Q&A: Metro real estate official says New Carrollton provides hot development opportunity

By Jonathan O'Connell
Monday, September 6, 2010

Steven Goldin says transit-oriented development in the Washington area is "further ahead than anywhere else in the country" and yet he is remaking the real estate department of the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority. A year after becoming head of Metro real estate, the self-described "TOD geek" is juggling half a dozen distressed deals he inherited and initiating his first new one: a search for developers interested in 40 acres of Metro and state-owned land in New Carrollton.

Many people view your office as understaffed or underfinanced or unable to respond to opportunities.

It's all of those things, but you know you can approach things in life and sit around and cry and feel sorry for yourself and whine about it, or you can say, "These are the resources I have and we're going to take these resources and prioritize the opportunities and, just as importantly, we're going to say no to certain things," and that's something that hasn't happened here in the past. This first year has really been all about looking at what the assets are, both human and capital, looking at what the opportunities are.

You are a former developer. What are the hottest properties in the Metro portfolio?

New Carrollton. That's why we're taking that to market first. New Carrollton is, we believe, the premiere development opportunity in the United States. Not only the premiere TOD development opportunity, the premiere opportunity. You've got an Amtrak stop, a Metro stop, a MARC stop. The GSA [General Services Administration] already has a huge footprint out there with the IRS building, so obviously it's a location that the GSA knows and is comfortable with. And you've got a jurisdictional government that wants to see development there. So we expect a national response.

How will this be different than previous Metro developments?

In the past, Metro put out [a request for proposals] and people responded with a numerical value, whether it's a sale or a lease. And that's fine for a small site. But the problem is, when you've got a large site ... they underbid to reflect the uncertainties. And then you get engaged in revisions to the joint development agreement, each revision can have eight or nine amendments, each amendment can take six months to do, and you've got these really long time periods and lots of brain damage for both the developer and Metro. So we're going to request qualifications and we're going to pick the very best developer or development teams in terms of their experience, their track record, their personnel and, just as importantly, their financial strength.

But do you get pressure from above to bring in revenue quickly, even with the market down?

We get pressure from all sources at all times for all things, and my job is to insulate the staff from those pressures. I tell people that to succeed in this position, you need a hard head, broad shoulders, a stiff upper lip, a strong stomach, a stiff backbone and a really big pair of ... ears.

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