- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The real estate investment firm MacFarlane Partners this week joined the $700 million mixed-use redevelopment project in Southeast near the new Washington Nationals baseball stadium.

Although work has already begun on the 1.9-million-square-foot project, San Francisco-based MacFarlane Partners said it had agreed to make a large investment in the development. The amount was not disclosed.

“It adds some deep pockets,” said Russell Hines, vice president of Monument Realty, a developer of the project along with Lehman Brothers.

The deal is a major step in a pledge by Victor MacFarlane, managing principal of MacFarlane Partners, to invest from $6 billion to $10 billion in D.C.-area real estate.

Last week, just days before he announced the investment, a deal to build the Solea project in Columbia Heights was finalized.

Solea is a $23.4 million mixed-use retail and residential development going up at 14th and Belmont streets Northwest. The National Capital Revitalization Corp. arranged the deal, and Jair Lynch Companies/AHD Inc. is the developer, but MacFarlane Partners is a major investor.

Like so many of the investment company’s ventures, Solea represents an effort to turn an overlooked neighborhood into a commercial success.

About half the company’s portfolio is built on the idea that investment in low and moderate-income neighborhoods can be as good for business as it is for “social welfare.”

“The notion of urban real estate has evolved,” Mr. MacFarlane said.

Until recent years, redeveloping low-income neighborhoods was considered an act of charity.

Now, investors realize that building up a run-down area revitalizes the economy and can provide a solid return on investment, he said.

MacFarlane Partners’ investments have been centered primarily in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York.

But as Mr. MacFarlane said during the Urban Land Institute’s real estate trends conference April 19, economic trends have made the D.C. area a top prospect for investment.

“For us and for institutional investors generally, D.C. is a very favorable market,” he said.

He mentioned a steady economy, population growth with 60,000 new jobs a year, transit-oriented development and revitalization of older neighborhoods as qualities attracting his interest.

He plans to announce more “large transactions” in the D.C. area “as they happen over the next few months,” he said. He declined to give more details until they are announced.

“The next few years should be fun,” Mr. MacFarlane said.

So far, MacFarlane Partners has invested about $2 billion in the D.C. area. The projects include The Yards, a 42-acre mixed use development next to the former Washington Navy Yard; Alexan NoMa West, an apartment complex at Harry Thomas Way and Third Street Northeast; Duron Center/Lee Center, a retail and apartment complex at 2201 Pershing Drive in Arlington; and Solea.

The company’s $6 billion to $10 billion target is set to be invested over the next five to 10 years, with a final amount determined by “market opportunities,” Mr. MacFarlane said.

Property Lines runs on Thursdays. Call Tom Ramstack at 202/636-3180 or e-mail tramstack@washingtontimes.com.

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