Developer Greg Fazakerley has emerged as one of the key figures helping to broker a deal between two sides locked in a heated dispute over where to build the District's largest hotel and how to pay for it.
Fazakerley, a former president of the D.C. Building Industry Association, will try to negotiate a compromise between Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) and some developers on one side, and Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D) and some members of the Washington Convention Center Authority board on the other, according to developers and sources close to the mayor and the convention center board.
Fazakerley volunteered for the task and was seen as someone who might be able to break the stalemate because he is a knowledgeable developer and hasn't been involved in the controversy, said the sources, who asked not to be identified because the confidential negotiations are still underway. Many developers have stakes in the decision.
"It was really important to bring in somebody who didn't already have a position staked out," said Robert A. Peck, president of the Greater Washington Board of Trade. "That's the only way to get it done. He's got the diplomatic skills to pull it off." Fazakerley, who lives in Middleburg, did not return phone calls seeking a comment.
The parties have been arguing over the location of the hotel for two years. Williams wants to build the hotel at Ninth Street and Massachusetts Avenue NW, next to the new convention center at Mount Vernon Square. He wants the construction financed by tax-exempt bonds, plus savings from the refinancing of the new convention center.
Cropp and some of the eight members of the convention center authority's board, which oversees the operations of the convention center, want the hotel built on the old convention center site, two blocks south. They argue that it would save the District money because it already owns the land. Enter Fazakerley.
Fazakerley is seen as a neutral party in the hotel dispute, and he has been involved in development issues in the area. He chaired the committee that oversaw construction of the new 2.3-million-square-foot convention center. He was involved in the founding of the D.C. Downtown Business Improvement District, which promotes development in Washington. He is also a member of the Federal City Council and of the Greater Washington Urban League.
Over the years he and his wife have given $21,500 to the mayor and several influential D.C. Council members, including Cropp and Council member Harold Brazil, who chairs the council''s Committee on Economic Development.
Fazakerley, 56, studied political science at American University, according to his wife, Candy. The couple met in the 1970s at International Business Machines Corp., where they both sold word processors and copiers to the federal government and invested in real estate.
"We drove around in $700 cars and we bought real estate," Candy said. "We bought places, moved into them and then moved out and rented them. All of our friends were driving around in Porsches and Mercedes. We were buying places. I had one in Capitol Hill, another in Wheaton. Greg had one in Dupont and another in Old Town Alexandria." The couple left IBM and got into commercial real estate in 1977, going into business with a homebuilder to build 160 townhouses in Old Town Alexandria. By 1983, they bought out the partner and became the owners of Development Resources Inc. They made a name building small headquarters buildings for trade associations in Old Town Alexandria.
In the 1990s they came to downtown Washington. In 20 years they have built 67 office buildings.
More than 40 are headquarters for nonprofit groups in Old Town Alexandria and the rest are in downtown Washington. Among the bigger buildings DRI built in downtown Washingotn is a 253,000-square-foot building at 810 Seventh Street NW ; offices for the U.S. Mint at 801 Ninth Street NW; and a smaller office across the street for the Mint and the Internal Revenue Service.
The couple's best-known project is the Executive Tower at 1399 New York Ave. NW, which they built in 2001 and sold two years later for about $500 a square foot -- one of the highest prices per square foot for an office building in the District at that time.
In 2000 they sold the development and management sides of their company, DRI, to three longtime employees. They kept the investment side of the company, renaming it CG Investments Inc., and still do some development.
Greg is chairman and chief executive of CG, which stands for the initials of their first names; Candy is president. CG Investments is doing two deals -- a 246-unit apartment building at Fifth Street and Massachusetts Avenue NW and a Hampton Inn hotel at Sixth Street and Massachusetts Avenue -- with Chevy Chase-based developer JBG Cos.
Many in the industry say Fazakerley has the right personality to find common ground between the two sides. "He's ideally suited because he has the respect of people in the private and public sectors," said John J. Donovan Jr., a managing director for the D.C. area at CarrAmerica. "He's respected for his intelligence and his fairness, and he's trustworthy. No one can rely on him to be a rubber stamp."
The board of the convention center authority is expected to make its recommendation Thursday on where to put the hotel and how to pay for it. But the mayor and the D.C. Council have the final say. There is no official deadline. Construction will take several years, developers say.
"We need to get off the dime," said D.C. developer Kingdon Gould III, who owns a large chunk of land where the mayor wants to put the hotel. "We're still in a good building cycle. There are still good interest rates. The city should be able to make a rational, informed decision and get going."
Meanwhile, last week developer Hines Interests LP unveiled its initial plans for the old convention center site, at a D.C. Building Industry Association meeting. The drawings showed as many as eight buildings sitting on the site, with street-level shops. It also is planning to build apartments and condos, underground parking spaces and possibly a 200-room hotel on the site. The plans do not include the big hotel.
D.C. officials awarded Hines the rights to redevelop the site last year, but the D.C. Council must approve the deal before the developer can move forward. That action is stalled because of the dispute over where to locate the hotel.
* Grosvenor, a real estate investor and developer based in England and headed by the Duke of Westminster, paid subsidiaries of Starwood Urban LLC $200 million for 15 retail and office properties totaling 462,000 square feet in Dupont Circle, Woodley Park, Cleveland Park, Friendship Heights and Old Town Alexandria.
* New York Avenue Property Inc. paid $56 million, or $493 a square foot, one of the highest prices this year, for 901 F St. NW. Selling was a partnership of Infrastructure Capital Group and Northridge Capital. The brokerage firm of CB Richard Ellis represented the seller.
* Atlanta-based Wells Real Estate Investment Trust II Inc. paid $79 million to Monument Realty LLC for a 393,000-square-foot office building in Gaithersburg leased to IBM.