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Is Metro the New Sex?

Metro sells, just like you-know-what-else. That was the word Friday at our Development Boom Summit, as panelists described where residents (and therefore developers) want to locate. Cafritz Enterprises' Jane Lipton Cafritz (flanked by Shapiro Lifschitz's BA Spignardo and Goldstar Group's Michael Brodksy) says the Fort Totten Metro station is the catalyst for her firm's ART Place project, turning a 1940s-vintage garden apartment complex into 2M SF of mixed-use. Jane says new DC residents want Metro to connect them with jobs. Metro also pushed Goldstar to buy up big in the Hill East submarket (near the Eastern Market and Potomac Avenue stations), Michael says, though opportunities to walk and bike are another key factor.

Abdo Development COO Gordon Buist (left, with Kettler's Cindy Clare) says the Brookland/Catholic U area was ignored by developers for years as a "sleepy bedroom community." But seeing the university as an anchor—and the Brookland Metro as a connector—Abdo and Bozzuto Group made a big move to develop there, and the result is the vibrant Monroe Street Market project now delivering. Kettler's m. flats apartments are using the connectivity of another neighborhood—Mt. Vernon Triangle, Cindy says.

But the capital stack isn't always easy to come by when developing in emerging neighborhoods, according to Duball's Marc Dubick. Large institutions and life companies can be hesitant. (It sounds like life companies don't like grabbing life by the horns.) Having a development partner with a solid track record or a project anchor can help ease the risk for the lenders, as Duball is proving with its Swift mixed-use project in Petworth. The firm was able to team up with Buvermo Investments on the development side and the complex has Safeway as a retail anchor.

Many multifamily projects in emerging spots cater directly to Millennials, says Roadside Development's Armond Spikell (right, with Lowe Enterprises' Joe Carrol). But developers are still trying to figure out their living habits for years to come, as far as whether they'll stay urban or move to the suburbs. Armond says he thinks the former is true, and there could be a big opportunity for developers to build product with more bedrooms to accommodate families. (It'd be easy to convert the dog parks that Millennials love into baby park. Just change the sign.) Stay tuned for even more Boom coverage tomorrow.