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A Lesson in Perseverance in Development

Adam Weers, an experienced principal with national development firm Trammell Crow Company, addressed a group of real estate students and alumni at the Master in Real Estate Development program’s Role Model Thursday event last October 24 in Arlington.  Role Model Thursdays are networking events held several times a year with a featured real estate executive providing a short talk on lessons learned from his real estate projects and career.

Weers presented the history of the on-going redevelopment of the McMillan Sand Filtration site in the District of Columbia, a rare 25-acre urban land parcel located near Children’s National Hospital.  Trammell Crowe led a consortium of developers that won a contract from the DC government in 2007 to redevelop the area.

Since the first conceptual development plan was done in 2008, Weers walked the students through the difficult process of planning and entitling a large and high-profile public-private partnership development project.  “Depending on what aspect of the project is being discussed, you learn very quickly that your perspective may not be the most important one in the room,” said Weers. “That’s very humbling and difficult sometimes for real estate development professionals.”

Over a more than 10-year process, Weers estimates that he has attended more than two hundred public meetings about the project. “We’ve done meetings in people’s living rooms, church basements, and all the way to public hearings.  We did engagement in multiple formats,” recalled Weers. “We went through changes in public officials as city administrations changed.  Neighbors who lived nearby moved, and new neighbors wanted to learn about the project all over again.  More recently, we had to deal with litigation.”

Weers and his firm persevered and the end is in sight with construction soon slated to begin. “The process has been at times frustrating, but it has made the resulting project much better in my opinion,” said Weers. The McMillan redevelopment will now include 900,000 square feet of medical and office buildings, 85,000 square feet of retail including a grocery store, 680 residential units, and 12 acres of public park space including a community center.

“What’s kept us going is the belief that we are going to do something special and worthwhile here,” concluded Weers.

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