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August 21, 2008

Our Fall Real Estate Conference with ten of the region's legends: Bozzuto's Tom Bozzuto, Boston Properties' Peter Johnston, Opus East's Jim Lee, LCOR's Bill Hard, Monday Properties' Tim Helmig, CBRE's John Germano, Cushman's Audrey Cramer, Cassidy's Spencer Stouffer, Jones Lang's Dave Bevirt, and Studley's Tom Fulcher. Moderator Mitchell Schear. Sept 18, 7-10am, Nat'l Press Club. Great sponsors RBS Citizens Bank, Group Goetz Architects, Holland & Knight, and Reznick Group. Sign up!


Washington is no longer a ghost town in the middle of August, at least not this morning at our Bisnow Breakfast & Schmooze with three of Washington's top developers at BLT. 145 packed in to hear the dynamic trio tell about their companies, successes, challenges, and predictions. Oh, and to eat those addictive BLT popovers.  


Always trying to simplify the world for our busy readers, we have conferred convenient monikers on these guys: J Street founder  Bruce Baschuk ("Nabob of NoMa"); Buchanan Partners' founder Bob Buchanan ("Lord of Loudoun"); and Shooshan Company founder John Shooshan ("Baron of Ballston"). In other areas of humanity, there may be seven degrees of separation; in the DC real estate community there is about one-and-a-half. Shooshan and Baschuk have been legendary lacrosse coaches, and Buchanan and Shooshan are passionate Landon-ians.


John's Metro-centric million square feet at Liberty Center was well timed for high gas pries: the 9- and 13-story office buildings are almost 100% leased, and two 22-story residential towers (half apartment, half condo) are already more than half owned or rented. His sights are now set on breaking ground next year across the street at Founders Square, where he'll turn a WMATA bus yard into 1.2M SF of secure and regular office as well as residential.


Although Bob said suburban commercial activity has "fallen well off the pace we'd been expecting," with housing problems impacting retailers and smaller contractors, he sees "premium and well-planned" projects in much better shape. He's got two big ones: Heritage Hunt in the Gainesville area of Prince William County (1M SF office, retail, and residential) and the gargantuan Arcola in Dulles South (1.5M SF retail, 2M office, 1000 residential units), where he hopes to break ground on some big box retail this fall. He sees four dollar gasoline as a tipping point that will change densities and reward more mixed use in suburbia.


Bruce stressed the need to address infrastructure needs in the region, especially transportation; and said a huge grassroots push is needed on education to be ensure a qualified workforce. He said J Street is focusing now less on ground up development and more on acquiring and improving existing assets because of the oversupply of rental office space, and because "you can now buy these assets at or below replacement cost with income in place." He's also branching beyond DC and spending tomorrow looking at Northern Virginia possibilities, though he'll announce a new DC purchase next month. Also, mark your calendars: He predicts the economic upturn will begin at noon on July 16, 2009.


Dietze's Shawn Clark, Ginny Craig, Ray Coffey, Megan Murphy, and Jim Dougherty. Dietz did the interior build-out for the Tower Companies' 2000 Tower Oaks LEED Platinum headquarters. They're also working on the Diamond Properties apartments in Alexandria (128 units, 230k SF, a $40M project of cast-in-place concrete), and are also renovating 1310 Courthouse Rd for MRP. But hold the presses, here's the good stuff: Ginny's just back from a bird's eye vacation tour of Eagles Mere, PA, in the passenger seat of a single prop 1942 Piper Cub. (Question to readers, that we forgot to ask Ginny: Why do people fly in 66-year old airplanes?)


Fox Architects' Mark Strandquist, Bob Fox, Jill Spaeth, and Derek Wood. Derek is a TDR specialist, which isn't a bad place to be because Fox has several such projects including 2175 K St. and 1129 20th Street (about to wrap). And Jill just signed a strategic marketing package for 1 Dulles Corridor. (Hey, we saw Sabret Flocos at the breakfast, too, but forgot to corral her over!)


Seyfarth's Tiffany Wrkich, Bob Bodansky, Stan Jutkowitz, Christa Dommers, and Adam Walsh. Seyfarth's just been retained to represent the DC Sports and Entertainment Commission in connection with a high profile construction dispute at Nats Park, and is representing a public pension fund in connection with acquisition of a retail shopping center in Northern Virginia. The 800-attorney firm has 100 lawyers in real estate practice (including real estate finance) and 45 in construction law. As we speak (write?), Adam and his wife are winging their way to Yountville in Napa for a long summer weekend. Take us with you!

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