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January 3, 2008


Yes, yes, we know:  In our piece on Victor MacFarlane yesterday, we meant Isley Brothers, University of New Mexico, and JBG Urban fund.  Amazingly, Victor is still willing to talk to us:  We are delighted to announce he will be our guest at the next Bisnow Breakfast & Schmooze, City Club, Tuesday, January 29.  Come meet and hear one of the great new figures on the Washington scene.  Sign up

Oh, boy, a new guessing game:  Whose development proposal will be chosen for DC’s Poplar Point?  Our “Poplar Doppler” radar tells us the Mayor’s office plans to announce a winner (from the four finalists who presented Dec 12) by the end of January—quick work, guys!  DC sees this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a huge new neighborhood on the river; at a projected 4-5M SF, it would be twice the scope of the Southwest Waterfront project.  We went a-visiting each Poplar team (summaries herewith in alphabetical order):


We went to see Team AS/MM at Archstone's offices in Crystal City. They were the first to choose their Certified Business Enterprise partners – thus the larger number of people in the photo above:  Archstone’s Dan McCahan, Northern Real Estate Urban Ventures’ Gina Merritt, Archstone’s Daryl South and Debbie Weinman, Mosaic Urban Partners’ Calvin Gladney, and Madison Marquette’s Dave Zapponi. (We’re happy to report they finally took a break after this picture:  Dan spent the holidays in Buenos Aires, and Debbie in Florida.)    


They tell us their plan has a couple secret sauces:  more than double the retail of other plans—900k SF of both big box stores and small shops and restaurants—and the option for either a soccer stadium and/or a huge sportplex like Chesea Piers (between 17th and 23rd in NYC), which would feature indoor baseball and ice skating and outdoor sailing and canoeing.  


In its Ballston offices, the Clark Realty team, including Bereket Selassie and David Ritchey, told us there are several mixed use centers already being developed within a 10 minute drive of the area and therefore they feel the need to offer something with a different theme.  So their plan is to create a home for the environmental movement—a "green Silicon Valley" that would bring in both brainpower and economic development.  A signature feature would be the 150k SF “National Hall of the Environment” at water’s edge:  an interactive museum where tourists learn about the environmental movement and world leaders meet to discuss issues, all adjacent to a 70 acre park and in view of the US Capitol.


Clark’s plan, which also includes a soccer option, features a novel “lid” over 295 (kind of like the one over 395 at the National Mall), and connects historic Anacostia to Poplar.  Bereket said Clark’s being a local company ensures special attention to the project:  “We can’t afford failure in this market.”


FC’s Andre Banks and Alex Nyhan tell us it’s not hyperbole to say they have an unparalleled track record when it comes to the toughest projects.  Their plan stresses a main street that gives a sense of place right away, even before delivery of all phases, plus an option for a stadium.  Andre told us his father and three uncles brought the first African-American shopping center to Anacostia in 1970.  Of the Birney community meeting at which proposals were presented last month, he says even if he hadn’t been working on the project with Forest City, he’d have gone because “it’s personal.”

Show us your spirit fingers! How about park fingers? Alex says one of the main draws of FC’s plan is the slivers of green woven throughout that bring the river to all corners of the area. The bottom line?  Plans will change, but they will remain an “honest, family-oriented, straight-shooting” company.


The crux of Mid-City’s plan is education – like an extension of the UDC campus they propose. Above, principals Scott Nordheimer and Vicki Davis tell us they’ve been out talking to the community and feel people would rather have kids in quality schools than selling (or buying) popcorn at a stadium.  In pairing up with Chicago-based General Growth (the developer behind Baltimore’s Inner Harbor) they say they can focus on this project as an entree – not just one of many appetizers.  Scott points out that other developers have major ongoing commitments elsewhere but for Mid-City this would be their central project.

Scott says avoiding the “Wal-mart effect” is important to them:  Their plan has more green space and less retail.

Reznick Group
Fraser Forbes
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