It would be an exaggeration to say Ollie Carr and Jim Clark are responsible for the shape of downtown Washington. But not by much.
The projects the two real estate men have worked on read like a virtual blueprint for the skyline of the District.
The development company that bears Carr's name has been involved with the Metro Center shopping and office center complex, the redevelopment project around Garfinckel's on 14th and F streets NW, a host of buildings along K Street NW and numerous other commercial real estate projects.
Clark's companies make up the No. 1 construction operation in the vicinity. Through his George Hyman Construction Co. of Bethesda and Omni Construction Inc. of Rockville, Clark has had a hand in construction of L'Enfant Plaza, the east and west wings of the Museum of Natural History, the World Bank buildings and more than 250 other buildings in the area.
Between them, Oliver T. Carr and A. James Clark had more than $1 billion worth of contracts in 1984. Considering that a good deal of that was in joint ventures, it makes a potent team, one acquaintances say stands a good chance of bringing baseball back to Washington. Their chances aren't hurt by their alignment with former baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn.
Since the mid-1960s, when their association began, Clark has handled about 20 projects for Carr worth more than $400 million, according to a spokesman for CEI Construction, Inc., the holding company for Clark's six businesses. Current Carr company projects being handled by Clark construction include the renovation of the Willard Hotel, Metropolitan Square and the Westin.
Neither man was available for comment last week. Through the spokesman, however, Clark did acknowledge that he and Carr were interested in bringing a baseball team to Washington, and have talked to other local businessmen to form a group of investors. One name linked to such a group is that of Robert Smith, son of Charles E. Smith, one of the area's biggest names in development.
Of the two principals, Carr, 60, is better known, probably because of his more extensive involvement in Washington business and civic affairs, as well as from the demolition of the Rhodes Tavern. Following the lead of his father and grandfather, Carr entered commercial real estate in the early 1960s.
"Ollie's had faith in the downtown area of Washington over some very difficult times, and he's never lost that faith," says realtor Foster Shannon, the president of Shannon and Luchs.
Clark is a more private figure than Carr and does not move as freely in social circles, but he wields every bit the power.
From his home on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Clark flies in every morning to Bethesda, where he oversees a construction empire. In 1984 alone, CEI construction had contracts worth $750 million, a 15-fold increase over the $55 million in contracts the George Hyman company had in 1969, the year Clark became its president.
Clark, who is on the board of directors for both Capital Centre and the hockey Capitals, is one of the wealthiest men in Washington. One area entrepreneur estimates his liquid net personal worth at $50 million, much more than Carr and in the top five in Washington, according to the source.
Clark is one of the biggest stockholders in American Security Corp., the holding company for the bank for which both he and Carr serve as directors. As of February, Clark owned roughly 8.9 percent, according to Edward Stark, vice president of the bank, which would amount to about $30 million.
Clark, 56, built up this wealth at Hyman Construction. He joined the company as a field engineer in 1950 after graduating from the University of Maryland. Much of his money comes from his equity holdings in the projects he works on, businessmen say.
Clark has a reputation as a hard-nosed businessman able to command construction work at the drop of his name. "Some of his competitors say that if you've got the bid, it's because Jimmy Clark didn't want it," says Shannon.