The Real Deal New York

Alexandria revitalizes its waterfront, Plano promotes walkable development, Detroit imagines a grand boulevard, and more…

National market report

October 01, 2016
By Marynia Kruk

Alexandria’s Old Town neighborhood

Alexandria’s Old Town neighborhood

Alexandria, Virginia

City officials want to recast Alexandria’s relationship with the waterfront, harnessing new residential and commercial development along the Potomac River to help pay for a 1,700-foot, two-level shoreline walkway and a $33 million flood-control system. “By replacing industrial buildings and parking lots with new parks, Alexandria can … reconnect our city to the river,” planning director Karl Moritz told the New York Times. Over the next 10 years, the Washington, D.C., suburb plans to revitalize 16 blocks in its Old Town neighborhood, unifying the waterfront with $120 million of park improvements and private-sector, mixed-use developments. Among the high-profile projects is that of Bethesda-based developer EYA, which has plans to replace two former Washington Post warehouses with a development featuring 26 townhouses, a 70-unit condo building and ground-floor retail. But many residents are opposed to the traffic, density and modern architectural styles that redevelopment will bring. The economic viability of the project is also a concern. A lack of interest from hoteliers recently scuttled developer Rooney Properties’ plans to transform the vacant Robinson Terminal North into a hotel and condo complex with 25,000 square feet of space for shops and restaurants.

Maine

President Barack Obama has created a new national monument in north-central Maine with 87,000 acres donated by Burt’s Bees co-founder Roxanne Quimby. The businesswoman spent two decades amassing the parcel, worth an estimated $60 million, by reinvesting the proceeds from the personal-care-product company. The wooded expanse, located to the east of Baxter State Park, offers views of Katahdin, Maine’s tallest mountain, and teems with wildlife, including moose, black bears, coyotes and bald eagles, the Associated Press reported. “Through this incredibly generous private gift for conservation, these lands will remain accessible to current and future generations of Americans, ensuring the rich history of Mainers’ hunting, fishing and recreation heritage will forever be preserved,” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said.

Legacy West

Legacy West

Plano, Texas

The prospect of walkability is drawing corporations like Toyota, FedEx, JPMorgan Chase TRData LogoTINY and Liberty Mutual to Plano, a city 20 miles northeast of Dallas. Karahan Companies, the master developer of a $3 billion, 255-acre, “eat, work, play, live” community called Legacy West, is including “an open-air urban village” within its boundaries. The project, which is about 50 percent complete, will feature a 15-story hotel, a 55,000-square-foot food hall and more than 1,000 rental units and condos, as well as retail, restaurants and music venues, Urban Land Magazine reported. Public parks and trails will connect the office buildings to the 38-acre “village.” The target? Millennials who refuse to work in isolated suburban office parks. The site, owned by department store chain JCPenney, sits at the intersection of Dallas North Tollway and State Highway 121, a 20-minute drive to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. To support the project, Plano is realigning roads, improving utility connections, offering tax breaks and performing studies on mass transportation.

Detroit

Book Tower

Book Tower

Developers are working to transform a run-down stretch of downtown Detroit’s Washington Boulevard into the grand passage it once was — think of it as the Motor City’s answer to thoroughfares like Fifth Avenue or the Champs-Élysées. An estimated $600 million is flowing into projects along a four-block stretch between Michigan Avenue and Grand Circus Park, funding the renovation and construction of apartment buildings, ground-floor retail, offices and housing for low-income seniors. Inspired by the successful renovation of the 33-story Westin Book Cadillac Hotel a decade ago, a handful of developers who bought buildings at rock-bottom prices during the city’s fiscal budget crisis are shelling out for painstakingly detailed historic restorations. Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock Real Estate Services plans to overhaul the 38-story Book Tower and the Book Building next door. The long-vacant skyscraper’s Italian Renaissance-style architecture, which features an aged-copper roof and “carvings of seminude female figures,” is so ornate that the budget for the three-year restoration is expected to top $400 million, Crain’s Detroit Business reported. The firm, which owns about 90 properties in the city center, bought Book Tower, Book Building and another adjoining property for an estimated $30 million.

Sharon, Connecticut

Celebrity couple Michael J. Fox and Tracy Pollan are trying to unload their Connecticut vacation home, trimming the asking price for the lush 72-acre estate by 12 percent, to $4.25 million, Variety reported. The property, located in the Litchfield County town of Sharon, contains a 5,000-square-foot home with six bedrooms and 4.5 baths, and features a pool and a horse barn. The retreat was custom built in 1997 for the couple, who famously fell in love on the set of the TV sitcom “Family Ties.” “It’s a fantasy, a place we go to on weekends, where everything else falls away,” Fox told Architectural Digest in 2000. At the time, the “Back to the Future” actor, who has been open about living with Parkinson’s disease, credited the architect and
design team with giving him “the best therapy possible.”

Marshall, Virginia

A 167-acre estate that offered a brief reprieve to President John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline, as they sought privacy and proximity to Washington, D.C., has been re-listed at $5.95 million, a 46 percent discount from its 2013 price. The four-bedroom home in Marshall, Virginia, was commissioned for the couple and completed in 1963, the same year that John Kennedy was assassinated. Named Wexford by Jacqueline Kennedy, after the county in Ireland where the Kennedy clan originated, President Kennedy was able to use the vacation home only two times, according to the Washington Post. The property boasts a pool, a tennis court, a stable and an underground bomb shelter. Jacqueline Kennedy sold the property in 1964 for $225,000.

Detroit

Professional skateboarder and entrepreneur Tony Hawk is taking his stupefying skating tricks to the Motor City. He and his wife recently snapped up a historic redbrick multifamily building in the city’s Woodbridge section. The property, which is around 120 years old, has three units measuring 1,200 square feet each. The price was not disclosed. Hawk’s family is planning to use one of the units as a pied-à-terre and to rent the remaining units. The building was originally built as a single-family mansion and at one point was used as a hospital, the Detroit Free Press reported. Hawk’s wife is from Detroit, and the couple wanted to invest in the city, said Jim Tumey, a broker who advised on the transaction. The family, he said, “wanted to put their money and their stamp on the city.” Sure enough, after the closing, Hawk posted an Instagram photo of himself skating in Woodbridge’s skate park.

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