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Best Practices for Building Enduring Communities and Careers

Successful real estate developers build thoughtfully designed and strategically executed projects that endure.  More than 150 students and young professionals spent an evening last September 28 with Monty Hoffman, the founder and chief executive officer of PN Hoffman, the developer behind Washington DC’s newest massive community – The Wharf.  Hoffman was the featured speaker for a real estate best practices lecture hosted by the Center for Real Estate Entrepreneurship at Founders Hall in Arlington.

A Monumental Undertaking

The Wharf is a skyline-altering project in southwest Washington DC comprising 24 acres of land and 50 acres of water and includes a restored 200-year-old fish market, 1,400 residences, a 127-year-old yacht club, three hotels, office buildings, a 6,000-person-capacity concert hall and conference center, four public piers, and promenade with more than 75 restaurants and shops along a mile of waterfront.

Hoffman addressed the long and often difficult development process which began ten years ago and lasted through one of the worst real estate recessions In US history.  But more importantly, Hoffman presented the strategic vision and commitment to well-thought out design, allowing him to overcome difficulties by attracting committed community, government, equity and lender partners which in turn enabled the Wharf to complete and open its $1.4 billion first phase in mid-October.  Condos, office and retail spaces are 80-85% pre-sold or pre-leased.

Guidance for Success

Hoffman presented the guiding design principles of the Wharf.  The first is an emphasis on connections, by being physically connected by pedestrian-oriented access and socially connected with an emphasis on gathering places and common spaces.  The second is design that is authentic (with detailed attention given to exterior materials), sustainable (designed to the highest environmental standards), and community oriented (designed with active communal and open spaces).  Finally, the Wharf is a commitment to enhance the experience of people living and visiting there with a mix of uses and amenities.

Students also spoke with Hoffman about his career and business philosophy which has been an important part of the success of his real estate projects and his company.  He formed PN Hoffman in 1993 with a single townhouse conversion, and has since then transformed the company into a market leader of real estate development in the Washington DC metro area.

“You have to find your passion,” Hoffman advised the students in the audience. “That will lead you to successful projects.  Be prepared to work long hours when you are first starting out, then pivot to find some work-life balance.”

(first two photos courtesy of PN Hoffman)

(The lecture presentation can be viewed at http://business.gmu.edu/realestate/research/conference-and-panel-presentations/.)

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