How Developers Under 40 Are Staking a Claim to DC Market
Washington can’t compete with Silicon Valley when it comes to 20-something tech savants, but our region is filled with a new generation of developers who are literally rebuilding Washington from the ground up. You can hear from some of these trailblazers at Bisnow's New Generation of Real Estate Leaders event on Dec. 17 at the Mayflower Hotel.
Among our speakers will be Montana native Joe Reger, who since founding JCR in 2009 has built a portfolio of some 18 properties, including shopping centers, high-street retail, apartments, and even office space in hot locales like the 14th St Corridor, Georgetown, Old Town Alexandria, Dupont Circle and Logan Circle.
In 2012, his company began purchasing suburban shopping centers, the most successful to date being the Silver Hill shopping plaza (now called The Shops at Silver Hill) in District Heights, MD, for $6M. At the time, the 33k SF property was just 65% occupied. In just two years, Joe says he added another $6M in value.
His best advice for would-be property investors: Fully understand the financials and meet as many people as possible, because, he says, this is a very social business.
Another speaker will be John Wilkinson, who founded The Boundary Cos two years ago, a development company focusing on urban infill projects. The name he adopted signifies to him there are no boundaries in real estate development, and it exemplifies his carpe diem ethos.
One lesson he’s learned in these two short years: “You really need to pay attention to the people with whom you surround yourself, because this [business] can’t be done alone.” He’s talking about partners, mentors, investors, bankers and the like.
He says he's been fortunate enough to work with people who've had a tremendous impact on him.
Another lesson: real estate deals tend to take a long time to come to fruition, with projects experiencing lots of ups and downs before they reach the end.
With that in mind, John says Boundary makes investments with the intent to hold them for at least 10 years. “You can never consistently predict market cycles, so we don’t try to,” he says.
That’s his philosophy with his Eckington development, a JV with JBG, which will include 691 units in four buildings near NoMa and Union Market. The development features a “woonerf”—a joint car, bike and pedestrian alley—running in between the buildings, with retail on either side. When complete, the project, designed by Eric Colbert architects, will have the feel of its own little neighborhood.
Another one of our speakers will be Jill Homan, who for the past five years has been principal/chief strategy officer at Javelin 19, a two-person firm focusing on core-plus and value-add multifamily and office properties in the $5M to $50M range. Assisting her partner Kevin Hill, Jill has done it all from sourcing, underwriting, structuring, and executing new real estate investment opportunities.
In October, Javelin 19 and Perseus Realty acquired 1101 Pennsylvania Ave SE, the site of the former Frager’s Hardware. Plans call for developing a mixed-use building of perhaps 50 units of condo over a rebuilt hardware store (Frager's signed a lease with the sale of the property after its old store was damaged in a fire).
Such hands-on experience has taught her there are many similarities in real estate transactions, but often it takes creativity and experience to seal the deal. That’s when the power of networking and having “people with maybe a few gray hairs in your network” can pay dividends. “Having trusted people you can go to and get some good advice, whether you like it or not, is incredibly important especially for this industry,” she says.
Returning years later to the city of her alma mater, Durham, NC, Jill worked with former colleagues at the city and Duke University, along with a REIT partner, to erect a 340-unit apartment building on what once was a blighted, three-acre site.