We were on hand Thursday as a 6,000 lb gold spray-painted wrecking ball was the guest of honor at the official demolition of SW’s run-down Waterside Mall. Hundreds cheered as the bricks fell to make way for Forest City, Bresler & Reiner, and Vornado/Charles E. Smith’s 2.5M mixed-use revitalization.
Forest City’s Debbie Ratner Salzberg, Mayor Fenty, Deputy Mayor Neil Albert, Vornado’s Mitchell Schear, and Bresler & Reiner’s Sidney Bresler. The development, now called Waterfront, will re-open 4th St. for the first time since it was closed in the 70s, creating a new pedestrian-friendly main street. (The more we keep staring at the wrecking ball, doesn't it look like a Hershey's Kiss?)
Debbie is joined by architect Shalom Baranes in the tent overlooking the destruction zone. Shalom is designing the 1.2M SF of office, 1.2M of residential and 110k of retail and public space, first phase delivering 2010. The event was a little like Fall Fest meets earthquake; guests sipped warm cider and nibbled cornbread while the ground rumbled and the walls of Waterside fell. (Shalom: With those glasses on your head, you are definitely taking on the look you need to as DC’s celebrity architect. Did your recent college visits with your daughter finally make you hip?)
“Tear Down the Walls” couldn’t have been more a appropriate song for the day’s festivities, sung by performers from nearby Arena Stage.
That wrecking ball did a lot of damage in just a couple swings. Debbie called Waterfront the “nexus of the neighborhood” which will act as a catalyst for future SW development. Not hard to believe when already two city agencies (the CFO’s office and DCRA) have pre-leased 500,000 SF of office space fronting the new 4th St.
Both Debbie and Tom are Cleveland natives; Tom came to FC the summer of ’02 after 29 years with the Jacobs Group (developers of the Cleveland Indian’s Jacobs field). He also heads up FC’s Military Communities division. This has nothing to do with BRAC, but rather privatizing family housing on active bases. The company has over 2,000 units on bases in places like Hawaii, Colorado Springs, and Seattle. Although Forest City is a publicly traded real estate development company, they’re not a REIT, because they take their own equity and reinvest it. What started as a Ratner family business has now grown into $12B in book value of real estate.
Because we are terribly foresightful, we had paid a recent visit to Forest City’s L St. office where Debbie and COO Tom Henneberry showed us the model (under the glass here) of their other enormous development, The Yards. These guys are cookin’.