It will likely take more than a decade to turn 67 acres of the former Walter Reed army hospital into a mixed-use neighborhood. So for all the ideas, visions and plans that three competing developers unveiled last week, more than anything Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) will be picking a partner. ¶ Ernie Jarvis, president of the D.C. Building Industry Association and a native of Ward 4, where Walter Reed is located, said Gray has good options from which to choose. “I think there are very capable teams pursuing it,” he said. ¶ Jarvis added, however, that whoever wins will need to work diligently with residents of Shepherd Park, Brightwood and Takoma Park. “I’ve talked with people in the community and they seem pleased with the process,” he said. “But that neighborhood is a very politically active neighborhood.”¶Here’s a look at the contenders:
Based: The District.
Leadership: Founding partners Richard Lake, Armond Spikell and Todd Weiss.
Projects of note: CityMarket at O (above); Cityline at Tenley; and Stonebridge at Potomac Town Center.
ityMarket at O required the Roadside team to demonstrate many of the skills that will be required for a Walter Reed overhaul: working with a diverse neighborhood (Shaw), preserving a historical building (the original market’s brick facade) and making urban retail work (a Giant grocery store).
But even at more than 1 million square feet, CityMarket at O is a much smaller project. By the time CityMarket is done next spring, it will have taken Roadside — the smallest of the three competing Walter Reed teams — a decade to complete. And that was with the aid of $35 million in tax increment financing (money the city borrowed and will repay with the project’s tax revenue), $2.5 million in pre-development costs and other subsidies. Walter Reed would be the largest project the company has ever taken on. However, Roadside’s strength — retail — is likely to play well in the Northwest neighborhoods that surround Walter Reed, where many middle class families have been driving elsewhere to shop their entire lives. Roadside built a Wegmans in its Potomac Town Center project, and is working on another in Tysons Corner. “It has been under served in retail for decades,” Jarvis said.
Hines and Urban Atlantic
Based: Houston (Hines) and Bethesda (Urban Atlantic).
Leadership: Bill Alsup, Hines senior vice president; Chuck Waters, senior vice president; and Victoria S. Davis, Urban Atlantic president.
Speciality: Office (Hines); residential (Urban Atlantic).
Projects of note: CityCenterDC, above (Hines), and Rhode Island Row (Urban Atlantic).
ines is in the final months of completing the first phase of the largest downtown project in the District’s history — CityCenterDC, which includes 520,000 square feet of office space, 458 apartments, 216 condominiums and 185,000 square feet of retail. When the real estate investment market fell apart, Hines used connections abroad to land $620 million. The re-use plan for Walter Reed, however, calls for only 90,000 square feet of office space, which is Hines’ strength, compared with 200,000 square feet of retail and 900,000 square feet of housing. Construction on the second phase of CityCenter has not begun, so if Hines wins Walter Reed, a new generation of leaders will likely have to fill in behind Alsup to complete it. Hines also has little or no experience in turning around D.C. neighborhoods, but Urban Atlantic does. Previously known as Mid-City Urban, it has built in Northeast (Rhode Island Row) and Southeast (Arthur Capper/Carrollsburg). Rhode Island Row came after some creative financing, tough negotiations with the District and a $7.2 million subsidy. Neil Albert, the former D.C. deputy mayor now at Holland & Knight, said the pairing was promising. “I think it’s a pretty good marriage,” he said.
Forest City Washington
Based: Local arm of Forest City Enterprises of Cleveland.
Leadership: Deborah Ratner Salzberg, president, and Thomas Henneberry, chief operating officer.
Projects of Note:: The Yards (above) in Southeast and Waterfront Station in Southwest.
f everything on the competing companies’ résumés, Forest City’s 42-acre Yards project probably best resembles Walter Reed. Through a partnership with the federal government, the company is turning former Navy industrial land into 2,800 housing units, 1.8 million square feet of office space and 400,000 square feet of retail, including a Harris Teeter grocery store. There is lots of historical preservation work involved, and Forest City is putting its retail connections to work in trying to complete a deal to add a 16-screen movie theater by Chicago-based Showplace Icon. The firm’s Waterfront Station, a mixed-use project in Southwest, was financed by multiple banks when the national economy was on the brink of collapse. The D.C. government leased all of the office space to make the project work. The Yards is far from complete, so adding Walter Reed would give the company two colossal projects to complete at once, but Forest City Enterprises has assets of $10.6 billion — a stockpile that should be big enough to serve them for the long haul. “They’ve got a really wide scope of geography that they cover but also a wide scope of programs that they cover — everything from office to retail to residential. That clearly fits with what the city is looking for at Walter Reed,” Albert said.