An Interview With: Ernie Jarvis
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Ernie Jarvis, newly named Managing Director of CB Richard Ellis’ DC office, came to the firm four years ago. Jarvis had been at Insignia, which CBRE purchased, and previously at Barnes Morris Pardoe, which Insignia purchased. A broker focused on tenant representation, Jarvis will co-direct the DC office together with Jay Olshonsky, both reporting to John Germano, who runs CBRE’s four offices in the Baltimore-Washington region. Jarvis says he’ll be focused on “anticipating changes in the market,” including following government activity and other developments in the central business district and emerging neighborhoods. “I’ll be kind of the intelligence officer and try to uncover opportunities for our clients.” Jarvis is the son of legendary former DC Councilwoman Charlene Drew Jarvis (now president of Southeastern University). He is an executive committee member of DCBIA and on the board of local charities such as Hoop Dreams Scholarship Fund and the Washington Tennis and Education Foundation.
Bisnow on Business: You’re getting a lot of attention for the Radio One project. What is it?
Radio One is a homegrown success story. It started in the District of Columbia and owns 70 radio stations across the country. They moved from H and 4th in DC nearly ten years ago to Lanham, Maryland. I represented them during that relocation. They are currently located on Princess Garden Parkway, in the big gold box. They have expanded within the building a number of times. They left the District at a time when they were going through some growth and were looking for a great economic deal, and the suburbs offered that. But now they’re coming back to DC, which is a great signal for the city that the trend of moving out of the city has reversed.
What’s the status?
We are going through negotiations with the National Capital Revitalization Corporation to close on a site at 7th and S Street that will become the corporate headquarters. We are still in the planning stage, but I think the headquarters will be about 80-100,000 square feet. It would be part of a mixed-use development that would include a 200 unit condominium project, with a significant affordable housing component, and about 25,000 square feet of retail. Equally important, this is going to be located on one of the last undeveloped Metro sites in the District of Columbia.
What do you call that area, and why did they pick it?
That’s the Shaw neighborhood, a few blocks north of the new Convention Center, and seven to eight blocks south of Howard University. It is also is a sign of the re-emergence of the historic U Street corridor. This is one of the few great undeveloped sites in the city. It allows for the development of a very impressive development on a very busy corridor. This is going to be a ground up development. One of the biggest attractions is that the site is about 50 feet from the Metro.
What’s there now?
Vacant ground and ten or so two-story row houses that have been assembled.
Who’s the developer and architect?
Devrouax & Purnell is the base building architect. The developer is a partnership of two principals of the West Group together with Ellis Development Company. I knew both those parties and it was a marriage made in heaven. The West Group guys were looking for opportunities in Washington. And Ellis Development had a relationship with Radio One, and was acting as a development consultant in the identification of the particular site.
How long had Radio One been looking?
They had been looking for a couple of years for the appropriate site to return to the city. There were a number of people looking for them, including the city government because DC recognized how important it was to have this type of business return to the city. The project is exciting since it’s the continuation of the revitalization of the core of the city.
Have you known the Radio One CEO, Alfred Liggins, over the years?
I’ve known Alfred probably for 20 years. He’s one of the smartest business executives I know.
So why did he want to come back to Washington? Is it because Washington has been pushing and has offered incentives? Or does he just feel that’s where the action is?
I think many business leaders, realize that Washington is hot and is the reason for the region. It is going to be one of the great world cities like Barcelona and Paris. I think that we are probably going to see more businesses return to Washington, not only because of its cultural offerings, but also because it now has an improved quality of life. And people have had it with one-hour-plus commutes.
You must feel good about that being so closely identified with the city.
Our family’s been here for five generations. And this project is particularly exciting because we had a family business in that neighborhood from 1920-1985, which was the Jarvis Funeral Home. So for me, it is a return to the neighborhood where I spent a great deal of my youth.
Where was that family business?
1432 U Street. We sold the building to an architect and it is now the headquarters of City First Bank.
Did you ever work in the funeral home?
Absolutely, on the weekends when I was a teenager, for gas money. I was a driver and the answerer of phones.
Your mom was on the City Council many years. How did she influence you?
Other than my wife, my mother is absolutely the smartest person I know.
Okay, I’ll tell your wife you said that.
My wife handles media for Pepco and she’s a former anchor on NBC4. My mother served on the Council for nearly 22 years and as chair of the economic development committee, so I learned a lot about economic development issues. She was one of the creators of the NCRC, and led the District’s efforts in the development of the new Convention Center and the MCI Center. I saw her create and guide through the Council things like Tax Incremental Financing, Industrial Revenue Bonds, and the Downtown Business Improvement District.
You have some other interesting projects going on?
I’ve had the opportunity to represent RLJ Development, the relocation of Bob Johnson’s company. It was significant, because was the first time he had been off the BET campus in 20 years. It’s an amazing group led by Tom Baltimore. It is monumentally impressive that they recently acquired 100 hotels in one swoop. We at CBRE also recently received an assignment to do the leasing for 801 17th Street, which is a 230,000 square foot office building. It has the best views of the White House and is truly one of the best-located downtown office buildings. I think we are going to be able to achieve some of the highest rents in the city on behalf of Louis Dreyfus.
How did you got involved in real estate?
I did summer internships in marketing at both IBM and Anheuser Busch, while I was in college. I liked the marketing aspect of business more than the corporate environment. Then right after college, I worked for a commercial real estate appraiser, Robert C. Boucher & Associates. I appraised multi-family projects, land, and income-producing properties. You really learned to strip a deal down to its bare economic essentials to make a valuation. That gives you a lot of insight into market value. But I wanted to find a way to turn that into a transactional experience. I talked to a few friends in the business, and they helped me identify something. Petch Gibbons hired me at Barnes Morris in 1995, which was the preeminent local boutique company in the metro region. I still work with a number of colleagues from that time.
Would you ever do public service like your mom?
I don’t know that I’d run for office. Debbi won’t let me as it takes a lot of time away from family. But to whom much is given, much is required, and some kind of public service should be important to everyone. I’m very proud to have been involved in things like Hoop Dreams, where I’ve been fortunate to work with Susie Kay, helping kids from Wards 7 and 8 go to college. :)