BLOGS: Multifamily Focus

2007-02-26, 13:40

Atlantic Yards gets under way

By: Jonathan Groner
From The New York Times, Feb. 20, 2007:

Construction crews were expected to take the first steps today toward building the huge Atlantic Yards project near downtown Brooklyn, according to an aide to Bruce C. Ratner, the developer. The first stages of the work will involve subcontractors removing contamination from a bus depot, then demolishing that structure. Forest City Ratner Companies will build a temporary Long Island Rail Road yard in its place, so that a giant platform can be built above the permanent rail yard to support much of the $4 billion development. The city and state approved the project despite heated opposition from residents who said it would overwhelmingly congest the local streets and transit system. The development will include thousands of apartments, commercial buildings, a hotel and an arena for the Nets, the basketball team Mr. Ratner owns.


So it's under way. We will see what happens with the pending lawsuit.

Labels: ,

2007-02-20, 13:12

Mixed use grows in an unfashionable part of Alexandria, Va.

By: Jonathan Groner
Alexandria, Va., is one of Washington, D.C.'s closest suburbs, and most of it has been built up for decades. But one area, the Carlyle neighborhood, has historically been home primarily to rail yards. Now, a major mixed-use project has opened there, in the wake of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's recent move to Alexandria.

Carlyle Square, a $95-million mixed-use development, just opened to its first residents. The 205 luxury apartments that now have their first tenants are just the beginning, with 145 condominium units and more than 20,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space are slated to open later this year, and groundbreaking for yet more buildings is also scheduled.

“Alexandria is obviously a great historic community in the Washington, D.C., metro area,” Dave Stockard, chief executive of Post Properties, the developer, told the Washington Examiner. “The entire region is entirely built out. But Carlyle, given its industrial roots [wasn’t] . . . having a large site like that represented an opportunity to create a mixed-use environment that doesn’t come along very often.”

Labels: ,

2007-02-19, 11:43

Mixed-use or multi-use: is there a difference?

By: Jonathan Groner
The following, in its entirety, is a dispatch from Riccardo A. Davis, managing editor of Retail Traffic magazine, from the Conference on Open-Air Centers sponsored from Feb. 14-16, 2007, in Phoenix by the International Council of Shopping Centers:

Hospitality is top of mind among the attendees of the 2007 ICSC Conference on Open Air Centers.

But it’s not the accommodations or the level of service being rendered at the conference site in Phoenix, the Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa.

During the welcoming reception Wednesday evening, upbeat developers and architects were abuzz about their as yet announced mixed-use projects.

While they wouldn’t share specific details such as the projects’ site, each noted a key driver in its anticipated success as the hotel.

The next morning during the general session titled, “Mixed Use” - Should Your Company Be in Mixed-Use Development," two panelists, both developers of mixed-use projects, added fuel to the fire.

“With hotels, you get a premium on residential sales, rentals and higher occupancy rates,” said Yaromir Steiner, CEO of Steiner + Associates. He added that demand for hotels is rising because they are seen as critical to generating above-average returns at mixed-use projects.

Steiner’s fellow panelist, Lee Wagman, CEO of The Martin Group, notes mixed-use’s fast-growing popularity is fueled by projects that most successfully combine several elements into a cohesive whole.

He was clear, his definition of mixed-use incorporates three or more components into a live, work and play environment that creates a high-density hub.

Wagman says, “Two uses is “multi-use, not mixed-use.”

Are multi-use and mixed-use actually different? Or can the terms be used interchangeably? Are they in fact being used interchangeably when it might make more sense to preserve a distinction?

Labels: ,

2007-02-16, 10:58

New D.C. development on H Street, N.E.

By: Jonathan Groner
The interesting blog DCmud,, reported earlier this month:

"On February 6, the DC Board of Zoning Adjustment unanimously approved plans submitted by H Street Ventures LLC to build a mixed-use development at 601-645 H Street, NE.

H Street Ventures wants to turn this stretch of block into a 312,000-square-foot residential, retail and office complex valued at nearly $150 million. According to documents filed with the Board, the developer is hoping to build 240 residential units (no decision yet whether condos or rentals), with 13,000 square feet of retail space and 180,000 square feet of office space."

The blog points out that the project had faced much community opposition after it was proposed almost a year ago. The main issue concerned the nine-story building planned to be built in between two existing buildings. There was concern about the height and scale of the building compared with the rest of the block.

The developer subsequently worked with neighborhood associations and advisory neighborhood commissions to reach consensus on a reconfigured, more pleasing scale for the building, Throughout the negotiations, groups including the Stanton Park Neighborhood Association and the Near Northeast and Northeast Capitol Hill advisory neighborhood commissions emphasized the importance of adhering to the H Street Overlay, which provides master planning and development guidelines for the corridor. This is the first project under the newly adopted guidelines.

Construction is expected to start later in 2007, with completion in 2009. This is a good example of how a fairly large mixed-use project can address neighborhood activists' concerns and proceed on time.

Labels: ,

2007-02-15, 17:00

Development near new ballpark is on its way

By: Jonathan Groner
After more than a decade, a mixed-use development across the street from D.C.'s new baseball stadium is almost ready to go up. The 5.8-acre site will house four buildings with a total of 1.1 million square feet of space, including retail, apartments, offices, and a 235-room hotel. The location is planned as a destination for baseball fans who are in the area for a Nationals game.

The developer, FRP Development of Sparks, Md., worked with the Anacostia Waterfront Corp. and with waterfront developers to deal with issues like parking, traffic, and access.

This now-bleak waterfront area of the city's Southeast quadrant, adjacent to the Anacostia River, will be completely unrecognizable in three or four years as development spreads south and east of Capitol Hill and as the new stadium goes up.

Labels: , ,

2007-02-14, 15:16

A luxury mixed-use project rises in Maryland

By: Jonathan Groner
The Washington Business Journal is reporting this week (Feb. 9-15, 2007) that Park Potomac, a $500-million luxury mixed-use community, is being built in Rockville, Md., just off I-270, in affluent Montgomery County.

The developer, Foulger-Pratt, plans to build 454 condominium units, as well as 570,000 square feet of office space, 145,000 square feet of retail, and a 156-room hotel. Those condominium units ... well, the first phase starts at $500,000 and goes up to $1.9 million per unit, and the second phase starts at $800,000 and goes beyond the $2 million mark. The idea is to market them to people whose kids have grown and who don't need their 5,000-square-foot homes any more.

A well-known suburban law firm, Shulman, Rogers, Gandal, Pordy & Ecker, has signed on as a tenant for 65,000 square feet of the office space and will move in around August 2009.

So some residents will be able to walk out of their apartment, do their shopping, and consult their attorney -- all without leaving the complex.

Labels: , ,

2007-02-13, 17:26

Eastern Loudoun County will get major mixed use project by 2018

By: Jonathan Groner
On Jan. 16, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors approved a zoning application for One Loudoun, a large proposed mixed-use development in eastern Loudoun County, 30 miles from Washington, D.C., and three miles from Dulles International Airport. The project would take a decade to complete -- it won't be finished till 2018 -- and will include 1,040 housing units, 700,000 square feet of retail space, and 3 million square feet of office space.

This ambitious project, a joint venture of developers Miller and Smith and The Meridian Group, did attract some controversy. Two members of the board voted no, on the grounds that the new project would take business away from Dulles Town Center, which was opened in 1999. (See my Feb. 5, 2007, posting.)

One Loudoun has been formally recognized by the Smart Growth Alliance of the Washington, D.C., area, as a "Smart Growth" project.

Labels: ,

2007-02-12, 08:21

Treehuggers and mixed use

By: Jonathan Groner
The Treehugger Web magazine,, whose name accurately reflects its writers' concern with the environment, sustainable living, and green construction, wrote on Saturday, February 10, 2007, about a new "green" mixed-use project that will open in downtown Chapel Hill, N.C., in 2009.

The Greenbridge project, designed by "eco-architect" William McDonough, will incorporate
solar energy, rain water harvesting, living roofs and many other environmentally friendly features, according to the magazine. The developers claim it will be the first LEED Gold certified mixed-use development in North Carolina.

According to an article last fall in the Chapel Hill News, however, not all residents are happy with the prospective nine-story structure. Despite all of its "green" features, they think it may be too large for its surroundings.

"Any building can be a beautiful addition, can be well designed and can be an asset to the community," Catherine Frank, executive director of The Preservation Society of Chapel Hill told the newspaper reporter. "But I also believe an incredibly important part of what creates the atmosphere of our downtown is its human scale, and I'm afraid that as we start to lose that human scale, we will be Anytown, U.S.A."

Again, it is interesting that different people have different perspectives on growth. One person's environmentally friendly building can be another person's eyesore.

Labels: , ,

2007-02-11, 09:02

Atlantic Yards: An opponent's view

By: Jonathan Groner
The Feb. 5, 2007, issue of Multi-Housing News has an op-ed by Daniel Goldstein, the lead plaintiff in a major federal court case against Atlantic Yards, the huge mixed-use project planned for Brooklyn, N.Y. Goldstein is also the spokesperson for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, which leads the opposition to Atlantic Yards.

The 8-million-square-foot project would include a 20,000-seat basketball arena and 16 high-rise towers. Real estate attorneys, advocates of mixed use, followers of the Supreme Court's 2005 Kelo decision on eminent domain, and community activists nationwide will want to follow the case, which was filed in the Eastern District of New York in October 2006.

Goldstein argues that the approval process for Atlantic Yards circumvented the normal legal steps that constitute "democratic oversight" and that developer Bruce Ratner essentially received a rubber stamp from city and state government.

Goldstein says that the Achilles' heel of the project is the fact that eminent domain will be required to make it happen. He says that although the Kelo case allowed eminent domain to be used for economic development -- in the Supreme Court's view a "public use" -- there are exceptions set forth in Justice Kennedy's 5-4 majority opinion.

Labels: , ,

2007-02-09, 11:30

The new urbanism and the tragedy of New Orleans

By: Jonathan Groner
The current issue of The American Prospect, a liberal policy-oriented magazine, has an article by Kellie Lunney, a D.C.-based reporter for National Journal here in D.C., about post-Katrina New Orleans and the question of rebuilding much of the city along "green" lines.

Lunney, who covers housing and urban redevelopment issues for National Journal with considerable flair and in-depth knowledge, makes a point about "the new urbanism" that I had never seen before. (I spent a week in New Orleans last summer as part of a pro bono project undertaken by the law firm I work for, Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, and I toured many devastated areas and read a good deal about the hurricane's effects.)

Here is Lunney's interesting contention:

"Pre-Katrina New Orleans was already a kind of new urbanist city for the working poor. It had relatively high density, affordable prices, one of the nation's best ratios of income to housing costs, and an above-average rate of homeownership among African Americans, as well as fine parks and a decent system of public transportation -- the key elements of the new-urban formula. Indeed, as the nation witnessed the tragedy of people trapped in the flooding city, one big reason why more residents could not get out was that nearly 35 percent of black households owned no cars, and relied instead on buses and trolleys."

She also points out that "it's more than a little ironic that a diffuse army of planners is seeing New Orleans as an opportunity to promote sustainable development, at a time when more than two-thirds of the city's onetime residents are more concerned about having an affordable roof over their heads -- one that will not blow away in the next big storm. To most locals,
'sustainable' has more to do with making sure the levees hold than with energy-efficient buildings or a new urbanism."

The article can be found at

Labels: , ,

2007-02-08, 12:33

Mixed use near the U.S. Census Bureau

By: Jonathan Groner
An interesting blog that specializes in D.C.-area real estate,, discussed yesterday a massive mixed-use project planned for an underserved, blighted area of Prince Georges County, Md.

Suitland, Md., hasn't exactly been an urban planner's dream, but it is the site of the U.S. Census Bureau, which is opening a new $340 million headquarters building.

DCMud reported of Feb. 7 that "after 20 years of buying land and a four-and-a-half year zoning process, Kevin Sills, President of Oakton-based Mid-Atlantic Real Estate Investments, is planning to break ground late this summer on a 22-acre, mixed-use residential and commercial development near the Suitland Metro and across the street from the future site of Prince George’s County Redevelopment Authority’s Suitland Manor. The $800 million Town Center at the intersection of Silver Hill and Suitland Roads will have 1 million s.f. of retail and office space as well as 1,100 residential units, likely including condominiums and apartments. "

So yet another area that is now characterized by dying strip malls may spring back to life by 2010.

Labels: ,

2007-02-07, 09:47

A survey says lifestyle centers are not overbuilt

By: Jonathan Groner
REBusiness Online has just completed an unscientific online survey of its readers, asking the question: Is there a surplus of lifestyle centers?

Of the respondents, 53.6 percent said there is not a surplus and that the industry is not in danger of overbuilding this product type. Another 19.8 percent agreed that there is not a surplus but said overbuilding is quite possible. That's a total of about 74 percent who said there is no surplus. The remainder -- 26.6 percent of respondents -- said there is indeed a surplus.

Another survey question was: How should developers approach lifestyle development in the future? The online magazine received some interesting answers to that question. A few of them follow:

"Not all developments marketed as 'lifestyle centers' meet the definition for such centers. ULI developed a standard definition of such centers several years ago; only those centers that meet that definition — those including a mix of uses, retail, office and residential — should be called 'lifestyle centers.' Many 'lifestyle centers' are called that because the developer has included restaurants with retail and made the center open-air rather than enclosed or a strip center; those are not 'lifestyle centers' and should not be so labeled."

"I find parking to be my biggest concern, as the general layout of a lifestyle center does not allow for large parking fields near the tenant areas that require the greatest number of spaces."

"Not every new development needs to be 'lifestyle.' There are not that many tenants to fill all the expected development. There will be significant fallout in these centers due to tenant-oriented co-tenancy clauses that will begin to kick in as consumer demand and sales volumes retreat in the next few years, and if an expected turn in the real estate cycle comes to fruition. When these events occur, lifestyle centers will undergo some fundamental changes."

These are thoughtful comments.

Labels: ,

2007-02-06, 11:31

Parking may make a difference in Newport News

By: Jonathan Groner
On Feb. 3, 2007, the Daily Press, a newspaper in Virginia's Hampton Roads area, reported on a new mixed-use development opening in Newport News. The story by reporter Chris Flores is entitled, "Building upscale ambitions: The development believes it has an edge over its competitors in one key area - parking."

Flores reports that "the Villages of Stoney Run, located off Jefferson Avenue just past the Newport News airport, is almost finished with a development that will include 184 apartments, 120 condos and retail and restaurants."

The story points out that just like Port Warwick and City Center, two developments at the other end of Jefferson Avenue, Stoney Run will have places for residents to get their hair cut, get their laundry done and get a bite to eat.

But it quotes a representative of the Breeden Co., the developer, as saying that car access and parking may make the difference in helping Stoney Run beat out its higher-profile competitors.
In addition to the retail parking, the developer built two spaces for each residence, and the development can be accessed by new traffic lights from two sides. Each condo has a garage.

Anyone who has ever spent half an hour or more looking for a parking space will understand why this might be a difference that matters when choosing a place to live.

Labels: , ,

2007-02-05, 10:01

A quick walk across the street at Parc Dulles

By: Jonathan Groner
On Saturday, Feb. 4, 2007, The Washington Post real estate section wrote about Parc Dulles, an upscale apartment development that is part of a mixed-use development near Dulles Airport. It is mixed use because it's across the street from the Dulles Town Center mall, a 1.4 million square foot shopping center that opened in 1999.

Residents of Parc Dulles can walk across the street to the mall -- except that the "street" is a four-lane highway! So the developer built pedestrian crosswalks. One enthusiastic resident is quoted as saying, "Everything is right here. I used to have to drive to everything." And the article points out that this person "walks to the mall and enjoys the convenience of not being car-bound when he's not commuting."

Still, one wonders if this really exhibits the compactness and human scale that the best mixed-use projects are known for.

The full article can be found at

Labels: ,

2007-02-02, 10:22

Virginia governor on smart growth and the transportation problem

By: Jonathan Groner
On Jan. 10, 2007, in his "State of the Commonwealth" address to the Virginia General Assembly, Gov. Tim Kaine (D), addressed land use, smart growth, and traffic reduction issues, all of which are closely related to mixed-use development. Here are the relevant quotes:

The solution to our transportation problem must include three components: strong accountability of our transportation agencies, better connections between land use and transportation planning, and new, reliable, long-term funding of our system.

That spirit of innovation should also guide our planning for future growth. In 2006, we took the first real steps to link transportation and land use planning through legislation concerning traffic impact statements, transfers of development rights, and cluster housing. This year, let’s take the next steps towards smart growth management.

Communities need clear authority to reject rezoning proposals when new developments would overwhelm the existing transportation infrastructure. We must protect the investments that we have already made in critical transportation corridors by managing access to those roads in a way that promotes safe, swift travel. And we need incentives for new subdivision streets to be designed to reduce congestion and long-term maintenance costs. The state should not automatically pick up the maintenance costs for new roads unless those roads are designed to move traffic efficiently.

This is a reasonably strong statement against unchecked sprawl and in favor of carefully planned growth. This approach will encourage mixed-use development in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

2007-02-01, 09:32

Washington Gateway: hotels in the mixed-use environment

By: Jonathan Groner
The February 2007 issue of Southeast Real Estate Business has a front-page article by Daniel Beaird about Washington Gateway, a mixed-use project that just received approval from the Zoning Commission. The $350 million project will feature two office towers, a 250-unit residential tower, and a 150-room extended-stay hotel. Groundbreaking is set for the fourth quarter of 2007, with occupancy in the first quarter of 2010.

Fred Rothmeijer, a founding principal of the project's developer, MRP Realty, told the magazine that "the hotel is a good use to complement the office component" because "companies won't have to worry about where their out-of-town employees or clients stay."

Beaird writes that a hotel component for a mixed-use development "is the new trend ... as developers look for ways to accommodate not just the everyday employee through residential options, but also the traveling employee or client for a few days."

I would add that there is a shortage of top-quality hotels in that area, which is near the corner of Florida and New York avenues, N.W. The area, called NoMa (North of Massachusetts), is definitely on the way up.

Labels: , , ,

back to top