The Power Players of Washington, D.C., 2022

The most powerful names in commercial real estate in the nation’s capital in a year of ups and downs

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What a roller coaster. After stomach-clenching drops in 2020, the Washington, D.C., area market clambered up to new heights in 2021. Multifamily rents rebounded in and outside the District, development flourished in suburban downtowns and along the D.C. waterfront, and a stream of new life sciences tenants populated the I-270 corridor.

Still, while renters and tourists have largely returned, the office population has not, as wave after wave of COVID infections delayed a fuller return to office, leading to what now appears to be a permanent shift. In addition, 2022 brought with it new concerns about inflation, rising costs of capital, and an economic pullback in some areas.

SEE ALSO: Edelman Sticks With 174K SF in Hudson Square

In D.C., though, many developers are viewing these changes as opportunities, with offices being repositioned as residential assets, and the city rethinking its downtown dependency on office. In the wider region, the highly educated talent pool is leading the charge in life sciences and other R&D-intense endeavors, while the region’s central location has made it a top destination for industrial and data center tenants.

The area continues to be a draw for large corporate tenants as well. Amazon recently completed the first phase of its HQ2, the federal government continues to sign sizable leases, and both Boeing and Raytheon Technologies have chosen Arlington, Va., for their global corporate headquarters in recent months, confirming what D.C. knew all along: wWe’ve got the brains and the brawn — not to mention some beauty, too. — Chava Gourarie

Patrick Phillippi
Senior Community Engagement Manager, Amazon

Ever since Amazon announced in 2018 that it would build its HQ2 in Northern Virginia, the e-commerce giant has made its presence known in the surrounding communities of its future home.

Patrick Phillippi is largely charged with making Amazon a good neighbor and partner to the region, working closely with nonprofits, community groups and small businesses.

“We are working to make Amazon’s HQ2 in Arlington the best example of a corporate citizen the world has ever seen,” Phillippi said. “This means listening to our neighbors and partners and working on some of the most pressing issues facing Arlington and the region, from sustainability to education to racial equity.” Amazon’s is also active in development through its Housing Equity Fund, a commitment of more than $800 million to invest in affordable housing in the Washington, D.C., area, with more to come.

“Since the launch of the Amazon Housing Equity Fund 15 months ago, our efforts are helping to create and preserve more than 4,400 affordable homes,” Phillippi said. “Based on data provided by Arlington County, the fund has helped to increase the affordable housing stock in Arlington by 22 percent.”

HQ2, developed by JBG Smith, is progressing nicely. PenPlace — the second phase of the HQ2 development — was approved in April 2022, setting the next stage in motion. The company also celebrated the topping-out of Metropolitan Park in March 2022, and expects to open it next year.

“Metropolitan Park’s two 22-story office buildings will include more than 50,000 square feet of retail space for local small businesses and a 700-person meeting center that will be available to local community groups,” Phillippi said. “The entire complex will also be powered by 100 percent renewable energy.”

In many ways, Amazon is just at the beginning of its commitment to the Arlington region.

“We are really excited about the retailers who will be located at HQ2,” Phillippi said. “Our goal is to help create and foster a vibrant 18-hour district, one that our neighbors see as a destination where they can dine, shop and relax.” —K.L.

Robert Swennes
Executive Vice President; Head of Mid-Atlantic and Southeast Regions, U.S. Office Division, Brookfield Properties

Sixteen years into his tenure with Brookfield, Robert Swennes is overseeing some of the biggest ground-up, mixed-use construction projects in the D.C. area. The real estate investment trust owns 11 million square feet of office in the region, including 2.4 million square feet in D.C. and Northern Virginia acquired from WashREIT for nearly $800 million last summer.

Swennes said that Brookfield is focusing on delivering the best kind of building in each class, even for buildings that aren’t particularly new. “That doesn’t mean we only own trophy office buildings,” he said. “But within a rent band we are the best offering within that rent band. We’ve heavily invested in amenities.”

In terms of new construction, Brookfield has two big developments underway in the Virginia suburbs and a third in the District proper. In Reston, it’s working on Halley Rise, a mixed-use project next to the Reston Town Center Metro stop (slated to open later this year as part of the Silver Line extension to Dulles). The development includes two existing office buildings, and, at the end of 2021, Brookfield opened a 353-unit residential building there, The Edmund. When it’s complete, the project will include 1.9 million square feet of office, 240,000 square feet of retail, 1,600 apartments and more than five acres of open green space.

Brookfield’s also working on pre-development approvals for a 2 million-square-foot, mixed-use project next to the Pentagon City Metro station, known as 12th Street Landing. The lot is currently home to a pair of office buildings that once housed the headquarters of the Transportation Security Administration.

Finally, Brookfield is developing The Yards, a massive residential, office and retail development on former Navy Yard property along the Anacostia River. The project is roughly 40 percent complete, with 11 finished buildings that include a 225-room flagship Thompson hotel, apartments, retail and open space. It opened a 300,000-square-foot office building there last year leased entirely to biotech company Chemonics. When it’s complete, The Yards will have 25 buildings with 3,400 apartments, 400,000 square feet of retail, 1.8 million square feet of office, and a waterfront park across 48 acres.—R.B.R.

Samira Madhany
Managing Director, U.S. Real Estate Group, Carlyle Group

Unsurprisingly perhaps, the Carlyle Group — a global investment firm with $325 billion in assets under management as of March 31 — had a busy year last year. The Washington, D.C.-based firm raised $10 billion and invested approximately $6 billion in U.S. real estate. And Samira Madhany was a big part of it in her role managing new investment opportunities, including for development, across the United States.

“Carlyle’s sector and geographic selection strategy pre-COVID was grounded in demographic and technological trends which resulted in targeting residential and niche asset classes, like single-family rental and active adult,” Madhany said. “We did not invest in office, hotel and retail, and COVID had an outsized impact on these sectors relative to those we have been investing in. We continue to have conviction in our investment strategy post-COVID.”

In 2021, Carlyle raised approximately $8 billion for its ninth U.S. real estate opportunity fund, Carlyle Realty Partners IX (CRP IX), exceeding its $6 billion initial targets. CRP IX will seek to continue Carlyle Realty’s established investment strategy focused on opportunistic U.S. real estate. Carlyle Realty Partners VIII, its predecessor, raised $5.5 billion in commitments in 2018, according to Carlyle.

“We believe affordability is the paramount consideration with respect to the housing market, of which the multifamily market is a component,” said Madhany, “We tend to focus on those markets which are in front of continuing migration patterns, and from a cost perspective, are trying to identify those projects which can present lower rents for their potential tenants.”

Madhany — whose investment focus is on multifamily, medical office and senior housing (all of them especially desired asset classes coming out of the pandemic — joined Carlyle in 2006 after working on the investment side at CarrAmerica Realty Corporation.

“There is continued construction activity in D.C. in the multifamily sector,” Madhany said of the company’s homefield. “It is delivering in front of strong demand trends, however. It appears that Northern Virginia will resume attractin a larger share of employment growth, ahead of the District and Maryland.” —E.F.

Rob Faktorow
Vice Chairman, CBRE

Rob Faktorow is considered one of the most versatile real estate practitioners in the metropolitan D.C. area. Adapting his focus based on market conditions, Faktorow has at times led the region in office building sales, data center sales, land trades and office leasing volume during his career, as well as populated the landscape with notable buildings through his transaction and advisory work. 

After a 35-year focus on various sectors, Faktorow shifted primarily to data centers in 2021, adding significant depth to CBRE’s team by recruiting top talent and making the firm a leader in the segment.

“We maintained excellent market share and executed 60 percent of the region’s institutional data center investment sales [over the last year], in addition to our recent activity selling over 1,000 acres of data center land for development,” Faktorow said. “With a combined total aggregate value of  $2.2 billion, we established ourselves as the dominant data center investment sales team in the world’s largest data center market and the top revenue-producing data center team at CBRE.”

Most deals and clients Faktorow works with are highly confidential, but he pointed out that his team closed the largest data center investment sales deal in the D.C. region over the last 12 months, with a $185 million acquisition. 

“As a data center specialist, we were fortunate we didn’t need to navigate uncertainty,” he said of the pandemic. “Instead, our challenge has been planning for extraordinary growth. Identifying where to invest our time and who to do business with was our biggest challenge.”

Faktorow does not anticipate demand for data center space in Northern Virginia to slow any time soon.

“My goals are to maintain the highest standard of world-class service, offering the most forward-looking strategic advice, and being relentlessly focused on delivering unsurpassed client outcomes,” Faktorow said. —K.L.

Robert Moser
CEO, Clark Construction Group

Clark Construction Group is one of the most active construction companies in the D.C. region, and recently announced that it’s opening an expansion in McLean, Va.

Among Clark’s notable projects is the most notable of them all: Amazon’s HQ2 in Arlington. In March this year, Clark celebrated the topping-out of Metropolitan Park, the first phase of the development, along with representatives from Amazon, developer JGB Smith and Arlington public officials.

Clark is also working on a new pavilion at the MedStar Georgetown University Hospital in D.C.’s Georgetown, and the redevelopment of the former Newseum building at 555 Pennsylvania Avenue into a research center for Johns Hopkins University.

In May, Clark leased a 128,000-square-foot space at the Silverline Center in McLean for a new office, which will supplement its existing offices in the region. Clark has also doubled the size of its Baltimore office and plans to establish an office in Central Virginia as it already has existing projects in Richmond.

“Continuing to serve the region and harnessing the wealth of opportunities and talent that spans from Baltimore to Richmond requires a network of strategic locations,” Robert Moser said in a statement at the time of the announcement.

Clark, led by Moser, is active nationwide across a variety of building types. The company is working on LACMA (one of Los Angeles’ premiere art museums), a courthouse in Sacramento, the Summit Building at the Seattle Convention Center, and the expansion of the Atlanta Plane Train Tunnel.

The company is also focused on DEI initiatives and has recently committed to having at least 15 percent participation from minority business owners on every project. For HQ2, Clark has used a variety of sustainable materials to achieve Amazon’s goal of reducing the project’s embodied carbon by 10 percent. For Metropolitan Park, that meant utilizing cement that had been treated with CarbonCure, which recaptures carbon, and at least one of Amazon’s buildings will be built with mass timber, a low-carbon alternative to cement. —C.G.

Chris Clemente
Founder, Comstock

Reston Station, developed by Comstock in the heart of Reston, is one of the buzziest areas in Northern Virginia, with nearly 800,000 square feet of Class A office in three towers, 450 luxury and workforce residential units, and 50,000 square feet of restaurant and service-oriented retail space.

Now, the developer is underway with Reston Station Phase II, slated to be delivered in 2024, and spanning 1.5 million square feet. It will include Virginia’s first JW Marriott luxury hotel and branded condominium tower; 500,000 square feet of office space; an additional residential tower; and 80,000 square feet of dining, entertainment and wellness spaces.

“I am most proud of the collective commitment of our entire team to work together throughout the pandemic to effectively impact continued growth across our business units, including the completion and stabilization of Reston Station Phase I and commencing development for Reston Station Phase II,” Comstock founder Chris Clemente said.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg over the past 12 months.

For instance, Comstock recently acquired two residential assets rebranded as BLVD Forty-Four and BLVD Ansel, located at Rockville Station in Montgomery County, Md. Institutional lenders Apollo and MetLife provided a combined $157 million to fund the acquisition. This transaction positioned Comstock as the leading provider of luxury residences in Rockville Town Center at the doorstep of Metro’s Rockville Station.

Comstock also acquired a 211,000-square-foot Class A office tower adjacent to the Clarendon Metro Station in Arlington County, Va.’s premier employment corridor. Then there’s Loudoun Station Phase II, consisting of 318 luxury residences and approximately 40,000 square feet of retail, which was also completed this past year.

Comstock’s ongoing expansion of both Reston Station and Loudoun Station positions it as the leading developer of mixed-use and transit-oriented projects in the Dulles Corridor. With Phase II of Metro’s Silver Line scheduled to open later this year, it will only further that success, as it will connect Loudoun County to Dulles International Airport, Reston, Tysons (also in Virginia) and Washington, D.C. —K.L.

Darian LeBlanc
Executive Vice Chair, Cushman & Wakefield

Darian LeBlanc is listed as a top 100 performer at Cushman & Wakefield overall and a leading performer in the D.C. region. His specialty is government leasing, and he’s handled some of the largest and most impactful government deals in the District over the course of his career.

Over the last decade, LeBlanc has facilitated the General Service Administration’s 471,499-square-foot lease at 400 7th Street SW; the Department of Veterans’ Affairs’ 241,398-square-foot lease at 425 I Street; and the District of Columbia’s 205,860-square-foot lease at 899 North Capitol Street.

The past year has been just as busy. LeBlanc and his team completed leases with U.S. Courts at 1401 H Street NW; the Federal Maritime Commission at 800 North Capitol Street NW; the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services at 999 North Capitol Street; and the Department of Homeland Security at 70 Kimball Avenue in South Burlington, Vt.

“In this environment, every deal is most notable and the ability to deliver any lease, regardless of size, is notable and valuable to our clients,” LeBlanc said. “I am so proud of my team — Scott Johnston, Scott Killie, Howard Traul, Austin Sanders, Liz Cumberpatch and Robert England. These are the people that truly make great things happen for our clients and for myself.”

In February 2020, his team went remote, but stayed with heads down and focused on what was possible, LeBlanc said.

“By 2022, our team was operating under a functioning new normal where some of us are back in the office full time and some are still working remotely,” LeBlanc said. “The name of the game in CRE for 2022 will be getting as many people back to the office as possible and allowing organizations to make decisions and map their future needs. For me, I’m going to continue embracing my clients, and work to advance their goals and improve their assets.” —K.L.

Dan Irvin
Director of Investments for the Mid-Atlantic Region at Cortland

Cortland, an Atlanta-based multifamily investor and developer, apparently made a late push to be included on our D.C. Power List, announcing a $1 billion investment into Northern Virginia in May to acquire four Arlington multifamily properties totaling 1,500 units.

Dan Irvin, the man who facilitated the deals, noted that the company was looking to establish a strong foothold in the region based on Cortland’s proprietary analysis of market trends.

“We believe that demand is returning to a lot of the gateway markets, such as Washington, D.C., and believe this summer will be a very strong summer,” he said. “The cherry on this is HQ2 and the recently announced Boeing headquarters relocation, which will both offer very strong long-term benefits for their particular locations.”

The initial acquisitions include Aubrey, a 331-unit complex, now to be known as Cortland Rosslyn, and Aura Pentagon City, a 534-unit community, to be renamed Cortland Pentagon City. The acquisition of two more Arlington multifamily communities are expected to close this summer.

“For these properties, we settled on the Rosslyn pocket of the North Arlington submarket, as well as the Pentagon City subpocket, as two locations we really like from an overall connectivity perspective, as well as in-place demographic and near-term and future growth prospects,” Irvin said. “We believe the technological sector growth of this area is important to the future of the region’s economy and offers diversity to Cortland’s Sun Belt portfolio. These are generational assets, and we intend to be stewards of the community.”

Cortland had one previous property in Northern Virginia, which it sold before the pandemic, but was always considering coming back into the market.

Cortland plans to double its multifamily investment in the D.C. area with the goal of becoming a top player in the market, Irvin said.

“Like any market we’re committed to, we’d like it to become a core or critical market for us,” he said. “We intend to try and grow in D.C. by as much as possibly 10,000 units over the near term.” —K.L.

Drew Hubbard
Interim Director, the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development

Stepping in to helm the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) — the agency responsible for building or preserving affordable housing in Washington, D.C. — can be daunting. Rents and home costs around D.C. continue to skyrocket, while the agency has been criticized for mismanaging funds. But that’s the task at hand for Drew Hubbard.

Hubbard, who has more than a decade of experience in D.C. government, was appointed interim director of DHCD in October 2021 by Mayor Muriel Bowser, replacing retired director Polly Donaldson.

The agency has a budget of $150.2 million in fiscal year 2022 and oversees the Housing Production Trust Fund (HPTF), considered the city’s most important affordable housing funding source.

For fiscal years 2021 and 2022, Bowser allocated $400 million to HPTF, bringing her total investment in the program to $1 billion since 2015. In February DHCD selected 10 projects to produce or preserve affordable housing in the city — the largest being Edgewood Commons V, which will create 151 new affordable housing units. Since Hubbard took charge of DHCD, the agency has cut the ribbon on 26 affordable housing apartments in Hillcrest and worked with Bowser and other agencies on the $10 million Black Homeownership Strike Force to increase and support homeownership for Black residents in the District.

While the Washington City Paper reported Bowser’s funding for HPTF is more per capita than any other city in the country, and it has more than 12,000 affordable units, DHCD’s handling of the program has been criticized recently.

Right before Hubbard became interim director, D.C.’s Office of the Inspector General released a scathing audit that found that DHCD, under Donaldson, did not satisfy the legal mandate of steering at least half of HPTF funds to the city’s poorest residents, DCist reported.

In fiscal year 2021, DHCD allocated only 27 percent of HPTF money to extremely low-income housing, and in four years misspent nearly $82 million from the fund, according to DCist. —N.R.

Norman Jemal
Managing Principal, Douglas Development

The biggest office lease of 2021 in D.C. was hands down the Securities and Exchange Commission’s relocation from Union Station to NoMa, where the federal agency took 1.2 million square feet to anchor a new development from Douglas Development and Midtown Equities.

“The SEC transaction was not just the highlight of the whole year, but probably of my career,” said Norman Jemal. “Not just the size but the impact, how it will change that community and bring jobs and opportunity to the neighborhood.”

The SEC deal may have been the biggest, but it certainly wasn’t the only one for Douglas Development, one of the more notable office landlords and developers in the D.C. area. In fact, Douglas Development recently closed on a lease with the D.C. Housing Authority, which signed for over 50,000 square feet in the same building that houses the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority headquarters.

Douglas Development has also been focusing on multifamily and has several projects in and around D.C., including a 356-unit apartment complex in Takoma Park in D.C., and another in Prince George’s County, Md. Douglas was also early to the office-to-resi conversion trend that’s sweeping D.C., having completed the conversion of the Watermark, a pre-cast 1970s office building in Buzzard Point to residential units in 2020. Jemal sees more of that in the future.

“People are generally still finding their way as to where office goes and what it becomes,” he said.

Douglas Development also got into coworking, transforming three former WeWork locations in its buildings into its own self-managed label, The Mark.

“In every business within real estate, everything has become more hospitality-like, whether it’s apartment living or office providing,” said Jemal. “No matter what you do you have to go vertical, and this is just one of those steps.”

Going forward, Jemal expects to keep busy. “We’re a buyer and seller,” he said. “We’re agnostic about asset class. We don’t believe there is a death of any asset class. If the basis is right, then so be it.” —C.G.

Deirdre M. Johnson
Senior Vice President, Asset Management, Federal Realty

The Northern Virginia office of real estate firm Federal Realty has become a competitive leader in the marketplace in the three years since its opening. “The success of Federal Realty’s Northern Virginia regional office is the result of our extremely collaborative and focused team,” said Deidre Johnson, a senior vice president at Federal Realty.

During the past 12 months, Federal Realty has deployed $260 million in investment capital to acquire four properties totaling 610,000 square feet in Northern Virginia, including the second phase of Kingstowne Towne Center, which will close this summer.

The company’s total gross leasable area in Northern Virginia is now 3.2 million square feet and the total statewide area is 4.3 million square feet, according to Johnson.

One of the company’s signature assets is the Birch & Broad shopping center in Falls Church, which has seen a rapid lease-up. “Another important milestone is property improvement plans, such as the transformation of Falls Plaza to a highly amenitized and rebranded Birch & Broad, which has driven record leasing volumes for our portfolio and company,” Johnson said.

During 2022, Federal Realty has continued to amenitize its properties to increase social connection through outdoor cafe seating areas featuring gas fireplaces, play areas and other improvements.

“We have executed on property renovation plans that attract new and exciting retail and service concepts while also benefiting our existing longtime merchants,” Johnson said. “We are highly focused on sustainability, including LED lighting retrofits, EV-charging stations, native species landscape improvements, and [automated meter reading] water meters. We will also install our first beehive in Virginia this year.”

This year, Johnson is focusing on new store openings; identifying and executing on value-add redevelopment opportunities within the existing portfolio; and maintaining Federal Realty’s strong acquisition pace.

“The only constant is change, and nowhere is that truer than in the shopping center industry,” she said. “We are at our best in an evolving environment as it increases our level of focus and creativity to meet the needs and desires of our stakeholders, which includes our merchants, customers and investors.” —K.L.

Robin Carnahan
Administrator, the General Services Administration

The U.S. Senate confirmed Robin Carnahan to lead the General Services Administration (GSA)  in June 2021, which meant she took over at a time of sharp change for the scopious agency tasked to act as the federal government’s property manager and buyer.

The last full-time administrator caused a national ruckus when she delayed ascertaining Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election. The move cast an unusually bright, and harsh, light on what’s normally a behind-the-scenes position.

Carnahan, a former Missouri secretary of state, has restored near-anonymity to the role of GSA administrator. In the commercial real estate world — particularly in the D.C. region where the federal government is one of the industry’s thirstiest customers — Carnahan is a known entity. Outside of it, not so much. And that might be her most powerful impact in the last 12 months.

Otherwise, Carnahan has spent much of the past year helping manage GSA’s end of the federal infrastructure bill. The agency got about $3.4 billion to spend, mainly on what are known as land ports of entry on the U.S.’s borders, according to an April 2022 interview Carnahan did with St. Louis Public Radio.

Such ports fall within the GSA’s remit. It owns or leases over 376.9 million square feet in 9,000 buildings. That can mean many billions in contracts for property and brokerage firms in a given year. “We’re the biggest landlord in the country,” Carnahan told the public radio station. “And the GSA also leases commercial buildings on behalf of federal partners. So it’s one of the biggest tenants in the country in that way.”

Carnahan has also been ahead on an initiative that might seem both mundane and quite powerful to the average American, especially given the GSA’s recent past: making the agency and its public-facing work more customer friendly. In December, the Biden administration announced a general federal government initiative to do just that, in particular through better use of technology.

The GSA, given that so much customer interaction happens within its walls, is a big part of that.  —T.A.

Monty Hoffman
Founder and Chairman, Hoffman & Associates

Oct. 12 will be a monumental day for Monty Hoffman and Hoffman & Associates. That’s when Phase 2 of The Wharf is scheduled to officially open, completing the $3.6 billion mixed-use project along the Potomac River, which the firm is developing with Madison Marquette.

That second phase is already showing signs of life. Law firm Williams & Connolly moved into its 300,000-square-foot space at 680 Maine Avenue SW last month, and The Atlantic magazine plans to occupy space at 610 Water Street.

 “One of our biggest accomplishments since the start of the pandemic was being able to maintain schedules and complete the project on time,” Hoffman said. “D.C. is a waterfront city, and with everything coming online, we’re really expanding how people are able to embrace the waterfront here in our area.”

With nothing but the finishing touches left on The Wharf, Hoffman has spent much of the past year looking more closely at Northern Virginia. Hoffman & Associates’ efforts have included breaking ground on a West Falls Church development that will include 125,000 square feet of office space, a 146-room hotel, 215 senior housing units and more than 123,000 square feet of retail; and joining with Snell Properties on the planned development of a 504-unit multifamily at the site of a former Ballston hotel.

 “Northern Virginia is doing so well — we all know about the Amazon effect, but just in general, too — and we want to be a part of that,” Hoffman said, referencing the e-commerce giant’s HQ2 in Arlington.

Not that he’s done with D.C., as Hoffman still sees some opportunity for new development in certain areas. For instance, the company is part of a joint venture —  with AHC, City Partners and Paramount Development — on the construction of the $200 million-plus Waterfront Station II, a mixed-use project in D.C.’s Northwest neighborhood, which will feature 449 homes, including 136 apartments available to households earning less than 50 percent of the area median income.

“In the year ahead, our strategy is going to be pretty much the same,” Hoffman said. “We’re working on community development, mixed-use projects, along with straight-up apartment buildings.” —K.L.

Derrek Niec-Williams
Executive Director, Campus Planning, Architecture and Development,
Howard University

Howard University, one of the country’s most acclaimed historically Black universities, got its start with the help of a real estate deal. The school was established in 1867 on a 3-acre campus and funded its first buildings through the sale of land.

“That was one of the first things the university did, was to carve portions of [the campus] off, and parcel it out and sell it to developers, for the seed capital to build the buildings,” Derrek Niec-Williams said.

The school now encompasses 256 acres in the heart of D.C. and owns a substantial real estate portfolio throughout the region. In the last year, Howard has embarked on several joint projects with developers off campus, including an expansion of its hospital, and announced a $785 million investment for on-campus projects.

In 2021, Howard partnered with private developers to build a 260,000-square-foot lab building adjacent to its campus, to be called the National Research Center for Health Disparities, with the hope of attracting life sciences tenants that will collaborate with the research university. Another adjacent site will become The Oliver, a housing development, and a third, the Bond Bread Factory development, will further connect the university to the U Street corridor once known as “Black Broadway.”

The majority of the $785 million will go toward three new multidisciplinary academic halls, and the first phase will be funded by a $300 million bond issued by the institution.

With all of this activity, Niec-Williams’ team likes to say it has a day job and a night job. “The day job is making the campus better, major capital projects. The night job is all the commercial real estate activity,” he said.

The off-campus deals are facilitated through long-term leases, and require developers to engage with the community by hiring minority contractors and using the projects as a training ground for Howard students.

Niec-Williams, himself a Howard alum and an architect by training, says he would have loved to have had something similar. “When I was a student, that would be a dream job,” he said. “Walk across campus, put a hard hat on, and get to work on practical applications.” —C.G.

Matt Kelly and Moina Banerjee
CEO; Chief Financial Officer, JBG Smith

As far as worthy accomplishments go, Bethesda, Md.-based JBG Smith has plenty to peacock about.

“We recently celebrated the topping out of Amazon’s Metropolitan Park development and expect an on-time delivery in 2023,” Moina Banerjee said.

Then, just this May, JBG Smith closed on the sale of the 12-acre PenPlace site in Arlington, Va., to Amazon for $198 million where the firm will now develop the balance of the e-commerce giant’s second headquarters.

“In addition, we are advancing the construction, design and entitlement of our National Landing development pipeline, comprising more than 1,500 residential units,” Banerjee said of the surrounding Northern Virginia megaproject.

JBG Smith is “working diligently to create a truly 18-hour neighborhood,” in National Landing, Banerjee said, by adding those new residential communities, plus a host of dining destinations, outdoor gathering places, and three times the amount of street-level retail in the next three years. Its placemaking goes far beyond what the physical eye can see: “We are investing heavily in next-generation digital infrastructure that will bring to life the world’s first 5G Smart City at scale,” Banerjee said. She added that the firm continues to see an upsurge in tech-driven demand, while global unrest is simultaneously driving a resurgence of defense-related activity in and around the nation’s capital.

While the pandemic brought myriad challenges for real estate, 2022 has itself already brought plenty of new market tests. That said, JBG Smith continues to progress with its pipeline.

The firm has set a target to sell $1 billion of noncore office and land assets in 2022, and is well on its way to achieving its goal — having already closed on $845 million year-to-date, excluding PenPlace.

“These dispositions as well as the sale, ground lease, and joint ventures of noncore land holdings serve as an important source of [net asset value]-priced capital to fund our strategy, and provide capacity for accretive investments, including share repurchases,” Banerjee said.  “With a strong balance sheet and ample liquidity, we continue to be well-positioned to fund our future growth opportunities and our strategic pursuits.” —C.C.

Peter Briskman
Executive Managing Director, JLL’s Maryland Region

Peter Briskman is executive managing director and co-lead for JLL’s mid-Atlantic life sciences practice, working with notable companies to help them complete some of the largest and most visible real estate transactions in the region.

“The past couple of years, my passion has been in life sciences,” Briskman said. “I’m from Maryland, so it’s been very meaningful for me to help local and national groups navigate through the pandemic and help Montgomery County become a top five life sciences cluster.”

Over the last year, Briskman represented TCR² Therapeutics on its expansion from Cambridge, Mass., to Rockville, Md., including its acquisition of a newly constructed facility to accommodate commercial-scale cell therapy manufacturing.

He’s also represented a large lab and research company in the full-building lease of a new Class A lab conversion at 9601 Medical Center Drive in Rockville to be used for R&D and expansion of its manufacturing activities. He’s also handled a major biotechnology company that supports the production of viable vaccines, including for COVID-19, in its negotiation of incentives and execution of multiple real estate transactions along the I-270 corridor.

“The life sciences sector is very active right now,” Briskman said. “If you look at the office market compared to the life sciences market, life sciences is more active because the scientists need to go into a lab and work with their hands, unlike office workers who can be more remote and work in a hybrid nature.” 

Briskman also serves as the board chair for research firm BioHealth Innovation, allowing him to work with leaders in the life sciences arena and share perspectives with like-minded people in the industry.

It’s an exciting time to be dealing in life sciences in the mid-Atlantic, as money has been flowing into the space through private equity and venture capital, and that translates to a direct need for space, Briskman noted.

“If you look over the last couple of years, we have doubled the influx into D.C., and as a result we’re seeing speculative construction in many different product types — not just R&D, but also in manufacturing and R&D conversions — and I think we will continue to see that,” he said. — K.L.

Sue Carras
Senior Managing Director, JLL

Since joining JLL following the brokerage firm’s acquisition of HFF in 2019, Sue Carras has facilitated a number of debt transactions throughout the Beltway region amid market challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

JLL’s origination volume in the D.C. metropolitan area recovered in 2021 to better than 2019 levels, with the brokerage closing more than $5 billion in financings in 80 debt and equity transactions from 50 different capital providers.

“We had a very strong year; [along] with the best of our old clients we’re continually adding new clients,” Carras said. “We’re always growing and now have the largest team we have ever had.”

Carras’ expanded team was mostly focused on multifamily and industrial deals during the past year given the strong fundamentals in both sectors in terms of demand and rent growth. JLL closed a number of industrial transactions in Maryland related to regional transportation infrastructure, beginning with the Port of Baltimore. JLL also proved nimble in expanding into more asset classes, like life sciences, data centers and affordable housing.

“We have a lot of expertise across all the product types right now, which has been great,” Carras said. “We benefit from being part of a unique network at JLL. The level of communication among the capital markets people at JLL is second to none.”

Looking forward, Carras is bullish on the D.C. market in a rising interest rate environment given the area’s “counter-cyclical” economy led by the federal government. Then there’s the thriving cloud computing and life sciences industries, as well as Amazon’s new second headquarters in Northern Virginia. Finally, the region boasts strong higher education institutions and a transportation infrastructure that links key commercial real estate assets.

So Carras does not see lending activity across the Beltway slowing down.

“We have three major airports, and vehicular and rail systems that are second to none,” Carras said. “We have a whole host of HOT lanes and HOV lane connectors that have been built over the last 10 to 15 years, so it’s all coming to fruition now.” —A.C.

Marc Menick
President and CEO, KLNB

Marc Menick spent nearly 20 years at one of the Washington, D.C., region’s most prominent development firms, Peterson Companies, before being snatched up by KLNB in 2017 to become the only outside candidate and nonbroker in the firm’s 54-year history to be named its president. During his time, KLNB has added two new business lines — a government services division and a health care division — as well as a new property management venture and value-added consulting services for clients. 

Over the past 12 months, KLNB focused more of its efforts on industrial and data centers, though it continues to broker large retail deals in the District. In December, it facilitated Douglas Development’s acquisition of three retail buildings at the intersection of King and Washington streets.  “It was a crazy year, and we didn’t know what to expect,” Menick said. “In hindsight, thanks to the foundation that we built for so many years, it wasn’t as bad as we anticipated.”

Menick’s experience and personable nature make him one of the most well-liked and respected people in the industry. That’s helped KLNB make the D.C. region’s commercial real estate industry stronger overall.

“The company has always had a great culture and entrepreneurial spirit, and, even though we do the lion’s share of our business in the D.C./Baltimore area, we’re extremely diverse,” Menick said. “We don’t do a tremendous amount of the traditional, Class A, downtown institutional high-rise office, and don’t focus downtown, and that’s the area that has been hurt the most. We are most known for retail and are strong in the industrial sector, which has been on fire, and we’ve reaped the benefits from that.”

In fact, in 2021, under his leadership, KLNB recorded its best year ever, both in total number of transactions and transaction value, despite the pandemic’s challenges. The strong business has continued in 2022, with the first five months putting the year on track to exceed 2021’s numbers.

“There’s more similarity between the retail and industrial sectors than ever before,” Menick said. “That has helped bolster things for us. All things considered, it’s been a relatively good time for us, and I think the future will be bright for KLNB as well.” —K.L.

Kate Jordan
Principal, Lee & Associates Chesapeake Region

Brokering industrial space was once Kate Jordan’s bread and butter, but since inventory hit a wall in that booming sector due to high demand, the Lee & Associates Chesapeake Region principal has sought her fortune further afield in office space.

The last year and a half have been stronger than initially expected in that sector, considering a sluggish return to office and flight to quality, with Jordan’s team closing the deal on 110 transactions with a total deal value of $56 million.

“One of the biggest challenges that we’ve had is that the industrial market is just so tight that we’ve been forced to look to leasing in the office world,” Jordan said. “Despite what people think, the office is not dead, people are just changing, which does present an opportunity for us.”

Vacancy rates for industrial space in the Chesapeake region stand at about 3 percent, according to Jordan, a figure consistent with coastal markets in the rest of the country, where demand for e-commerce has forced rents to record levels.

Navigating challenges in the real estate industry is nothing new to Jordan. She received her baptism by fire entering the business during the 2008 financial crisis and was able to rise above on a $36,000 salary. So when COVID-19 made its way to American shores, Jordan said she was prepared for difficulties.

Finding out that she would be expecting a child in February 2020 placed additional pressure on Jordan as the world took a turn for the worst, but the attitude of serving her clients again came back to her as a form of support.

“I have always operated under the blind faith that if I place my clients’ interests at the top of the list, that the money just follows. It’s all kind of worked out that way, and the people I work with are true partners,” Jordan said. —M.H.

Gary Block
Partner and Chief Investment Officer, The Meridian Group

Gary Block’s first encounter with the Meridian Group came early in his career as a finance lawyer back in the 1990s. He was representing the Carlyle Group, which was financing the Meridian’s Group’s very first deal.

Now, 25 years later, the Dallas-born Block is a partner and chief investment officer at the company, an opportunity fund and active developer in the D.C. region. The Meridian Group’s signature project is The Boro, a live-work-play community in the center of Tysons, Va. Meridian completed the first phase this year and received approvals for the second, 600,000-square-foot phase.

“The Boro is a textbook example of flight to quality, and a great example of the success of an urban core in a suburban location,” Block said. “It has the placemaking that you would typically see in an urban downtown.”

The Boro’s office component went from 70 percent to 95 percent leased over the course of 2021. Meridian also has office assets in the District — 1333 New Hampshire in Dupont Circle, 1901 L Street and The Aleck, two of which completed major renovations in 2020.

Just before COVID, Meridian began diversifying its portfolio and moving into two asset classes that would become especially prominent during the pandemic: residential and industrial. Earlier this year, the firm began its first logistics project, a $150 million development in Winchester, Va.

The last few years have also proven Block’s thesis that certain commercial assets are essentially obsolete, such as Class B offices and some retail assets in unfavorable locations. He’s on the lookout for conversion opportunities and already has some in the pipeline.

There was one deal Block hoped to get his hands on, but lost out to Post Brothers, which recently paid $228 million for a Class B office complex near Dupont Circle, with plans to convert it to multifamily. “We were outbid by $30 million,” Block said. Instead, he’s eying a multibox retail opportunity that involves converting “one or more of the boxes to multifamily.”

So stay tuned. —C.G.

D. Reid Townsend
Co-founder and Principal, MRP Industrial

As the name suggests, MRP Industrial is a heavyweight in the industrial sector, and that was true long before industrial became real estate’s hottest asset class. Since 2013, MRP Industrial has developed 50 Class A distribution centers, totaling more than 20 million square feet across the mid-Atlantic and Northeast. It has delivered more than $2 billion in ground-up developments for such tenants as Walmart, Wayfair, Kellogg’s, Frito-Lay, Mattel, La-Z-Boy and, the biggest of them all, Amazon.

D. Reid Townsend manages the sourcing, capitalization, design, construction and leasing of the portfolio. He focuses in particular on the financial performance of each project so it hews to the investment objectives of MRP Industrial and its joint venture partners. Over the past year, he’s helped the company successfully stabilize more than 5 million square feet of new projects, with Amazon accounting for less than 2 percent of its leasing activity.

“There are countless new entries dipping their toes into industrial development, and this increased demand is driving up valuations for land and stabilized properties,” Townsend said.

Its most notable recent deal was the acquisition of the former Bainbridge Naval Training Center in Cecil County from the State of Maryland. Decommissioned in 1976, nature had taken over the 1,100-acre property, which the U.S. Navy transferred to the state in 2000.

“MRP was able to entitle over 440 acres for a 3.8 million-square-foot logistics campus in under nine months from contract,” Townsend said. “The first two buildings, totaling 1.6 million square feet, are scheduled to be delivered in spring 2023.”

This year MRP Industrial will break ground on seven new industrial parks, delivering 14 buildings and over 7 million square feet across Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

“We are also entering a period of uncertainty in the real estate market as investors evaluate the impact of rising interest rates and the risk of a global recession,” Townsend said. “We are confident that our experience, knowledge and well-established relationships across the industrial sector will prove invaluable to put the MRP portfolio in position to continue delivering above market returns to our clients and investment partners.” —K.L.

Christine Espenshade
Vice Chairman; Investment Sales of Multifamily Capital Markets, Newmark

Christine Espenshade has spent most of her 25-year career in commercial real estate selling, and that experience paid off big in 2021.

The Newmark vice chairman handled one of the largest deals in the Washington, D.C., area last year: the sale of four sites, including the 331-unit Aubrey building in Rosslyn, Va., to multifamily real estate investment firm Cortland. The sale was part of Atlanta-based Cortland’s $1 billion investment in the D.C. region. Espenshade has two more deals in the works for Cortland’s master-planned community in Rosslyn, dubbed The Highlands.

The deal helped Espenshade’s team double its transaction volume from $950 million in 2020 to $1.85 billion in 2021, she said. With a superheated multifamily market in the extremely supply-constrained D.C. area, Espenshade predicted that she’d double that number again next year, despite the Federal Reserve raising interest rates. “It’s still a great time to be in this business,” Espenshade said. “Interest rates are a concern, but I think so far the increases have been very measured and are something [businesses] have been able to price in and absorb.”

While concerns over a recession mount, that’s not necessarily bad news for Espenshade’s business. Multifamily apartments tend to do well during a recession as potential homeowners are less likely to buy and more likely to stick to renting, she said.

Espenshade, whose team almost exclusively represents sellers of large multifamily assets, also handled Grosvenor Americas’ sale of a 648-unit multifamily building in Gaithersburg, Md., to Starwood Capital for $204 million and Ares Management and LCOR’s sale of the 324-unit Heather Ridge Apartments in Bowie, Md., for $92 million to Greystar.

Compared to the slow pace of deals and the difficulties of hosting tours during the first year of the pandemic, 2021 has been a whirlwind of activity, Espenshade said. —C.Y.

Nikita Rao
Managing Director; U.S. Cities Multifamily Fund Portfolio Manager, Nuveen Real Estate

“We were very active in 2021,” Nikita Rao said.

It’s a bit of an understatement.

Nuveen’s housing platform executed $4 billion in transactions in 2021. In particular, the U.S. Cities Multifamily Strategy Fund that Rao manages executed approximately $1 billion in investments, more than doubling the size of the fund.

“Overall, the fund outperformed the benchmark due to our strategy of focusing on providing safe and quality options for middle-income renters and market selection,” Rao said. “We were able to build a strong portfolio that is well-diversified, which will have durable cash flows through cycles.”

Rao is a former senior vice president at Federal Capital Partners (FCP) with more than a decade of experience in multifamily asset management. She said vacancies across most cities remain near historic lows as demand outpaces supply.

“No event in modern history has impacted the real estate market as dramatically as the COVID pandemic,” she said. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the housing sector remains a top performer driven by reliable cash flows, Rao said. “The ability for many to work remotely changed the focus of where people wanted to live, and we saw increased demand for multifamily units in the suburbs and in locations with a higher quality of life,” Rao said.

In 2021, client portfolios benefited from both income and capital appreciation. Looking forward, investor portfolios under-allocated to inflation-hedging assets have felt the pinch, according to Rao. “We will continue to see capital flows into multifamily as a hedge against inflation and rising interest rates,” Rao said. “However, in the short term, we will see a bit of pullback in particular from levered buyers until there is some stability in the overall economy.”

As for the D.C. area, Rao believes that it will continue to benefit as the local economy diversifies with the influx of employers from biotechnology, cloud computing and medical. —E.F.

William Quinby
Vice Chairman and Co-Regional Manager, Savills

William Quinby has seen plenty of commercial real estate trends come and go in his more than three decades at Savills. Even in the face of inflation, a potential recession and an ongoing global pandemic, Quinby, who mostly represents government, nonprofit and university institutions, said his business has stayed much the same. “The governments that I’ve worked with have had the responsibility as a government to stay in business and the philosophy that their employees should be in the office — and, consequently, they made it safe for them to do so,” Quinby said. “They have not embraced this full hybrid work but have just carefully looked at an appropriate hybrid model, and that has not led to a reduction in footprint.”

Quinby, who completed 1.3 million square feet in leases across 17 transactions in 2021, has represented Amtrak, George Mason University, the District of Columbia and the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority. He was reluctant to discuss his clients, though he did not expect their space needs — particularly those on the government side — to change should a recession hit. Universities, on the other hand, may be more inclined to shrink or repurpose existing space rather than sign new leases, he added.

Quinby often represents tenants looking for new buildings, which are more difficult to find in Washington, D.C., he said. For his clients, often the location of a space is the first decision, and next comes the new development needed to meet a tenant’s specific space requirements.

Those deals, which involve the pre-leasing of a property that hasn’t been built yet, have been more complicated due to supply chain issues and staffing shortages that limit construction work. The No. 1 resource Quinby has tried to get for his clients, though, is time.

“We’re trying to start as early as we can on every project so that we have more schedule flexibility because, if we don’t, we’re going to shop less and be forced to buy what’s on the shelf right now,” Quinby said. “If it looks like we’re forced to make a decision, the market will take advantage of us.” —C.Y.

Sadhvi Subramanian
Senior Vice President, U.S. Bank

Sadhvi Subramanian has quickly made her mark at U.S. Bank since she was hired last November to lead commercial real estate efforts for the East region following a 20-year stint at Capital One, including as mid-Atlantic market manager.

Subramanian is aggressively expanding her team as she looks to grow the Minneapolis-based bank’s CRE lending volume in additional markets, including Washington, D.C., Massachusetts, Ohio, the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida.

“U.S. Bank did not have a strong presence in the D.C. region, and that is one of the reasons I have been brought on — to try and grow the market here,” Subramanian said. “We have a big presence in the rest of the country and we’re looking to really grow in my market areas.”

While only a few months into her new role, Subramanian already has a financing pipeline of $1.5 billion, including $1 billion in D.C. across asset classes such as multifamily and industrial — as well as select office and retail. She said the bank is making a big push to grow its construction lending in particular across multiple sectors.

Despite market uncertainty over interest rates and cap rates, Subramanian expects there to be continued lending opportunities in the D.C. region given the area’s high-profile companies and educated workforce, coupled with its public transportation infrastructure.

“We see a lot of capital opportunities for borrowers,” she said. “Long-term prospects look very positive for D.C.”

In addition to stepping up U.S. Bank’s eastern region lending activity, Subramanian, an advisory board member with the Commercial Real Estate Women D.C. chapter, has been active in looking to enhance the company’s long-standing efforts on diversity, equity and inclusion. In late May, the bank, along with the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), announced a new all-female mentoring program with Project Destined that will work with women from historically Black colleges and universities as well as universities in Southern California. —A.C

José Andrés
President, ThinkFoodGroup

Any serious student of real estate over the past two decades has recognized the importance of food.

The neighborhoods that have blossomed and thrived are the ones that eat well; they are the ones where people want to spend their leisure time, or even their work time. They are as much a part of the landscape as any other factor. And when the Spanish-born José Andrés came to Washington, D.C., in 1993 to helm the kitchen at Jalos at age 23, the District didn’t know just how badly it needed a figure like him.

Today, Andrés counts an unparalleled list of D.C. restaurants in his empire: Oyamel, China Chilcano, Zaytinia and, of course, Minibar, which has two Michelin stars under its belt and where the prix fixe runs a jaw-dropping $295 per person. (Before he was president, Donald Trump also was fleetingly – and disastrously – in business with Andrés to headline the restaurant at Trump International.)

Moreover, Andrés’ realm has stretched well beyond Washington; his restaurants have cropped up in Las Vegas, the Bahamas and Chicago. When Stephen Ross needed a celebrated chef to feed the crowds at Hudson Yards in Manhattan, he turned to Andrés.

We have honored Andrés on this list in the past, and we’re not usually in the habit of giving laurels to restaurateurs multiple years. However, at a time when ESG takes on ever more importance in commercial real estate, it is worth honoring someone who has truly gone beyond platitudes and put himself at the center of societal change.

When he was on the list back in 2019, we highlighted that Andrés’ World Central Kitchen (WCK) brought earthquake disaster relief to Haiti in 2010, served more than 3.5 million meals to Puerto Ricans devastated by Hurricane Maria in 2017, and was on the ground for Hurricane Harvey in Houston and Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas, not to mention California wildfires.

But we were humbled, yet again, by Andrés’ efforts. As refugees flooded over the Ukraine-Poland border, Andrés was there on the ground to greet them and feed them, with WCK doling out some 250,000 meals per day to refugees, per CNN. And, in a final move that would inspire admiration from veteran heart-string pullers, he was even arranging blue and yellow Easter baskets for child refugees. If commercial real estate is serious about doing well by doing good, they can start by learning from José Andrés. —M.G.