Washington, D.C.’s 25 Most Powerful Real Estate Players in 2021

Who’s got the right stuff when it comes to real estate in the nation’s capital.

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In about two weeks, the U.S. of A. will celebrate its 245th year of independence and its 156th year without an out-and-out civil war. Perhaps, more significantly, it will celebrate its independence from the coronavirus pandemic and the civil disruption that it brought.

And Washington, D.C., may very well be the hub of that celebration, as both President Joe Biden and Mayor Muriel Bowser have called for festivities in the capital, unimaginable only a few months ago …

SEE ALSO: DC Buildings Sprout More Outdoor Amenities Amid COVID

As of June 11, all capacity restrictions in the District were lifted and the city is 100 percent reopened, as museums are welcoming visitors, the Wharf is packed, and the Nationals are winning in front of cheering crowds of about 40,000 per game.

Still, not everything is cause for celebration as we learn to live in a post-pandemic world. D.C.’s office vacancy sits at an all-time high, development is being impacted by high lumber prices, and the hospitality industry is still grappling with low occupancy.

However, there’s plenty of optimism among those in the real estate industry, and many of them believe that D.C. will come roaring back as it historically does after times of upheaval. Plus, there are already plenty of positives about the D.C. area, some spurred by the pandemic itself.

The life sciences sector is hotter than ever, especially in suburban Maryland; Northern Virginia is seeing record numbers in data center absorption; and big projects, such as Phase 2 of the Wharf, Amazon’s HQ2, and the entirety of National Landing and Tysons, Va.’s Boro expansion are barreling forward.

On the affordable housing front, there are plenty of positives as well. Washington Mayor Bowser pledged a $400 million commitment to the Housing Production Trust Fund; Amazon committed $20 million to Arlington County to address the segment; and the tech giant also teamed with D.C.’s transit authority on an initiative to create 1,000 affordable housing units at Metro stations in the area.

There are countless real estate pros and companies, who are shepherding these and other initiatives along, and thereby helping the region reassert its independence post-COVID. The following list of 25 (in alphabetical order by company name) represents the power players who have made the most impactful marks over the past year-plus.

Holly Sullivan
Head of Worldwide Economic Development, Amazon

Amazon spent the past year continuing to redefine the future of Northern Virginia, pandemic be damned.

The e-commerce giant is advancing its HQ2 in Crystal City, Va., which will be a game-changer for the region as part of the larger National Landing project. Holly Sullivan has remained somewhat behind the scenes of the HQ2 project since first bringing in development partner JBG SMITH, but continues to be a strong voice.

The most recent designs for PenPlace, the 11.6 acres where Amazon is developing its first pair of HQ2 towers, feature three 22-story office buildings totaling 2.8 million square feet; 2.1 acres of greenspace; and The Helix, a 370,000-square-foot conch shell-like structure that will be the tallest building in the area.

HQ2 is also due to include local retailers, as well as a number of women- and minority-owned businesses. Amazon has also pledged to create 25,000 jobs and invest $2.5 billion total in Arlington, Va.

“We’re also passionate about the importance of being a good neighbor, and we are continuing to invest in the larger community and region,” Sullivan said. “As part of our HQ2 project, Amazon will increase funding available to Arlington County to address affordable housing, including $20 million to the Affordable Housing Investment Fund — the largest developer contribution to the fund in its history.”

Plans are also underway for the company to open an Amazon Fresh inside the former Potomac Yard Shoppers supermarket at 3801 Richmond Highway in Alexandria, directly across from the planned Virginia Tech Innovation Campus in the National Landing complex.

Sullivan envisions that the next year will see a collective “coming together” of sorts as people navigate their way out of the pandemic toward a new normal.

“We’re excited about our work with communities around the world as we continue to create jobs, and invest in cities and towns, small and large, all in pursuit of continuing to deliver for our customers,” she said. “We’re excited about expanding on these programs in the future. For now, it’s still just Day 1.”

And HQ2 will be a major force in making that even more of a reality.—Keith Loria

Gina Baker Chambers
Principal and Portfolio Manager, Artemis Real Estate Partners

Gina Baker Chambers describes the past 15 months as challenging “in expected ways and unexpected ways.” 

She expected some hurdles around working remotely, uncertainty around how long the early pause in market activity would last, and questions about what the new normal might look like. 

But, “there was a psychic toll that I wasn’t anticipating,” she said. “It was the accumulation of not only dealing with the pandemic, but the reality of COVID disproportionately impacting communities of color, America’s racial reckoning, and then not being able to go and physically connect with people. All of those things built upon one another, and the reality of it all, made me sit still for a while, and reassess what was important and what I was gaining joy from — not only in my personal life, but in my professional life.” 

She joined Artemis 11 years ago, and today is a principal of capital raising, a co-portfolio manager for the New York City Retirement System’s co-investment separate account, and the portfolio manager for the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund separate account. 

A significant portion of Baker Chambers’ role is dedicated to supporting Artemis’ emerging and diverse manager platform, growing the equity that the firm has to partner with those managers and bringing additional new partners into the fold. 

“I was able to reassess what I was doing, make that personal-professional connection, and feel like there is real value in what I do, day in and day out,” she said.

And she’s actively sourcing new opportunities and partners, with a direct mandate from the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund to deploy capital with diverse and emerging managers, predominantly in a joint venture structure. “Occasionally, we’ll look at a fund, and so I’ve been busy looking at a few managers for that strategy; one has a more industrial focus, led by a Latinx group, and then I’m looking at some affordable and workforce housing with an African American-led group in the Midwest.”  

As for whether the past year has moved us to the precipice of real changes around diversity, equity and inclusion in the real estate industry, “I’m hopeful. That’s the word I’ll use,” Baker Chambers said. 

“To the extent that real estate companies rely on outside capital from public pension plans or corporate pension plans, there’s going to have to be some movement — because the folks who are providing the money are absolutely requiring it going forward.”—Cathy Cunningham

John Kevill
Principal in the D.C. Office, Avison Young

As head of Avison Young’s entire U.S. Capital Markets team, John Kevill has driven the effort for that slice of the company’s business during the pandemic. Kevill and his team remained active dealmarkers, leading the execution of two huge, zero cash flow deals.

“I am most proud that our team here in D.C., and nationally not only held together, but in many ways thrived,” he said. “Of course, deal volume was dramatically impaired in 2020, but things are back on track.”

For example, in 2021, Avison Young exceeded its 2020 first-quarter overall sales volume, which was the highest the firm has ever seen.

In December, along with fellow brokers Jon Hipp and Rich Murphy, Kevill executed the sale of two large, long-term leased properties valued at more than $600 million. One was an Amazon distribution center at an airport and the other was a headquarters.

“Both properties represent legacy-type real estate in a highly complex deal configuration that needed a hands-on approach to properly explain to the market,” Kevill said over email. “Our deal team was able to educate the buyers on the tax benefits embedded in the structure as well as the tremendous residual value inherent at the property level, while navigating property diligence and inspection during the pandemic. The teamwork involved was incredible and I was honored to be able to lead the team.”

Over the last year, the firm also dramatically accelerated its use of data and technology, Kevill said. Avison Young now has data scientists analyzing asset classes and layering in real-time market information, in order to understand where capital is focused and where value is being created at the asset level.

“Our teams stayed connected to each other and developed some best practices about sharing real-time anecdotes and information,” Kevill said. “Our monthly internal market scoop sheet became a must-read and a key component of communicating real-time market info to our clients.”

He anticipates the middle of 2021 and the end of the year will be wildly different.

“Investors are approaching Washington with a level of caution right now that will systematically melt away as the year goes on,” Kevill said. “There is a tremendous amount of capital available for investment across all asset classes, and the sheer volume of that capital will drive transaction activity.”—Keith Loria

Peter Otteni and Jake Stroman
Co-Heads of the Washington Office, Boston Properties

In a year that brought the office leasing market across the country to a near-grinding halt, Boston Properties still managed to have a banner season in D.C.

The Boston-based real estate investment trust signed about 2.2 million square feet throughout its roughly 10 million-square-foot, D.C.-area portfolio last year, a marked improvement from the nearly 1.6 million square feet that it signed in 2019.

“Last year was the busiest and the best, by far, in comparison to the past couple of years,” Jake Stroman said. “You sort of scratch your head and wonder how that could be the case.”

But, the answer becomes clear when you look at which tenants were signing the deals, he said. Microsoft took nearly 600,000 square feet, Volkswagen took 196,000 square feet, and defense contractor RTC took 135,000 square feet. And the majority of the deals were centered in Reston, Va., where Boston Properties has been working on a huge office, retail and multifamily development.

“These are well-established, large corporate users that understand the value of the real estate and understand they needed to be where they needed to be,” Stroman said. “They could look past the fact and see that they could get past the pandemic at some point.”

But, it wasn’t just leases that marked a strong year for Boston Properties’ D.C. team; it also made headway on its development projects. That included finishing the 276,000-square-foot, 17FIFTY project at 1750 Presidents Street in Reston, which Leidos Holdings immediately moved into. The 28-story office tower is part of the company’s Reston Town Center development. Boston Properties is also putting the glass on its 2100 Pennsylvania Avenue NW project in D.C. proper.

“We’ve been really focused on our blocking and tackling in terms of just really executing on those projects,” Peter Otteni said. “Those jobs went on and kept going through the pandemic.”

And, in March, Otteni and Stroman took over as co-leaders of the D.C. office, replacing the retired Peter Johnson, and are now focused on starting work on the next phases of its Reston Town Center project — a hotel and multifamily building — while trying to break into the city’s life sciences market.—Nicholas Rizzi

Sadhvi Subramanian
Senior Vice President and Mid-Atlantic Market Manager, Capital One

On the heels of a banner production year in 2019, Sadhvi Subramanian combatted financial headwinds posed by the COVID-19 pandemic to help Capital One complete a number of major transactions in the D.C. region.

Subramanian’s portfolio, which consists largely of properties in the region, closed $1 billion in new loans in 2020, a number she called “significant” compared to most other banks.

“We had a pretty good year in 2020,” said Subramanian, who has spent the last 20 years at Capital One. “That is a pretty good achievement considering COVID, and considering all the internal work that everybody had to do to make sure that we were in a good place,” she said.

Capital One’s notable originations around the D.C area last year included acting as the agent bank on a $175 million syndicated term loan for developer JBG SMITH for the financing of its new corporate headquarters in Bethesda, Md. It also closed a $70 million loan for American Real Estate Partners to refinance a Baltimore office building at 700 Pratt Street.

Nationally, the McLean, Va.-based bank also financed a portfolio of industrial assets for Taurus Investment Holdings in multiple markets by facilitating a $106 million loan for the acquisition.

“We had to come up with slightly different innovative structures last year, because of where the market was and because absorption was slower with every product type,” Subramanian said.

Beyond her heavy involvement with Capital One’s lending activity, Subramanian was active in promoting Capital One’s numerous diversity initiatives last year, with Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) D.C. honoring her in September with the 2020 Career Advancement for Women Impact Award for helping to grow the organization’s chapter.

She helped spearhead a partnership between Capital One and CREW that led to the bank’s 2020 benchmark study about gender and diversity (or the lack thereof) in commercial real estate.—Andrew Cohen

Kyle Schoppmann
President of the Mid-Atlantic Division, CBRE

Kyle Schoppmann was already a major force in CBRE’s mid-Atlantic division when she was named its president in early June 2020, a promotion that also meant joining the executive committee of CBRE Americas.

Schoppmann, who joined CBRE in 2007, had overseen its mid-Atlantic division’s day-to-day operations for two years as its executive managing director, and played a key role in opening its Norfolk and Richmond beachheads.

She also helped organize the company’s move into new D.C. offices at JBG SMITH’s 1900 N Street NW in Dupont Circle — 10 days before the pandemic forced CBRE to empty said office.

“Fortunately, we were able to quickly pivot to remote work thanks to our new office technology—Zoom included,” Schoppmann said via email. “We found meaningful ways to collaborate remotely, train our professionals, and serve our clients.”

That included servicing on deals, great and small. A couple of the greats, according to Schoppmann: law firm Wiley Rein’s 166,000-square-foot lease at 2050 M Street in D.C. in June (CBRE represented the firm); and CIM Group’s $506 million purchase of the five-building Southern Towers residential complex in Alexandria in August — the largest multifamily deal in Virginia in 2020, one that CBRE also brokered.

Regarding those smaller deals that CBRE was behind, Schoppmann in particular cited the company’s work on behalf of a retail sector especially battered by the pandemic. “We represented Tatte bakery in several of their 2020 leases,” she said, “signaling their entry into the D.C. market, and it also happens to be one of my favorite new lunch spots.”

As for the near future, the mid-Atlantic leader of the world’s largest real estate brokerage and services firms sees a quicker and healthier recovery in life sciences, multifamily, industrial and data centers (the last two represent an increasingly busier share of the D.C.-area commercial real estate market).

Recovery might take a little longer for office, retail and hospitality, Schoppmann said. In particular, the office sector, which understandably dominates the core D.C. market — think law firms, lobbyists and the federal government — is still awaiting clarity about how much, and how frequently, tenants will use properties.

“Individual companies will come to different decisions on what this means to them in light of their specific circumstances,” Schoppmann said. “Flexibility will be key for all of us in navigating our ‘new normal.’”—Tom Acitelli

Robin McBride Zeigler
Chief Operating Officer, Cedar Realty Trust

Getting deals done for a 1 million-square-foot, mixed-use retail, residential and office complex requires the skills of a great multitasker.

And, we have to say, Robin McBride Zeigler is a candidate for greatness, if her work on Northeast Heights is any indication.

Did she manage to secure a great tenant for the project that Cedar is developing with Asland Capital Partners and Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group? Check. She nabbed D.C.’s Department of General Services as a tenant (the agency was looking for a new headquarters).

Did she line up lenders? Check. JPMorgan provided the $105 million in construction financing back in May.

Did she get buy-in from the community? Check. The project is very much about the local Ward 7 community and putting on art and cultural exhibits, and Cedar worked closely on announcements and partnerships with Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office.

Did she do it in the middle of a pandemic?

Well, you know the answer to that.

“It took a lot of man-hours,” Zeigler said. “The project update calls had 50 or 60 people on it — you never knew who was speaking. It was a yeoman’s effort for sure ... but all parties involved were motivated.”

Oh, yeah. She also did it from her home for the last few years in Long Island, where Cedar is headquartered.

Even without the Northeast Heights project to keep her busy, Zeigler would have had her hands very full in 2020.

Cedar is invested in grocery-anchored shopping centers throughout the Northeast, with some 56 assets totaling 8 million square feet of space. “All our shopping centers were open during the pandemic,” Zeigler said. “And the operations of our portfolio — well, it was very taxing.”

The property management teams had to verse themselves in the relevant travel restrictions and safety restrictions, as well as the new needs and wants of the tenants.

“We worked with retailers on a tenant-by-tenant basis to keep our tenants open and operating to weather the storm,” Zeigler said. And she and Cedar were extremely successful. “Our collection levels were higher than our peers for every month of the pandemic.”—Max Gross

Jim Lighthizer
Principal and Managing Partner, Chesapeake Real Estate Group

If there was one asset class that came out a winner in the pandemic, it was industrial. And Chesapeake Real Estate Group, a Hanover, Md.-based company specializing in industrial, was among the most active in the D.C. region over the past year.

Jim Lighthizer, principal and managing partner of the firm, noted that investor interest, tenant demand and fundamentals remain unprecedented for industrial real estate in the area, and space is at an all-time premium.

“Tenants are snatching up available spaces as quickly as developers can build them, and they are also making leasing decisions with the fear that space will not be available down the line,” he said. “I never expected to see the available inventory to be as limited as it is now. Nor did I expect to see the rental rate and property values to be as high.”

The industrial business is the lion’s share of what Chesapeake Real Estate Group does, and at no time has Lighthizer ever seen things so popular from all sides — investors, tenants and landlords.

“People are selling things online and the e-commerce business has fueled an enormous amount of growth, especially since COVID, with 20 to 30 percent of all goods being bought online now,” he said. “It has a trickle-down effect. Those e-commerce companies are taking Class A space that other companies might have ordinarily taken. So, some of those companies take Class B spaces, and former Class B companies are being forced to find Class C spaces.”

Further evidence of the hot D.C.-area industrial market comes via some recent Chesapeake trades. Lighthizer’s company has historically found land sites to build industrial space in order to lease and manage, but the market is so hot that the company has been selling its positions in the land before even breaking ground.

For instance, in March, the company unloaded its interest in the up-and-coming Abingdon Business Park to Black Creek, Md., after spending three years planning and permitting the project located near Interstate 95. A few months earlier, Chesapeake Real Estate sold its interest in the 600,000-square-foot Route 100 Logistics Park in Severn, Md., with the new owner planning an Amazon building.

“We also have a couple of other projects we are finishing for Amazon in Anne Arundel County,” Lighthizer said of the Maryland location. “We’ve built three properties for them and acted as a fee-based developer for another.”—Keith Loria

Martha Naughten and Kaitlyn Rausse
Vice President, Colliers; Vice President of Leasing, Carr Properties

“Our strategy was being proactive,” said Martha Naughten, who, until late last year, was senior director of leasing at Carr Properties with Kaitlyn Rausse, “getting in front of tenants, keeping in front of them, and coming up with creative terms to extend them.”

As it turns out, this straightforward approach made a lot of sense in a year when a lot of other landlords were grasping for a coherent strategy. Microsoft (yes, that Microsoft) signed a renewal and expansion at 901 K Street NW, Carr Properties’ 12-story, 219,000-square-foot D.C. office property, where Naughten and Rausse handled leasing. And, at the same building, the law firm Baker Donelson renewed its lease.

But Carr wasn’t merely focused on holding the leases they had already secured. Working with brokers from Transwestern and CBRE, Rausse and Naughten signed Walker & Dunlop to a 59,000-square-foot lease at the still-under-development office building The Wilson.

The deal “solidified the building’s best-in-class caliber, leading it to win CREBA’s 2020 Maryland Lease Transaction of the Year,” Rausse said in a statement to Commercial Observer, referring to the Commercial Real Estate Brokerage Association of Greater Washington. “I am extremely proud of the efforts from the Carr Properties and Transwestern leasing teams to complete the lease of The Wilson prior to completion of the development. At delivery, The Wilson was 100 percent pre-leased to six tenants!”

In December, Naughten left Carr to form Colliers’ first D.C. agency team with Mark Sullivan and Matt Venos, previously of Cushman & Wakefield, and since making the move, she’s been focused on properties like 925 15th Street, a boutique office from Saul Centers and 601 Pennsylvania Ave., NW.

“Leasing activity is starting to feel better,” Rausse said, “and the majority of our tours are back to being in-person ... Wellness will be a major focus in the post-pandemic world, but the Carr Properties team is ahead of the times with the wellness and community-focused amenities at our new development in the Union Market neighborhood, Signal House.”

The 10-story, 228,000-square-foot creative office property is being designed by Gensler. It “will set the tone for wellness with a central distributed outside air HVAC system that will provide 100 percent outside air, five outdoor terraces, and rooftop honey bee hives that will increase the local bee population.”

We can feel the buzz!—Max Gross

Kurt Stout, Charles Dilks, Keith Lavey, Jarrett Morrell, Matthew Johnston and Victoria Abbasi
Government Solutions Team, Colliers

The Colliers Government Solutions Team, led by Executive Vice President Kurt Stout, felt fortunate to have the federal government as its counterpart during the pandemic, as many private-sector businesses rolled up into the fetal position, while the federal government remained active.

“We have all been pleased with the discovery that we were able to work effectively from home,” Stout said. “I don’t feel as though we missed a beat and, like many, we were, by some measures, even more productive.”

The group stayed busy working on transactions from coast to coast in the government sector. In the D.C. area, the team recently completed a 90,000-square-foot, 15-year renewal of a Drug Enforcement Administration training center in Lorton, Va. In Downtown D.C. proper, it completed a 167,000-square foot, 10-year renewal of an Internal Revenue Service location.

But, this was just the tip of the iceberg for its strong year throughout the U.S. On the investment sales side, the group sold a 180,000-square-foot, Small Business Administration disaster loan processing facility in Fort Worth, Texas — a key location for the U.S. government’s disaster response. It also sold a 122,000-square-foot federal building in Billings, Mt.

“Even our management team was able to continue onboarding assets during the pandemic,” Stout said. “On a net basis, we brought 30 new buildings into our management portfolio. We now manage more than 350 government-leased buildings across the U.S.”

The team also includes Executive Vice President Charles Dilks, a founding partner of the government solutions practice group; Executive Vice President Keith Lavey; Senior Vice President Jarrett Morrell; Senior Vice President Matthew Johnston; and Senior Associate Victoria Abbasi.

“Strategically, we’ll continue doing what we have been, which is to further grow our platform and more tightly integrate our various government-focused services,” Stout said. “Our leasing business is but one component of our overall government solutions platform. Tactically, we need to get back out on the road. Zoom, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams sustained us, but in our business, we still believe that in-person meetings are critical.”

Before the pandemic, the federal government had already been downsizing its real estate footprint in an effort to reduce costs. Since the government is a major tenant in D.C., its decisions will significantly impact the market and Colliers’ strategy ahead.

The General Services Administration, which manages the government’s property, has downsized almost 11 million square feet since 2012, a 19 percent reduction of its D.C.-area leased footprint.

“We’ll see that trend continue for a while, but there should be some countervailing growth based on Biden administration spending and initiatives,” Stourt said. “So, our hope is that we’ll eventually experience stabilization heading into next year.”—Keith Loria

Art Santry and Kurt Richter
Vice Chairmen, Cushman & Wakefield

“You just have to ignore the chatter and the fear out there, and just keep on doing your job. Keep communicating with the tenants and try to find ways to create value for them.”

That’s Cushman & Wakefield’s Kurt Richter in answer to a question about any professional or life hacks he and longtime colleague Art Santry took away from doing business in the D.C. area during the pandemic.

The tenant rep duo had every reason not to be sanguine during 2020 and early 2021. Companies were reassessing their needs; landlord concessions were piling up; office rents were spiraling; office vacancy was so high that fundamental ideas about the D.C. market were giving way for good. “I’m not sure I’ll ever see a speculative office building built again in D.C.,” Santry said.

The two pressed forward, and executed 49 deals totaling 965,549 square feet in 2020, and some 15 deals totaling 86,000 square feet in 2021 as of mid-June. In fact, Richter and Santry — who have worked together since 1996, and who arrived together at Cushman & Wakefield in 2009 — were able to seize on the market disruption to negotiate better deals for their tenant clients.

“The transactions are so aggressive right now with rental abatement and buildout dollars, they’re able to really get a high-end buildout without coming out of pocket,” Richter said of law firms in D.C., a significant part of their business.

Speaking of legal practices, Richter and Santry represented Jones Day in a renewal for more than 205,000 square feet at 300 New Jersey Avenue NW. That deal closed in December 2020 and was the largest law firm leasing deal in D.C. last year, and perhaps the second largest in the entire United States.

It underscored both the influence of Richter and Santry on D.C. commercial real estate — the pair repped Jones Day in their previous two office leasing deals, going back decades — and how to capitalize on the market’s disruption.

“There was a real desire to get the deal done,” Richter said, “and there were some additional concessions that were put forth that we wouldn’t have really had.”—Tom Acitelli.

Katy Kale and Robin Carnahan
Acting Administrator and Administrator-Designate, General Services Administration

Katy Kale took control of the General Services Administration in late January, at what was clearly a difficult time for the sprawling agency that essentially acts as the federal government’s property manager and buyer.

Her predecessor, Emily Murphy, became a major national news story, having deliberately delayed ascertaining Joe Biden’s victory in the November presidential election by nearly two weeks, thereby delaying the disbursement of federal monies for the transition from the Trump to Biden administrations. Murphy’s move shined an extremely bright light on what’s normally a low-key, however powerful, bureaucracy.

Kale, who spent more than a year and a half as the GSA’s chief of staff during the Obama administration before working in the private sector, also took over at a time when the GSA was, and is, actively streamlining its operations and consolidating its space.

Part of this is a focus on efficiency, and part of it is the GSA seizing opportunities: Through fiscal year 2024, 325 GSA leases in the D.C. area representing 22.4 million square feet of federally occupied office space are set to expire. The agency could save hundreds of millions of dollars renegotiating or simply shedding some of these leases. Such exits, of course, would ripple through the D.C. real estate market.

Overseeing this work will fall largely to Kale’s likely successor, though. In April, Biden nominated Robin Carnahan, a former Missouri secretary of state, to head the GSA on a permanent basis. As of mid-June, it appeared that Carnahan’s nomination enjoyed enough bipartisan support to win Senate approval.—Tom Acitelli.

Monty Hoffman
Founder and Chairman, Hoffman & Associates

Monty Hoffman is a key figure in Washington, D.C.’s built environment, with his Hoffman & Associates’ $2.5 billion, mixed-use development, The Wharf, continuing to prosper — even through the pandemic.

The southwest waterfront project remained bustling — with plenty of social distancing and safety precautions in effect — and any delays on the next phase of the project were minimal, with Phase 2 still on track for the fall of 2022, according to the company. That next phase of The Wharf will deliver 1 million square feet of development along the Potomac River, including retail, hospitality, residential, piers and park space.

“Right now, we’re about two months ahead of schedule, our pre-leasing activity is phenomenal, and our retail pre-leasing has really come alive over the last couple of months,” Hoffman said. “Office has really picked up and the majority of our trophy office space is already pre-leased.”

That includes big players like noted law firm Williams & Connolly and The Atlantic.

In April, Hoffman & Associates and its development partner, Madison Marquette, released details on the Hoffman-Madison Waterfront condominiums, called the Amaris — also part of Phase 2 — with sales starting later this month. Renowned architect Rafael Viñoly designed the 12-story, 96-unit project. The building will also feature 16,000 square feet of retail space at street level that opens to a 1.5-acre park known as The Green.

Hoffman’s company also is on target to deliver the much-anticipated Waterfront Station II next year. When completed, the 400,000-square-foot, mixed-use community in southwest D.C. will offer 456 units, including 137 affordable; 20,000 square feet of retail; and a 9,000-square-foot performance space.

“We’ve been able to accomplish what we have, thanks to the many shared sacrifices of those on our team: tenants, suppliers, contractors, and all of the companies we’ve worked with along the way,” Hoffman said. “Our success had much to do with the trust and relationships in working with our tenants throughout the pandemic, and finding this pathway for shared sacrifice to get through it.”—Keith Loria.

Heather Raspberry
Executive Director, Housing Association of Nonprofit Developers

The Housing Association of Nonprofit Developers (HAND) made big leaps during the past year in advancing affordable housing developments in metropolitan D.C.

The nonprofit membership association partnered with Greystone in March 2021 to launch a new Equity in Action partnership, designed to boost affordable housing real estate investments throughout the mid-Atlantic region by creating direct access for minority developers to the lender’s debt and equity platforms.

HAND, which is marking its 30th anniversary in 2021, spurred the collaboration with Greystone after Greystone CEO Steve Rosenberg reached out following one of its racial equity learning sessions last summer after the police murder of George Floyd.

“We’ve never done something like this, and it was a matter of timing with HAND’s board really wanting to lean in and have an action item that we could lift up,” Heather Raspberry said. “Here we are, a year later, and we have been able to launch that program.”

HAND under Raspberry’s leadership has sought to educate the real estate profession and policymakers about the lack of affordable housing options around the nation’s capital. The organization launched a housing indicator tool in March, showing that the D.C. region created only 12 percent of new affordable housing units that the Urban Institute has said are needed by 2030 to meet demands.

Raspberry said the issue took on even greater importance after Amazon opted to open its second headquarters in Alexandria, Va.

“We wanted to create a regional dashboard that really shows you where the region landed, in terms of new production in 2019, and where did it land in 2020 in the middle of a pandemic,” she said. “It doesn’t only track the production of each jurisdiction, but it also really points to what your jurisdiction’s toolkit needs to look like if you really want to tackle affordable housing goals.”

After an active past year, Raspberry is looking to continue HAND’s momentum by expanding development opportunities for developers of color through its many member partners. She also wants to explore addressing other policy initiatives to assure that the recovery from COVID-19 is equitable for more vulnerable populations.—Andrew Cohen.

Matt Kelly
Chief Executive Officer, JBG SMITH

JBG SMITH is a top real estate investment trust, shaping some of the D.C. area’s most up-and-coming neighborhoods — and leading the company’s charge is Matt Kelly, JBG SMITH’s chief executive, since its 2017 founding.

In 2021, JBG SMITH has seen its portfolio rise to encompass 17.3 million square feet of office, multifamily and retail assets, along with a development pipeline consisting of 16.8 million square feet of mixed-use opportunities throughout the D.C. region.

“The past year has been an adjustment for everyone, but I’m proud to say that our company culture has proven incredibly durable and resilient,” Kelly said over email. “I have been nothing but impressed with how our teams have adapted and risen to the occasion.”

Additionally, JBG SMITH completed more than 800,000 square feet of office leases over the last year, including a substantial volume of renewals.

“Our prior successes in establishing a strong balance sheet and ample liquidity continue to serve us well,” Kelly said. “We have put ourselves on very solid footing, which gives us the freedom and confidence to continue advancing our under-construction and near-term development pipeline, particularly in National Landing.”

Indeed, as the exclusive development partner at National Landing for both Amazon’s HQ2 and Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus, the company is recognized as the driving force behind the region’s transformation into a tech and innovation hub.

The REIT also recently partnered with J.P. Morgan Global Alternatives to design, develop, manage, and own approximately 2 million square feet of new mixed-use development in Potomac Yard, adjacent to the Innovation Campus.

“Just around the corner, along Crystal Drive, we completed development of a dynamic new retail and entertainment district, which is already 83 percent leased, along with the redevelopment of 1770 Crystal Drive, which is fully leased to Amazon,” Kelly said.

JBG SMITH remains active on its own portfolio of developments as well. It recently received approval from Arlington County to begin construction on two residential buildings, 2000 and 2001 South Bell streets; and began construction on two residential towers at 1900 Crystal Drive in National Landing in March. It also purchased a prime site directly across the street from Amazon’s future headquarters at the end of last year.

In addition, JBG SMITH remains focused on its ongoing projects and potential development opportunities in the Ballpark District, Union Market and Shaw in D.C., as well as Reston Town Center in Virginia, and in Bethesda.—Keith Loria.

Doug Mueller and Evan Behr
Executive Managing Directors, Brokerage, JLL

For JLL’s Doug Mueller and Evan Behr, the past 12 months were focused on maintaining a team culture, while providing best-in-class service and ideas to their clients.

“During the past year, we doubled down on our investment in our business at a time when many did not,” Mueller said over email. “We hustled, expanded, and differentiated our team by adding an architect and designer. We also beefed up our brokerage by adding a junior broker to provide a higher level of service to our clients.”

That strategy helped the portfolio grow to a total of 65 assets, which span 17 million square feet valued at $7 billion.

Its biggest deal of the pandemic came in January 2021, when Microsoft leased 185,000 square feet at Commonwealth Tower at 1300 Wilson Boulevard in Arlington, Va.

Notable leasing deals in D.C. included Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute leasing 96,000 square feet at 1333 New Hampshire Avenue NW; National Endowment for Democracy signing for 85,000 square feet at 1201 Pennsylvania Avenue; and the American Trucking Associations taking 60,000 square feet at 80 M Street SE.

“We also had 3.6 million square feet of major new leasing assignments,” Behr said. “We were awarded two of the largest development sites in the region, Halley Rise and The Yards. Additional important wins include The Herald at 1307 New York Avenue, 999 E Street and 1899 Pennsylvania Avenue.”

Behr said it helped that Washington, D.C., is less cyclical and volatile than many major global markets.

“We witnessed this firsthand during COVID, as our deal flow did not drop precipitously,” he said. “With that stated, for us, the secret to not only surviving, but, more importantly, advancing revolves around the key pillars of our team — deep client relationships; strong relationships with our tenant representative partners and counterparts; a passion for our craft; constant innovation; and reinvestment in the team.”

The duo foresees their business increasing as the D.C. area’s population grows.—Keith Loria

Stacey Milam
Senior Vice President of Investments, Marcus & Millichap

Stacey Milam — who has closed more than 180 multifamily transactions at Marcus & Millichap — says his background in fashion design allows him to see what makes a property unique.

“No two deals were formed the same, no two seconds in the universe are the same, so it’s really interesting how we can get myopic and look at a deal only in one way,” Milam said. “Design really taught me something different: Always see something that’s not there.”

And 2020 has certainly forced brokers and people in all industries to think creatively about their businesses. Milman said high vacancy rates in the district, as well as rent and eviction moratoriums, have made the D.C. market turbulent.

“Obviously, the housing market has been on fire and apartments have suffered a great deal,” Milam said. “We’ve been fortunate that we are still closing deals … It’s been the slowest year that I’ve seen since 1999.”

Milam started at Marcus & Millichap that year, and he has since closed on 4,000 units, totaling more than $1 billion in multifamily sales and $350 million in other commercial sales. In 2020, Milam’s deals were just above $12.5 million.

His 2020 deals included the sale of 15 units at 1900 16th Street SE for $1.75 million to WC Investments, 2442 MLK Avenue SE for $4.5 million to MRP Realty, and 11 units at 245 Eighth Street NE for $4.25 million to Ehsan Naranji.

Looking forward, Milman said he expects the economy to shift from five-day workweeks and does not expect the office sector to rebound quickly.

“The vacancy will drop and occupancy will increase, and people [will be] back in the city once we get back to normal,” Milam said. “But, people going to the office five days a week, I don’t see that happening … And development is not going to slow down here in D.C., so it’s going to be interesting to see.”—Celia Young

Bo Menkiti
Founder and CEO, Menkiti Group

Bo Menkiti’s entrance into real estate came by way of his elderly neighbor.

At the time, Menkiti was working at College Summit, an educational nonprofit, and bought a house in D.C.’s Columbia Heights neighborhood that shared a wall with Mrs. Becks, a woman in her 80s, whom he would often help with her trash and groceries.

Once, after traveling for work, he came home to discover that Mrs. Becks had been dead in her home for more than a week. No one had bothered to check on her for all that time.

“It hit me pretty hard that I thought I was changing the world, but I wasn’t present for the person on the other side of my flimsy townhouse wall,” Menkiti said. “I started asking myself, what could I do here in the neighborhood where I live?”

The answer turned out to be real estate. Menkiti began by buying and flipping homes in Columbia Heights, then quickly graduated to running a residential brokerage, which he then parlayed into a commercial brokerage and a development arm as well.

Now, Menkiti runs the Menkiti Group, which has developed more than 2 million square feet of real estate; manages 1.5 million square feet of assets; and has invested more than $225 million, particularly in emerging neighborhoods in D.C.

Menkiti’s projects include the 788,000-square-foot Bond Bread Factory development, just outside the Howard University campus, designed to knit the campus to the rest of the neighborhood; a project at the Navy Yards in partnership with Brookfield Properties; and the two-phase MLK Gateway project, which is part of its broader development strategy in Anacostia.

Menkiti is pioneering its community-based development model in Anacostia, an approach he first used organically in the Brookland neighborhood as he was first starting out. The idea is to take a neighborhood-level approach to development, rather than think about each project individually. “Our approach has been to try and acquire a critical mass of real estate in those areas, and then to center it around a catalytic public-private project,” Menkiti said.

The key is to work with communities. “You have to actually look at communities as having assets and capability, instead of just having needs,” Menkiti said.—Chava Gourarie

Kassandra Saridakis
Managing Director of Capital Markets, Newmark

Kassandra Sarikdakis is going on six years since joining Newmark’s Washington, D.C., debt and equity capital markets operation.

She and her partner, Vice Chairman Joe Donato, are responsible for overseeing the firm’s mid-Atlantic capital advisory business, which originated a cool $1.2 billion in new debt, with about $2 billion in capitalized transaction value, through the pandemic and the first few months of 2021.

Over that time, Newmark’s D.C. team dabbled in nearly every asset class, financing about 1,200 multifamily units and 5.5 million square feet of real estate. While they capture their fair share of repeat business, which often takes them across the country with their clients, about 80 percent of the team’s production volume has been in the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia (DMV) region.

Saridakis said her team, which includes a group of six finance professionals and an analyst, got off to a roaring start in 2020 before the pandemic froze the market for commercial real estate debt.

“We went from having a fairly robust pipeline in March 2020, and then, over the next couple months, we became consultants and advisers,” she said. “We were having daily conversations with lenders, and it seemed that every two to three weeks, lenders would change their [lending] programs.”

One of the most notable deals to come out of Newmark’s D.C. outpost in 2020, Saridakis said, was a situation in which her team helped usher an offshore, foreign investor through the process of making its first two acquisitions in the D.C. area, securing bank financing for two single-tenanted, suburban offices — a risky proposition for a bank amid a downturn.

Saridakis said that while banks and other lenders were not really lending on single-tenant property, they secured bids from bank, debt fund and CMBS lenders. She added that the deal was a “great example of our team being persistent, and knowing the story of the submarkets and tenants within the buildings.”

They also recently secured acquisition debt from a life company for the Mid-Atlantic Commerce Center, an 850,000-square-foot, stabilized industrial asset in a suburb of Baltimore, Md. BentallGreenOak bought the property for $125 million from Grandview Partners. Newmark’s Baltimore investment sales team worked with Saridakis and Donato’s team to make it happen.

Saridakis said the deal got a “ton of interest from life companies” given the 10-year profile and the pricing, which came in at around the 10-year Treasury plus 105 to 120, and the fact that it’s full of credit tenants — Domino Sugar anchors it, and TJ Maxx signed on for more than 205,000 square feet in December 2020 to use it as a regional distribution center.—Mack Burke

Nicholas Pantuliano, Michael Tillman and Scott Meyer
Chief Development Officer/Chief Operations Officer; Chief Executive Officer/Chief Investment Officer; Chief Financial Officer, PTM Partners

PTM Partners is taking the long view when it comes to real estate in the District of Columbia.

“The pandemic was [and] is absolutely horrible, but it’s a moment in time,” Michael Tillman said. “Long-term developers and owners like PTM, we have to look through and be realistic that there’ll be up-cycles, there will be down cycles ...You build product through cycles, not into cycles.”

That said, Nicholas Pantuliano, Tillman and Scott Meyer — whose initials form the titular PTM — have noticed that the pandemic has accelerated existing trends toward open and outdoor amenity spaces.

Luckily, PTM’s two recent projects — a 453-unit development at 1900 Half Street SW that closed in 2019 and a 720-unit riverfront development at 1000 Annapolis Way — fit squarely into those new expectations.

“The existing footprint afforded us the ability to have very ample, generous, open amenity spaces,” Meyer said of 1900 Half Street.

“[It] opened in August — not the most ideal time to open a building, given everything that was going on,” Pantuliano added. “But, we were very fortunate with how strong the building was designed … that after a slow ramp-up, it did well. That just is a testament to the design and to our partners, and how strong the market is.”

PTM is staying busy and working on other deals in the D.C. area. Though the team couldn’t share much, Tillman said they would be keeping an eye on signs of promising neighborhood change, like non-chain coffee places and bicycle repair stores.

“We’re looking around and active in communities, where we believe that there will be a new influx of residents to support that growing need by the city,” Tillman said.

Looking forward, PTM will continue to double down on large amenity spaces — which Pantuliano said have become needs, not wants, by tenants looking to spread out after being stuck at home. Coworking spaces, flexible spaces and outdoor spaces have become vital, he said.

“Our focus is how do we take our single-use buildings, and start creating multi-use and multiple revenue streams out of them that accommodate the new lifestyle of our tenants,” Tillman said.—Celia Young

Hilary Allard Goldfarb
Head of the Mid-Atlantic Region Office and Head of Development in D.C., Rockefeller Group

The pandemic wasn’t about to stop Hilary Allard Goldfarb from continuing to grow Rockefeller Group’s D.C.-area business.

“Our city and our region can and should lead the way,” Goldfarb said. “We’ve used the last year to both innovate and to reaffirm our core values. And this is what allows us to aggressively pursue growth.”

Under her leadership, the Rockefeller Group partnered with Stonebridge to start the transformation of the Jackson Graham Building at 600 Fifth Street NW in D.C. into a 48,401-square-foot building with additional floors, a completely new facade, and design elements to anticipate the future of work.

The joint venture is considering a variety of uses for the site, home to the region’s transit authority for five decades, from modern, high-density office space to ground-floor retail and mixed-use.

“We just received Commission of Fine Arts approval, and we have great tenant interest,” Goldfarb said of the Graham Building redevelopment. “We’re designing now and plans are progressing on schedule, and we’re looking forward to fully capitalizing next year with construction starting in the first quarter of 2023.”

There were also positive updates on the two development JVs that the firm owns with The Meridian Group: Boro Tower in Tysons, Va., which continues to attract high-quality tenants; and the 202,000-square-foot, 1901 L Street in Downtown D.C., which just became the first building in the city to achieve WELL Silver Building certification.

Goldfarb explained the certification as just another example of how the company has asserted its core values.

“We have a tenant-driven approach and we’re focused on elements that are designed to improve the tenant experience,” she said. “In our sticks-and-bricks industry, you’re not often given an opportunity to both reaffirm your core values and innovate. And that’s really been the opportunity of this past year.”

Later in 2021, Rockefeller will launch its industrial development pipeline in the mid-Atlantic.

“As a native Washingtonian, as well as somebody who’s built a career here, what I really love most about our city is our work ethic, and our grit,” she said. “This is what gives me confidence and why we remain committed to aggressive growth.”—Keith Loria

David Lipson
President, Savills North America

While some firms had to lay off brokers and teams to weather the pandemic, Savills went in the other direction.

Over the past year, the company’s North American division acquired project management firm Macro Consultants, more than doubled the size of its workplace practice team, made some new senior hires, and recently bolstered its life sciences division when it acquired brokerage T3 Advisors this month.

“We think it’s an amazing opportunity for us; the business is, obviously, rapidly changing,” David Lipson said. “People are coming out of this going, ‘How do I reinvent the business?’ and, ‘I really have to think differently about my relationships with our employees’ — and it’s our job to figure out how to reinvent the business.”

The company has also been trying to increase diversity amongst its ranks, and launched a junior broker development program and an internal employee resource group of Black employees and allies.

“Our first class was 90 percent diverse and the second class, which we selected, is similar,” Lipson said about the program. “We need to do more; we need to expand our hiring pipeline.”

Lipson, a D.C. powerhouse broker, has been with Savills for 32 years and co-managed the mid-Atlantic region for almost 15 years. He created Savills’ federal government practice and has served on its North American board since 2004. In May, Lipson was promoted to president of the North American division — where he’ll work out of the D.C. and New York offices — and will be mostly stepping away from brokering deals.

For the next year, Lipson is focused on getting the firm, more or less, back to where it was before the pandemic and helping its clients return to the office.

“We’re not only advising clients, but we’re a company and we have to make it work,” he said. “We’re in the office real estate business; it’s part of our business to figure out how to do it right.”—Nicholas Rizzi.

Marcia Fudge
United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

Marcia Fudge comes to the job of running the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development after 13 years representing Ohio’s 11th congressional district. The post puts her in position to play a decisive role in affordable housing in the D.C. area.

Since taking office in March, Fudge has pledged to focus on providing more housing and funding for homeless Americans, who are expected to number more than 600,000 once the federal eviction moratorium ends June 30.

The American Rescue Plan, which was signed into law in March, provides $10 billion in affordable housing and services, 70,000 vouchers for families who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, and $45 billion in emergency rental assistance for low-income tenants at risk of eviction.

She also told NPR that she wants to fight anti-development sentiment in neighborhoods where people have tried to block low-income and supportive housing. “We have the resources to fund it, to get it started, but it is just getting people’s minds wrapped around the fact that, as Americans, we all need to help each other.”

President Joe Biden decided to give her the HUD job, despite her public push to become the first Black female secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Last November, she lamented to Politico that Black politicians were usually relegated to running specific federal agencies, particularly HUD.

“As this country becomes more and more diverse, we’re going to have to stop looking at only certain agencies as those that people like me fit in. You know, it’s always ‘we want to put the Black person in Labor or HUD,’” she told the publication.

Before her election to Congress in 2008, Fudge served eight years as mayor of Warrensville Heights, Ohio, and as chief of staff to former Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones. When Tubbs Jones died in August 2008, local Democratic leaders selected Fudge as her replacement, ensuring that she would win in the November election. She ran unopposed.—Rebecca Baird-Remba

Sheri Thompson
Executive Vice President and FHA Finance Group Head, Walker & Dunlop

Sheri Thompson manages what turned out to be one of 2020’s most robust and active producers of agency multifamily debt through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The 27-year real estate finance veteran rejoined Walker & Dunlop (W&D) at the beginning of 2019, at the behest of one of her mentors, W&D President Howard Smith. Thompson had previously worked at W&D (then Green Park Financial) for two years in the mid-1990s as an underwriter of multifamily debt.

Smith called her back to run the firm’s Federal Housing Administration (FHA) lending practice nationally, and take on everything “from a leadership and operations perspective,” Thompson said, adding with a modest touch that it “was gutsy for Walker & Dunlop to offer that to me, and it was interesting for me to take it.”

In July 2020, she was elevated to executive vice president and FHA head, moving up from the role of senior vice president that she took on when she reunited with the company.

Based out of the firm’s Bethesda, Md., office, the multifamily finance whiz currently oversees a high-profile, 80-person national team that originates, underwrites and closes agency loans at an impressive clip. W&D’s HUD and FHA lending has grown over the last couple of years since Thompson took the helm, and the firm ranked No. 5 in 2020 in HUD loan production. (W&D, overall, was the No. 1 multifamily capital provider in the U.S., by volume, according to its website.)

“I have a great team that really knows HUD, and that’s allowed me to be a thought leader and think about how to move the business in new directions,” Thompson said. She sits on W&D’s executive, administrative and strategy committees, putting her in a position to help guide and govern one of the nation’s top apartment lenders.

Thompson also either leads, is involved in, or has helped launch a variety of programs and initiatives — internally at W&D and externally — focused on diversity and inclusion (D&I). Thompson and Smith have made it a goal of hers to work to help put W&D at the forefront of such efforts, she said.

“It’s a journey of love, I will say. I came to Walker & Dunlop because I saw an opportunity to make an impact there,” Thompson said. “It’s a win-win for me and the company.”—Mack Burke

 

Muriel Bowser
Mayor, Washington, D.C.

In mid-June, Muriel Bowser sent out a tweet inviting the nation to celebrate July 4 in the nation’s capital. “With all capacity limits and restrictions lifted, cultural attractions are open and hotels are ready to welcome you back,” she tweeted.

Six months earlier, she was doing the opposite, encouraging people to stay away from D.C. for Inauguration Day because of the double threat facing the District: a global pandemic and right-wing violence.

Those messages bracket the two extremes of an extraordinary year for the mayor and her city. Bowser was thrust into the national spotlight, first for her response in the wake of the George Floyd protests — the painting of “Black Lives Matter’’ across from the White House in a vivid criticism of President Trump — and, later, in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Meanwhile, she was also managing the District’s response to the pandemic, with months of fluctuating restrictions and shutdowns, including an eviction moratorium; the vaccine rollout; and finally, the reopening. Like most of the country, D.C.’s economy suffered during the pandemic. Rents declined, small businesses shuttered, and unemployment rose. But, there is optimism that the worst is past.

In May, Bowser announced a $400 million commitment to the Housing Production Trust Fund, the city’s primary tool for financing affordable housing, and followed that up with a beefed up budget for fiscal year 2022, which came with increased funding for a variety of housing issues, including pandemic rental assistance, and investment in public and supportive housing.

The focus on housing is in line with Bowser’s previous efforts, including spearheading legislation to incentivize the construction of affordable housing in wealthy neighborhoods by offering tax abatements to developers who built multifamily assets there.

Over the next 12 months, Bowser will oversee a city emerging from crisis, with a new federal administration in town, and potentially a bid for D.C. statehood, an issue she’s already thrown her weight behind.

She’ll be doing it all while coming up for reelection. First elected in 2014, then again in 2018, she would be going for a third term if she chooses to run.—Chava Gourarie