Washington developer bets $250 million that you’ll want to live and work in America’s empty office buildings
July 22, 2016


With his latest venture, Washington developer Conrad Cafritz is simply offering units for rent.

He doesn’t care what you do in them. Looking for an apartment? Great, turn the large open area into your living and dining space and the smaller room into your bedroom. Need a small office but want to rent just for a year at a time? Configure the larger area into open-office seating and the smaller room into a private office.

“This building is your home, whether you live or work here,” Cafritz said, touring the site of his $50 million prototype building, in Alexandria, a few days ago.

Born into one of Washington’s elite real estate families, Cafritz, 77, thought he had seen just about everything the industry had to offer. But then teleworking and start-up entrepreneurship — both empowered by smartphones — began to melt away distinctions between homes and offices...

Cafritz has committed to self-funding the first five projects, all of which will be in the Washington area, he said. He is emboldened by an economic disconnect he hadn’t seen before in his 50-year career: a sustained period during which the Washington area is adding jobs but office buildings aren’t filling up.

In the past 12 months, the region added 22,600 office jobs, a better-than-average tally, but leasing and rents remain largely flat.

“While landlords and their agents continue to be hopeful that the market is turning in their favor, we don’t see any real indication that will be the case any time soon,” said Tom Fulcher, executive vice president at Savills Studley, in the real estate services firm’s second-quarter report...

Washington developer bets $250 million that you’ll want to live and work in America’s empty office buildings




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