Fraley, Sigmund, Weppler
Vornado/Charles E. Smith has deep roots in the DC area, dating back to the beginnings of the firm's predecessors, Charles E. Smith Commercial Realty and the Kaempfer Co. But three rising stars—Gordon Fraley, Wright Sigmund, and Reid Weppler are helping the firm transition into the 21st century, each with a unique background and skill set to offer.
Gordon's been with the firm the longest of the three, having actually started with the Kaempfer Co right after graduating from UVA in 2001 and staying on after Vornado acquired the company in 2003. He's been on the firm's development side the whole time, helping build projects such as Waterfront Station in Southwest DC and more recently assisting with Vornado's work in Crystal City. (He even snuck in a Wharton MBA in between.)
He says he stumbled upon commercial real estate while an urban planning major at UVA—which is a part of the architecture school there. Realizing "I wasn't talented enough to be an architect," and wanting to mesh his interest in design with the business side of things, he found a happy medium in the development world. "It's a good balance for me in terms of numbers, design, and deals," Gordon says.
In '06, Gordon hired a fresh-faced analyst by the name of Reid Weppler to help out with the massive Waterfront Station project. Reid says he "grew up" while working with Gordon and the rest of the development group, and is especially proud of the work he put in seeing the 801 17th Street (PNC Place) development through, from acquisition to construction to lease-up. The American U grad worked in the affordable housing world before getting a master's at Johns Hopkins and realizing development was really his calling.
As much as Charlotte-native Reid enjoyed development, about a year ago he decided to take on a new role in Vornado's portfolio management division, where he now does special projects such as mapping out the future of the firm's Crystal City holdings.
Wright was a successful retail broker while pitching former Vornado leasing chief Brendan Owen to do some third-party work for the firm. Brendan was so impressed he recruited Wright to join Vornado, where in three-and-a-half years the Washington and Lee-grad has been a part of big deals such as wooing Whole Foods to Pentagon City and locking down TechShop in Crystal City.
The DC-born but Dallas-bred Wright says he's busy filling up retail space in Crystal City (to make it a "cooler, hipper, better place to not only live, but work too") as well as Vornado's Skyline portfolio in Falls Church, where he says the firm hopes to add more restaurants. Re-tenanting the Fairfax Square complex in Tysons Corner also remains a top priority, Wright tells us.
Crystal City (if you couldn't tell already) is a huge priority for all three young guns, and they say their goal is to not only add to the neighborhood's base but promote the strong features already in place. Says Gordon: "We have the rare opportunity to shape an entire city, and think about the kinds of places that the next gen after us will want to live, work and play."
Gordon, Reid, and Wright are all part of Bisnow's Ascent community of up-and-coming leaders in commercial real estate. For more info on Ascent, click here.