In the 2013 Case real estate competition, an annual contest hosted by alumni from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Real Estate, graduate students in real estate and finance from across the country, and as far away as Hong Kong, made their own proposals for the Hoover Building site, which offers 6.66 acres near a booming neighborhood to the north (Penn Quarter) and a $200 million proposed luxury hotel project across the street to the south (by Donald Trump and daughter Ivanka).
In the competition, the teams were asked to answer the basic questions required to develop the site: What uses ought to replace the Hoover Building? How much is the site worth? How will new development integrate with the city that surrounds it?
Thirty-two teams, each with no more than four members, entered the competition. They were given just five days at the end of January and beginning of February to underwrite, design and propose a development with only information provided to them and what they could find on the Internet. (They did not consider where to relocate the FBI.) The field was narrowed to 12 in March and to three in April, with teams from Cornell University, MIT and Georgetown University emerging as finalists.
With industry professionals serving as judges — including some of the biggest names in Washington real estate — the finalists made their presentations in Boston April 5, with Cornell’s “Capitol Crossing” named winner.
The presentations offer blueprints not just for the development prize that the GSA’s eventual FBI partner will enjoy, but for the future of downtown Washington and its most famous avenue. Here’s a look at them, through their own words and those of two local professionals who served as judges: Raymond A. Ritchey, executive vice president of Boston Properties, and Elizabeth Miller, a senior planner with the National Capital Planning Committee.
Predicting whether office space, housing, hotel rooms or other uses will make the best financial sense five or 10 years down the line is difficult, even for top developers who are immersed in the Washington market. Will the office market have recovered? Will people interested in living downtown continue to favor renting or be looking for condominiums to buy?
Perhaps it’s an indication of the fluctuating fundamentals in Washington commercial real estate, but all three Case teams opted to anchor their projects with a different use. “They all took a very different approach to the programming of the site,” said Miller, senior urban planner-designer at the National Capital Planning Commission, the planning agency for the federal government.
The Cornell team invested heavily in office space — by far the dominant use downtown— by proposing three office buildings totaling 885,000 square feet. They added 160,000 square feet of retail, a 315-room hotel and 95 condominiums totaling just 132,500 square feet.