Q&A With EastBanc's Philippe Lanier
Eastbanc principal Philippe Lanier, a DC native, oversees financial analysis, due diligence and asset management of the impressive portfolio of DC-area projects for the firm his father founded, like the Valero redevelopment at the edge of Georgetown, co-developed with Willco. We chatted with him to get an expert’s opinion on Georgetown’s past, present and future.
Bisnow: In our DC neighborhood guide series we've discussed how other neighborhoods are evolving, gentrifying and bursting with new development. Georgetown could be viewed as relatively static and stable. Is this a fair characterization, and is it a good thing? Does it reflect the established nature and demonstrate a respect for the history of the place?
Philippe: It may be stable, but it’s anything but static. It’s easier to see the change in new neighborhoods that were less urbanized and densely populated with a lot more space to fill. Without a doubt the scale of growth in areas that were relatively undeveloped has been greater, but many things have changed in Georgetown as well over that period.
Here’s a brief overview of Georgetown's past. In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, it had a younger liquor age than neighboring Virginia, so high school and college students would cross the river to take advantage of the discrepancy. Georgetown quickly became a hotbed of bars to quench their thirst.
Fast forward 30 years, and Georgetown's become a really desirable location, so we see far fewer bars and more upscale retail and restaurants. It’s more family-friendly. In terms of development, buildings are narrow and often individually owned, which makes large-scale projects unwieldy. In order to renovate you have to bring the building to code, which is not profitable unless done in bulk. Urban redevelopment takes time, but cheap credit has accelerated it.
Bisnow: What are some projects your team is currently working on or has recently completed?
Philippe: In the area, we are mid-project on Square 37 and 50 in the West End. We’ve finished the condos at 1055 Wisconsin and are in pre-development on two small sites on either end of Georgetown. Outside the area we are building on Capitol Hill, and have made long-term investments in a number of other growth markets that you referenced earlier.
Bisnow: Has the lack of a Metro stop insulated the neighborhood in a positive way or stranded its residents and dissuaded people from moving to Georgetown?
Philippe: It appeals to some and detracts from others’ experience here. The Metro system in DC is predominantly an office commuter system, bringing workers in and out more than shuttling residents from one side of town to the other.
Bisnow: Rapid-fire round: How does the university influence the Georgetown ecosystem?
Philippe: It’s a big plus.
Bisnow: What, in your opinion, makes Georgetown unique/special?
Philippe: Way too much to describe.
Bisnow: Georgetown Cupcake or Baked and Wired?
Philippe: District Doughnuts.