BLOGS: Multifamily Focus

2006-06-21, 14:36

Mixed-use development in Raleigh

By: Jonathan Groner
Business North Carolina (May 2006) has a brief article about a successful developer in Raleigh, N.C., with an unusual background. Greg Hatem, 46, has been in the real estate business for 11 years. His company, Empire Properties, now owns 36 buildings, with about 600,000 square feet of floor space. But, according to the article, Hatem wasn't always in the Carolina real estate business. He visited China in the mid-1980s to visit his uncle, George Hatem, who had been Mao Zedong's personal physician and was later a public health official. Greg Hatem later learned to speak Chinese, set up a foundation in China to continue the public health work, started a software company there, and built a 21-story building in Shenyang.

Returning to North Carolina, his birthplace, Greg Hatem founded Empire in 1995. He has been buying up sites and buildings in Raleigh ever since and has continued to rebuild and renovate them.

Hatem, who lives in one of his downtown buildings, is a major proponent of mixed use.

Right now, he has proposed building four stories of loft-style condominiums adjacent to the parking deck for a new county courthouse in Raleigh. The county plans to tear down an existing parking deck when it begins building a second courthouse in 2008.

Hatem's group would like to build a mixed-use project on two sides of the parking deck. The building would include 44 condominiums and 8,150 square feet of retail space.

2006-06-20, 11:11

How to build mixed use where there is nothing

By: Jonathan Groner
An interesting article by Douglas Fruehling in the current Washington Business Journal (June 16-22, 2006) focuses on the D.C. "baseball district." If you have never heard of that district, that's because it doesn't exist yet. Fruehling is writing about the part of Southeast Washington where ground was recently broken for a 41,000-seat stadium for the Washington Nationals. Everything is still in the planning stage for the development of an area that most Washingtonians have never laid eyes upon.

"Planners and developers must create a lively neighborhood -- they call it a 'vibrant mixed-use waterfront district' -- in an area with virtually no structure worth saving and an unmistakably modern stadium as the centerpiece," Froehling writes. "How do you create character where there is none, without replicating Disney-esque environments found at suburban town centers?"

That's certainly the challenge. The Capitol Gateway Overlay District guidelines encourage residential development and require ground floor retail. Stores, restaurants, and bars will eventually line Half and First Streets, S.W., and planners hope there will be busy outdoor street life.

Thirty years ago, when a previous wave of urban stadiums was going up, few planners, if any, thought about placing major stores and apartment buildings in the stadium neighborhood. Mixed use has become an appropriate, even a necessary, concept these days, even in neighborhoods where there is nothing worth saving.

2006-06-15, 11:37

Waterfront contenders narrowed to five developers

By: Jonathan Groner
The Washington Business Journal reported on Tuesday, June 13, that the Anacostia Waterfront Corporation, which is in charge of redeveloping the Southwest Waterfront in the District of Columbia, has trimmed the list of developers being considered for the work from 17 to five. Seventeen developers or developer groups had expressed interest in redeveloping the 47-acre area. The plan calls for mixed-use development, and one of the criteria for selection was experience in mixed-use development. The AWC says it hopes to name the winning development team by the end of the summer.

The plan would involve the construction of hundreds of housing units, as well as commercial development including restaurants, shops, and possible a hotel. Interestingly, of the five remaining contenders, two are from outside the D.C. area -- one from Baltimore and one from Chicago.

The five remaining groups are:

EastBanc - LNR Waterfront Partners
Madison/KSI Waterfront Partners
PN Hoffman/Streuver Brothers Eccles & Rouse (based in Baltimore)
SW Waterfront LLC, which is headed by Bethesda's JBG Cos.
The John Buck Company (based in Chicago)

2006-06-06, 16:07

Mixed use in Colonial Williamsburg

By: Jonathan Groner
Lerner Enterprises is about to break ground in July for High Street Williamsburg, a mixed-use retail/office/residential development in Williamsburg, Va. Lerner Enterprises is the company controlled by Ted Lerner, the well-known D.C.-area developer who was recently awarded the right to purchase the Washington Nationals baseball team.

It's not easy to build a major project in Williamsburg, even one that hews to the mixed-use idea and to the concept of the "New Urbanism." Residents are understandably concerned that any development will destroy the city's historical character and the distinctiveness that makes Williamsburg the most-visited Virginia city. But the Lerners have evidently succeeded where other developers had failed.

The High Street development will feature architecture based on a European model, with varying building heights and the feel of having been developed over a long time. It will be anchored by a 14-screen movie theater and by a Barnes & Noble. The developers say that the term "High Street" is used widely in Europe to connote a fashionable part of town.

2006-06-01, 10:56

Mixed use in Atlanta far from the city center

By: Jonathan Groner
Many people think mixed-use projects are mostly being built these days in wealthy urban centers or in closer-in, rapidly gentrifying areas. And there's some truth to that assumption. But a project now under way in Atlanta looks as if it's going to be a significant exception.

McShane Construction of Rosemont, Ill., was just selected by developer The Shelter Group to construct Park View at Coventry Station, a 166-unit affordable senior housing community that will form part of Coventry Station. This community is expected to be completed by June 2007. Coventry Station as a whole, which will be completed in 2008 or 2009, will be a mixed-use project occupying 138 acres in Southwest Atlanta. It will include single-family homes, townhouses, garden apartments, a commercial village, and lofts above commercial establishments.

What's particularly interesting about this project is that it's located in an affluent, predominantly African-American neighborhood fairly far from downtown. Priske-Jones Southeast Co. is the developer, and a year ago, the Priske-Jones VP and general manager in charge of the project told the Atlanta Business Chronicle that perceptions that the area was "rough" were "just wrong."

The project will feature many of the typical amenities of "smart growth" and of downtown mixed-use development: wide sidewalks with benches that encourage strolling, porches close to the street that encourage socializing among neighbors, lofts that can attract artists and other creative types.

Soon, a community in Atlanta's traditionally underserved Southside will have the benefits of smart growth and of the "New Urbanism."
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