Nearly 200 real estate professionals packed the Studio Theatre on 14th Street last night for Real Estate 101’s Demystifying Entitlements event. Goulston & Storrs legal experts Phil Feola and Christine Roddy spoke at length about the regulatory, political, and economic factors that arise as real estate development projects move through the entitlement process in Washington, DC.
The discussion started with an overview of the government’s jurisdiction over land use, or, as Mr. Feola joked, “civics class.” While cities and municipalities differ in their regulatory structures, many legal principles involved in land use, such as eminent domain, are applicable across different jurisdictions. The presenters also touched on the comprehensive planning process before delving into the different agencies developers engage with during the entitlement process. What makes Washington unique? Congress gets final say over the decisions reached by the City, and the presence of the U.S. government means a variety of federal agencies – such as the National Parks Service and U.S. Commission of Fine Arts – weigh in on land use decisions. Each government entity has its own requirements and motivations, and successful projects utilize regular communications with the relevant agencies to better comply with regulations.
After providing a thorough overview of the entitlement process, Mr. Feola and Ms. Roddy lead the crowd through a case study of their experiences entitling MRP Realty and Florida Rock Properties’ The Riverfront development in the Capital Riverfront neighborhood of DC. The site was originally zoned for industrial uses, which was altered to a mix of uses in the 2006 comprehensive plan. Over the course of several years, the team shepherded the site through a planned unit development that shifted focus from office uses to multifamily. It resulted in a development comprising 324 residential units and approximately 19,000 square feet of retail space in its first phase, and much more to come. The crowd utilized the full 30 minute Q&A session with Phil and Christine to broach a variety of topics, from parking responsibilities to wastewater management.