The UNC Kenan-Flagler MBA Real Estate Club visits Washington, D.C. on a career trek.

DC revisited: How real estate is changing the nation’s capital

The UNC Kenan-Flagler MBA Real Estate Club visits Washington, D.C. on a career trek.

The UNC Kenan-Flagler MBA Real Estate Club visits a development site during their career trek to Washington, D.C.

Full disclosure: I was raised in Vienna, Virginia, a suburb 15 miles west of Washington, DC. Aside from the quintessential elementary school field trip to our nation’s capital, I rarely ventured into the city. So for me, DC has always been the conglomeration of indiscernible, yet somehow distinct neighborhoods like Capitol Hill, Georgetown, Foggy Bottom and Dupont Circle. But on a career trek with the UNC Kenan-Flagler MBA Real Estate Club, I realized that I had haphazardly underestimated the character of the capital city.

Take the Navy Yard neighborhood, for example. When the District announced the location of the new Washington Nationals ballpark in 2004, local developers seized the opportunity and purchased many of the underutilized lots around the proposed stadium site. Since then, the neighborhood has undergone a flurry of changes – including two projects spearheaded by UNC Kenan-Flagler alumni.

The view from MRP's latest project, Dock 79, via UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School MBA Real Estate Program

The view from MRP’s latest project, Dock 79.

Jonathan Carr (MBA ’07), senior vice president of development with Grosvenor Americas, is leading the effort on a 450,000 square foot mixed-use project called F1RST. Located one block from the Navy Yard metro station, the project will feature 22,000 square feet of ground floor retail, 325 residential units, 170 hotel rooms and a magnificent rooftop terrace equipped with an outdoor movie theater overlooking home plate. A few blocks away, on the opposite side of the ballpark, sits Dock 79 – MRP Realty’s luxury multifamily project. During our visit, Michael Skena (BSBA ’03, MBA ’11), vice president of development with MRP, gave us a tour of Phase I of the project, which consists of 305 residential units and approximately 16,000 square feet of ground floor retail. Each unit has amazing river or ballpark views, and the amenities are truly impressive: a rooftop infinity pool offering stunning panoramic views, a private bike-sharing program and a grand riverfront promenade connected to a larger riverwalk trail, just to name a few.

The riverfront promenade at Dock 79, via UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School MBA Real Estate Program

The riverfront promenade at Dock 79.

In Northeast DC, Katie Bucklew (BSBA ’05, MAC ’06), vice president of investments with EDENS, is in the process of activating the entire Union Market neighborhood. Katie and her team have spent five years working tirelessly to attract and assemble an eclectic list of tenants, including such enviable names as Dolcezza Gelato, Masseria and Angelika Pop-Up. Their work has served as a catalyst for the rest of the neighborhood.

Robbie Brooks (MBA ’06), managing director at Trammell Crow Residential, was one of the first to recognize the emerging artistic community in Union Market and subsequently broke ground on the Alexan Union Market project. When complete in 2019, the project will include 430 residential units.

Developers have been placing increased emphasis on the urban planning concept of placemaking. In practice, placemaking seeks to build or improve public space, engender civic pride, connect neighborhoods, catalyze economic development and nurture an authentic “sense of place” – which is exactly what Jon Carr, Michael Skena, Katie Bucklew, Robbie Brooks and many other UNC Kenan-Flagler alumni are doing in our nation’s capital. As I boarded my train at Union Station, I was surprised to find myself feeling a bit nostalgic. During our visit, I had the chance to see DC for what it really is: a diverse yet cohesive canvas of communities.

By Zach Spencer (MBA ’18)