Day Four of the ULI Leadership Institute took place in the Crystal City sector of Arlington, Virginia. The day’s theme was “Trends + Innovation”, and the very appropriate setting for the day’s session was the Crystal City offices of 1776, a global business incubator that is all about innovation.
The day kicked off with its leadership component, in this case focusing on the element of professional self-confidence. Guest speaker and leadership coach Amelia Truett broached this topic with the group, first by introducing the five key elements to emotional intelligence that are instrumental to achieving self-confidence. Much of the balance of the session involved activities and thought exercises prompting each individual to consider what we do (and don’t do) when our self-confidence erodes – to emphasize the point that, “If you can’t see it, you can’t fix it.” Template handouts were distributed that could be used by anyone to help identify and listen to the negative messages we send ourselves – so that we can do something about them!
The morning’s second session included a talk by Ed McMahon (Senior Resident Fellow at ULI) on Trends in Walkability and Transportation. Supported by a variety of case studies, precedent images, and associated data, the presentation focused broadly on the idea of a “Transportation Revolution,” generally involving the idea that the breadth and scope of multimodal transportation options – and especially bicycling – continue to emerge and grow across the country, and are driving new thinking and ideas about how development should relate to such infrastructure. Trail-oriented development, bike boulevards, and the cost-effectiveness of building bike infrastructure compared with other types of facilities were just a few specific aspects addressed in the talk.
For the last morning session, the group received a primer on Mass Timber Construction from Steve White and Laureen White, architect and structural engineer, respectively, in the field. In their presentation, the speakers addressed some of the basic aspects of Mass Timber – what it is, why it should be used, and what are some of its limitations. They also covered distinctions between Mass Timber and “stick built” construction (volume), identified key considerations (including more compressed construction timeframe) for deciding to build using Mass Timber, and noted that while the industry is quickly emerging, building codes have generally been slow to keep up.
After lunch, the group met with representatives from JBGS and learned about their redevelopment and rebranding plans for Crystal City. A July merger between JBG and Vornado helped the firm acquire nearly two dozen properties in Crystal City, with many being located along Route 1. The redevelopment is scheduled to occur over eight phases, creating four distinct yet complimentary neighborhoods that will bring vibrancy to the area. The mix of uses includes office, residential, and retail, a new metro station entrance, community park, theater, and pedestrian bridge to Washington National Airport.
Next, the group walked a few blocks south for a tour of the recently completed WeLive/WeWork project in Crystal City. This innovative project utilizes the Shared Space concept to provide flexible lease options and affordable rental rates to residents, while promoting communal living and working. Created from a former office building, the WeLive/WeWork project offers studio through four-bedroom sized units with unique layouts and furnishings to maximize space, and communal amenities such as large kitchens, TV viewing areas, an exercise area, and library. The WeWork space, located on the top two floors, offers unique amenities such as cold brew coffee on tap, free wifi, small offices for larger companies, and private rooms designed like phone booths for phone conferences and quiet time. This project truly gives residents the ability to live where they work.
At the end of the day, the group heard from a Trends + Technology Panel that included moderator Michelle Chang, Recity CEO Guggan Datta, Hatch co-founder Amelia Friedman, Why Hotel co-founder Jason Fudin, and RSE Capital Partners (Fundrise Affiliate) Head of Business Max Kirschenbaum. This lively panel offered its views and thoughts around the adoption and impact of technology on the real estate industry, and emerging trends in the market. Topics such as the speed of changes in the financial industry given tax reform and new ways to raise capital, new technologies (apps, websites, and services) designed to enhance efficiency, and alternative uses for property (i.e. WeLive/WeWork spaces, Why Hotel, and Airbnb) were discussed and forecasted by the panel. The panelists all agreed that technology is impacting real estate given many new trends, but noted that adoption will continue to be slow due to the age of the industry.
Next month the group will meet for Day 5 – Finance and Development Process at ULI Offices in Downtown DC.
Anthony Fusarelli, Jr., AICP – Arlington Department of Community Planning, Housing, and Development
Mansur Abdul-Malik – The NHP Foundation