Andy Altman is Back!
Sure, the buzz in Washington is about the Nats’ new $217M pitcher.
But long before Max Scherzer arrived, DC had another storied pitcher, and we don’t mean Walter Johnson or Stephen Strasburg.
We mean a real estate ace who changed DC a lot more than all those great athletes combined. Who thanks to Tony Williams was recruited in 1999 to be director of planning and, armed with a master's in urban planning from MIT and a Loeb Fellowship at the Harvard School of Design, introduced a new professionalism and vision into the design and development of DC neighborhoods.
Who envisioned a transformation of the DC waterfront, now underway years later at The Wharf, The Yards, Capital Riverfront, in Anacostia, and even at the 11th Street Bridge. Who conceived City Center and its European flavor for the Old Convention Center site. Who went back to Philly, his hometown, to be Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, then got recruited across the Pond to redevelop the 600-acre site in London where the Olympic Games were held.
For those of you plying the commercial real estate trade here before 2005, you know that can only mean one guy: Andy Altman. So where has he been hiding? For three years, he structured deals and secured over a billion dollars of investment to convert the 1M SF Olympic broadcast center into sports studios, Olympic Stadium (behind Andy, above) into the new home of the famed West Ham soccer club, and another former playing venue into 1,000 market rate and affordable housing units. In the process, he and his family fell in love with London and he stayed on as an exec at developer Stanhope.
Then in late 2013, a former investment banker he’d first met in 8th grade and then worked with in the Williams days, contacted him about coming back to DC to develop. So he’s joined that friend, Ron Kaplan (pictured), and together with Harris Schwalb, a noted homebuilder, they’ve formed Streetscape Urban Partners and are developing 140 high-end condos and 7k to 8k SF of conference space on the site of Meridian International's current parking lot at 16th and Belmont. He sees this as catalyst for 16th Street revitalization. They’re also designing 550 units for WMATA at Grosvenor Metro that he foresees as being a mixed density neighborhood rather than conventional towers; and conceptualizing a residential project for the corner of East-West and Montgomery in Bethesda. And a week ago, they broke ground for 70 condos at 1011 M St, four blocks north of City Center. He’s also doing consulting for HR&A Advisors on large-scale master planning projects.
Yesterday he reappeared in a public forum: the Capitol Riverfront annual meeting. Here with BID president Michael Stephens, Andy tells us how thrilling it was to find that what he remembered as “watercolor renderings” have become realities. One of his passions is walking around cities—and now he has endless nooks and crannies to re-explore in DC.
As befits a high-energy visionary, he has a lot of colorful personal dimensions. He got interested in urban planning when, at age 10, he read The Design of Cities by Edmund Bacon (or, he modestly says, at least looked at the pictures over and over). Like his mentor Tony Williams, he loves jazz (especially anything by Miles Davis or John Coltrane) and classic rock like Bruce Springsteen’s Greetings from Asbury. His greatest devotion is to his wife Hillary (a onetime Bob Peck protégé at GSA) and their two sons aged 7 and 10. But how’s this: The real star of the family is the 10 year old, the youngest chess master ever in the UK. Added bonus: He’s been their excuse to travel the world—South Africa, Greece, Romania, among many destinations—where Andy can do more urban exploring.