More than 50 potential minority investors -- including one who showed up yesterday with $15,000 in cash and certified checks stuffed inside a camera bag -- have contacted District housing officials in less than two days seeking to invest in a $30 million Metro Center project.
"My phones lit up with minority investors," D.C. Housing Director Robert L. Moore said. Moore's office logged in 55 related calls between 9 and 11 a.m. Thursday.
That was the day The Washington Post reported that Moore had told Bethesda builder Nathan Landow that Landow could lose his city-awarded development rights to the project if he did not promise to recruit additional minority partners. Other offers have come in since then, Moore said.
Three minority partners, Washington bond attorneys James L. Hudson, Willie Leftwich and Chester Davenport, already hold a 15 percent interest in the project.
But the housing director says Landow must find minority partners for at least another 10 percent of the project's ownership to comply with an unwritten housing department policy requiring that minority equity in such projects be at least 25 percent.
Landow's office reported yesterday that he was traveling and could not be reached for comment. However, one of his assistants, Georgia Thomas, said that Landow's telephone also has been ringing constantly with the voices of willing investors. "I lost count after the first hundred," she said.
Landow said earlier in the week that he had been unable to find additional minority investors willing to put up cash -- about $400,000 -- for the 10 percent interest. He said he would be forced to give away the interest, a practice that city officials say they are trying to discourage.
"Equity for no cash or no work is not the policy of this government," said Moore.
Moore said yesterday the publicity surrounding his order to Landow, "certainly taught us something about getting the word out."
When the housing director reported to work yesterday morning at his 9th floor office at 1325 G St. NW, a 36-year-old law school graduate and consultant, Joseph A. Brown Jr., was waiting for him and seeking an introduction to Landow.
"He was sitting there with $15,000 in a (camera) bag and I said, 'You've got what?'" recounted Moore. "I told him to get out of here and put his money into a check and he told me that he was going straight to Landow's office," Moore said.
Reached later, Brown said that he read the newspaper story at the George Washington University student center and immediately telephoned doctor and lawyer friends across the country. "I've got three commitments in addition to myself and between us we can raise the money," Brown said.
Brown said he usually does not carry around large amounts of cash in a shoulder bag. But he hoped to gain an advantage by putting part of his money on the table.
If he can ever get through to Landow, Brown said, he hopes to put both his cash and his talents to work on the project. "There is a whole group of people out there who are outsiders and who don't belong to the country clubs where these deals are made," Brown said.
"We usually can't find out about these things because we're not a part of the 'old boy network' and so you have people who are successful who are just left out," Brown said.
Also discussing a partnership with Landow in the project is Joseph Beasley Jr., a black developer who recently bid unsuccessfully to develop the parkside tract along the Anacostia River.
William Scribner, a steel worker, called from Baltimore offering to trade an interest in his patented swimming pool invention for equity in Landow's office complex, planned for the Metro Center site at 12th and G streets NW.
Moore said he is compiling a list of potential investors who have called his office and will forward it to Landow.