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Developer Q&A: Monday Properties President Tim Helmig

Monday Properties owns 10 properties in Rosslyn, including the region's tallest building at 1812 North Moore St. and the major office buildings at 1000, 1100 and 1101 Wilson Blvd. Over the last 18 months, the firm has signed more than a half-million square feet of office leases and refinanced all of its Rosslyn holdings, save for 1812, for a combined $888M. President Tim Helmig spoke with Bisnow about his portfolio and the neighborhood where his firm is hyper-focused.

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John Shooshan, Dave Bevirt and Tim Helmig

Bisnow: While most of the media coverage surrounding your Rosslyn portfolio over the years has centered around 1812 North Moore being empty, even though it's not anymore, you have steadily signed plenty of leases at your twin towers buildings down the street. How have you managed to keep leasing momentum going in your portfolio despite the headlines?

Helmig: You have to take it back historically when, right after 9/11, USA Today and Gannett, who had anchored the project dating back to their delivery in the early '80s, vacated almost 600K SF. Then 9/11 happened and the federal government really ramped up its efforts on the defense side, then the DoD and Department of State in particular were leasing a lot of space in the Arlington market and they leased a lot of space in the two towers, which helped offset the vacancy of Gannett. 

We started to have this government compression in 2011 and 2012, vacancies started to come into these two buildings, and what that afforded us to do was to reposition these towers, and we spent over $70M repositioning them. All of a sudden, you have improved physical buildings, with all the renovations we did, then we start to curate the public experience, with events and our acres of open space with our elevated park, the energy just started to really allow us to convert what was almost 600K SF of leasing over the last 24 months. It was really no accident.

Bisnow: Across the street, at 1101 Wilson, you were the landlord for Artisphere, which closed after its oft-maligned five-year run. You have since signed a creative co-working provider to take it over. Does that just make more sense for the neighborhood at this point than a large arts venue?

Helmig: Arlington County has always had a very deep commitment to the arts. There was a sentiment that with this cultural space that used to be the former Newseum space, the arts community would get behind it and support it. Unfortunately, it didn’t capture the momentum required to justify the overhead costs that were being borne by Arlington County.

The benefit here for us in Rosslyn is we have one of the strongest aggregations of talent with our millennial population. The co-working execution through the Spaces concept really targets that demographic. A highly concentrated demographic like that is exactly why Spaces coveted the space, especially the uniqueness of the space, with high ceilings, 15K SF of private terraces. We really believe that that will differentiate it from any of the other co-working locations in the area.

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Demolition in 2014 at the Central Place site in Rosslyn, Virginia

Bisnow: Sometimes, it seems like the entire neighborhood has been under construction for years, and we know that the years ahead are going to be filled with major projects that will have an impact on the streetscape. How do you balance the need to develop and grow without alienating the thousands of people who already live and work in Rosslyn?

Helmig: I think that's an important question. One of the best things is the core of Rosslyn is going to be complete. With Central Place, 1812, the Central Place park and where the Rosslyn Metro station is, that’s where most of the aggregation of people come and go. That pedestrian experience, with all the retail, the food trucks, the residential that’s going to be there really promotes a 24/7 environment. With that completed, that will be kind of a safe zone, if you will.

For long range, the new Rosslyn Sector Plan, which was a byproduct of more than four years of planning to lay out the road map for 25 years forward, Rosslyn is changing. Coming up with a thoughtful, pedestrian-friendly execution, that will be the structural change that puts the icing on the cake to say, 'This is a pedestrian-friendly, dynamic, urban environment.' That definitely will be the case. We no longer will be a market people just drive through to get in and out of the District.

Bisnow: Rosslyn likes to bill itself as the most accessible submarket in the region, with three Metro lines, I-66, the GW Parkway and Route 50 all converging. Metro is obviously a huge piece of that. Are you concerned about Metro's state of affairs and lack of dedicated funding stream? 

Helmig: Yes, I am concerned about it, but we still have one of the best systems in the country, so let’s not forget that. I believe there’s been a concerted effort to address some of the challenges that are in front of us with respect to the system. Improving on that would only further validate the fact that we are much further ahead than most other major cities in the country and for that matter the world. We have a very strong and dedicated history of advocating for enhanced public travel.