By Luis-Ferdinand Mann ’19

On Friday, April 12, a group of 15 Real Estate students travelled to Washington D.C. to learn about the third largest real estate market in the US through site tours and company visits. The trek kicked off Thursday evening with an alumni reception at the Wharf—a mixed-use waterfront development overlooking the Washington Channel. Local real estate practitioners, alumni, current and incoming students got together over drinks to network and enjoy a view of the D.C. harbor.  

Friday morning kicked off meeting with the market research team of Jones Lang LaSalle—a leading global brokerage and third-party real estate service provider. John Sikaitis, Managing Director of Research, highlighted MarketSphere, JLL’s proprietary tech-platform that helps clients track tenant habits and uncovers market idiosyncrasies. John and Research Manager Carl Caputo employed the platform to highlight the counter-cyclical nature the of the D.C. office market. Unlike its US counterparts, D.C.’s office market continued to struggle after the financial crisis as governmental agencies and contractors sought to reduce space usage following government cost-cuts and sequestration. Office vacancy has crept up to reach close to 15%. Despite this negative occupancy trend in the market, the region has reason to be optimistic: JBG Smith and Amazon are partnering to develop the tech-giant’s new HQ2 just few short miles from downtown D.C. in Crystal City.


At the next company visit, Austen Holderness, Development Director, and Jim Berkon, Managing Director of Design and Construction at Carr Properties, spoke to the group about their approach to office development which is focused on unique amenitization, and drawing elements from the hospitality industry.  Next, they showcased their Midtown Center mixed-use mega development, which replaced the old home of the Washington Post. The prominent development, which was completed in 2018, connects the East End with the CBD. It provides a brand-new 750,000 square foot home to Fannie Mae, recently leasing the remaining 100,000 square feet to WeWork. The building totals 860,000 square feet, and the lease was the largest private lease in the district’s history. The copper-clad façade and the building’s suspended bridges, designed by New York–based SHoP Architects, provides a dramatic new addition to the District’s cityscape.


At the next meeting, Columbia Business School alumni Mike Gill ’03 and Adam Gooch ’05, both Senior Vice Presidents at Akridge, offered candid advice about building successful careers in the real estate industry. Particularly, they shared valuable insight into what it is like to work in both development and acquisitions roles. Akridge acts as a developer and trusted advisor to many in the DC real estate community.


Going-full circle, the group returned to the Wharf in the southwestern quadrant of DC to tour the 24-acre master-planned 3.5M square foot development by PN Hoffmann and Madison Marquette. The development rests on a 99-year district ground lease. Development rights were awarded in a competitive process to the developers in 2006. The first phase, completed in 2018, features 2M square feet of office, residential, retail, entertainment, and hotel space. Robert Mills, Director of Finance at Madison Marquette, guided the group through the development process and toured with 1000 Maine, a 250,000 square foot trophy office property; The Anthem, a 6,000-person concert venue operated by I.M.P; and The Channel, a 501-unit luxury residential rental community.


The high-octane, 36-hour REA trek to D.C. provided a great opportunity for current students to explore their interests in real estate and connect with leading real estate practioners. Special thanks to our company hosts, as well as Tricia Philip-Rao, Assistant Director of the Paul Milstein Center for Real Estate, and Federica Burelli ’20 and Chris Grube ’20, CO-AVPs of Treks in the REA for organizing the trip.

Luis-Ferdinand Mann is a second-year MBA student of the Class of 2019 with concentration in Real Estate. He has worked for three years as an Associate with Aria Development Group on the acquisition and development of residential and commercial real estate in New York, Washington D.C. and Miami. Prior to working with Aria Development Group, he interned with the Development Team of Related Companies in Chicago. Post MBA he will be joining a German-American real estate investment firm. Luis-Ferdinand received his B.A. in Mathematics from Northwestern University.

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