of Charles E.) and brother-in-law Bob Kogod, who made rare appearances because they are on Vornado's board. Mike said we're in the worst debt market he's seen since '91, coming off the best debt market he's ever seen. He went through a litany of horrible capital market news since last summer, said we keep underestimating problems, and predicted it will take well into '09 to work them out. Yet he said it's a good time to be a liquid, cautious buyer (sellers allow you to do due diligence) and he's as bullish as ever on DC longer-term.  (As for the Bobs, they spend most of their time as philanthropists, and Smith tells me they just finished renovating "Lincoln's Cottage" at the Soldier's Home off Upshur St., which everyone should go visit.)


Also on hand for breakfast, ace Staubach broker Dave Houck and market research head Nick Hunter.  Staubach's been retained by the Smithsonian to help figure out a public-private partnership for its Arts and Industries building (the one next to the merry-go-round on the Mall), and although Dave declined to say what arrangement they're contemplating, we're imagining a long-term ground lease with someone who wants to create a sort of Faneuil Hall


HITT Contracting's Law Firm division was just awarded the interior construction for Mayer Brown's new digs at Vornado's future trophy at 1999 K St.  Above, HITT VPs Drew Mucci and Joe LaFonte, who are leading the project, at their Fairfax offices,  currently working with Gensler in the design phase. Mayer will occupy the entire building (12 floors and 243k SF), consolidating their current space at 1909 K Street and Lafayette Center in Q3 '09.  Joe keeps busy on the side coaching his son's wrestling team in Purcellville, and Drew just got named to the 40 under 40 by Building Design and Construction, where we learned he loves golfing at Pebble Peach and his grandmother's gnocchi.


At Capital Grille in Tysons, we ran into old friend John Jacquemin, head of Mooring Financial, which buys tax liens on property and (as far as well can tell) makes a fortune as they're paid off.  But he also tells us he's started a hedge fund that's doing well. We are impressed with two other things: he still does triathlons; and he has the good judgment (unlike the famous photo of John Ashcroft) to stand in front of only properly attired women holding scales of justice.

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