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What Bozzuto, Boston Properties and Mayor Bowser Say About DC's Future

A chainsaw death match.” That’s what Boston Properties national director of acquisitions and development Ray Ritchey calls the competition among jurisdictions in the DC region, all of which are thirsty for the promise of the jobs and economic developments new tenants bring. 

What Bozzuto, Boston Properties and Mayor Bowser Say About DC's Future

Forest City Washington president Deborah Ratner Salzberg says she had hoped DC won its Olympic bid because it would have forced Maryland, Virginia and the District to work together toward a common goal. Deborah, Ray (right), Mayor Muriel Bowser, Tom Bozzuto (center), Clarion Partners’ Rob Greer and NGKF’s Sandy Paul discussed the potential for “regionalism,” as the mayor called it, during the inaugural Benchmarks event in DC.

What Bozzuto, Boston Properties and Mayor Bowser Say About DC's Future

The event is the continuation of the work Sandy and Greg Leisch started at Delta Associates, hosting their annual research/predictions event for 18 years before moving to NGKF this March. Tuesday night, at the Smithsonian Portrait Gallery, the event was bigger—and had more star power—than ever. Greg’s presentation included a breakdown of “mega-trends” he has identified in the industry: lagging worker productivity, a continued flow of capital into commercial real estate, an expansion of the regional economy, and the acceleration of office obsolescence. Productivity has been on a long-term decline, and open floor plans and co-working have only made matters worse. “Headphones and quiet rooms can only go so far,” Greg says. 

What Bozzuto, Boston Properties and Mayor Bowser Say About DC's Future

He also pointed out that investments in commercial real estate have grown $1.5 trillion over the last two decades. Private equity and institutions have realized that in both the short-, middle- and long-term, commercial real estate investments outperform stocks and bonds. And despite investors saying they are down on DC as a place for investment, their dollars speak otherwise: DC has increased its market share and is the second-most-active investment market in the country, behind Manhattan, over the last year. It's sure helped Greg, Sandy and NGKF executive managing director Ed Clark, snapped after the presentation ended.

What Bozzuto, Boston Properties and Mayor Bowser Say About DC's Future

DC added 53,000 jobs over the 12 months ending in September—seventh-best among the 12 biggest metro areas in the US—and vaunted George Mason University economist Stephen Fuller expects the area to add just as many jobs each year until 2020. As a bonus, the biggest chunk of those jobs are in professional or business services. That’s right: office workers. But fewer and fewer of the offices will be able to house the 265,000 jobs Dr. Fuller thinks are coming to the area. In the suburbs, 38M SF of office space is obsolete right now, about 16% of the inventory. That number will only grow.

What Bozzuto, Boston Properties and Mayor Bowser Say About DC's Future

More than 700 people filled up the Portrait Gallery to hear Greg’s signature blend of information mixed with deadpan humor in his soothing bass (that’s Mayor Bowser in the front, taking notes). During the group discussion that followed, Tom and Debbie referenced their work with The 2030 Group, a collection of business leaders focused on solving transportation issues. Its recommendations for WMATA aren’t fully baked yet, but Tom says they believe a regional transportation authority—mirroring the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey—could be a solution to the continued—and worsening—dysfunction of the Metro system. 

What Bozzuto, Boston Properties and Mayor Bowser Say About DC's Future

And while Rob (right) says Clarion is “overweighted” in DC and plans to spread its money to cities with better fundamentals, Ray just sold 505 9th St NW for a near-record price, a building he hadn’t planned to sell until Prudential Real Estate gave him an offer he couldn’t refuse. “Cap rates are so low that I see nothing on the horizon that the District has anything to worry about,” Ray says. Not even a chainsaw death match.