Does Good Design Create Real Estate Value?

That’s the question that Toby Bozzuto, President, The Bozzuto Group, answered recently for MS in Real Estate Development students and the National Capital Region real estate community as part of a “Best Practices” series sponsored by the Mason Center for Real Estate Entrepreneurship.

And what was his conclusion?

As you might guess if you’ve ever visited one of Bozzuto’s many multi-family properties in DC, Virginia or Maryland (including the District’s Cathedral Commons, Baltimore’s Union Wharf or Alexandria’s The Shelby), his response was a resounding “yes.”

Poolside at Bozzuto's Union Wharf property in Baltimore.

Poolside at Bozzuto’s Union Wharf property in Baltimore.

And while he did eventually get to the fact that Bozzuto-designed and built units command some of the highest returns per square foot, consistently out performing comparable units in the same neighborhoods–that’s not where his explanation started.

“As human beings, we all crave authenticity and connection—the core of human desire, “ Bozzuto noted. “When we, as developers, can elevate lives by providing real, meaningful sanctuary, everyone gains outsized returns.”

Authentic sanctuary

To achieve the goal of authentic sanctuary, Bozzuto says his firm, one of the most successful and prolific

in the area, focuses not on creating products but on creating experiences. And this design story is one that resonates on Wall Street as well as with customers, he says.

Citing the example of New York City’s Ace Hotel lobby, Bozzuto said that in addition to studying their customers, his firm also is continually studying “beautiful spaces where people choose to congregate” including boutique hotels, fine restaurants and innovative retails sites.

Lobby of Ace Hotel in New York City

Lobby of Ace Hotel in New York City

Three keys to good design

He outlined three keys ways in which design can make a difference, both for the developer and their communities:

  • Amenities—external spaces that fulfill a need to “be alone together,” spaces that are full of life and emotionally resonant;
  • Internal spaces—with unit design becoming increasingly important as spaces get smaller
  • Technology—making buildings come alive as the next design frontier.

“When we challenge ourselves to push boundaries and move away from safe derivative products,” he says, “we create inspired, meaningful and practical projects that every one involved can be passionate about. And our customers become our most authentic brand ambassadors.”

Bozzuto’s presentation was part of the ongoing “Best Practices” series sponsored by the Mason Center for Real Estate Entrepreneurship (CREE).

Toby and Bob2“Toby’s lecture perfectly illustrates CREE’s mission to provide a public platform for the brightest minds in real estate to share their best practices with the local real estate community–especially the students in Mason’s real estate master’s degree program,” says Bob Wulff, director of both CREE and the Mason MS in Real Estate Development. “It was gratifying to see nearly 100 people in the audience–about equally distributed between real estate professionals and students.”

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Janet Palmisano

Janet Palmisano is a member of the Recruiting and Admissions team at the George Mason University School of Business.

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