Washington Is Building Into a Stronger Economy

It will be small businesses that will be the engine for economic recovery. As they grow, so too will jobs. Here in the Washington, D.C. area, "small business" includes a lot of real estate developers. We will literally build ourselves out of the current state.

I've noticed more and more construction activity lately, and that's a good sign. Most of the lending is being done by community banks, EagleBank among them. Unlike banks headquartered elsewhere, community banks know the market intimately. We understand the effect of being on the northwest corner of a certain intersection rather than the southeast corner (or vice versa). We lend in our hometowns and our backyards.

Drive down Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda, Maryland and see a new speculative building of 110,000 square feet from what was once a GSA outpost. The skin is being finished and leasing activity is strong.

The Shaw area in the District of Columbia has seen healthy construction lately. An exciting project is Progression Place. It's rather unique. Funded in part utilizing New Markets Tax Credits, the project will have the United Negro College Fund occupying the first four floors of the building. Above it, floors 5-8 are being built out for office space for corporate tenants. The location is great. It's right next to the newly restored and revitalized Howard Theatre.

And it's right across the street from the "Wonder Bread project," a boutique office project of approximately 84,000 square feet. Over $21 million of construction funds is being injected into that commercial development.

Down near Nationals Park, the stadium for the Washington Nationals baseball team, a national developer is redeveloping multiple buildings at The Yards. The Boilermaker Shops are another example of New Markets Tax Credits helping to infuse equity into a project. There's $11.7 million of construction financing involved. The project will include a brewpub, bakery, restaurants and several non-food retailers. The latest project at the site is the Lumber Shed. It's a mixed use project, combining retail with office. It will receive $8.4 million in construction funds.

And in D.C.'s Petworth area, a regional developer is redeveloping a Safeway one block from the Metro station into a mixed-use project that will include Safeway and about 218 multifamily units; the residential component will utilize $35 million in construction funds. Ground breaking takes place next month. Also across the street from the Petworth Metro, another multifamily rental project, this one with 49 units, just completed construction.

Banks are also active with single family homebuilding, all along the price spectrum. In Loudoun County, Va., a homebuilder is building residential over retail in a mixed-use "live/work" project called the Promenade, located in Lansdowne Town Center; half the units are already sold and settled. And throughout the metropolitan area, homebuilders are building subdivisions and one-offs utilizing acquisition, development and construction loans.

This is how we build a strong economy... literally from the ground up.

Ronald D. Paul is chairman and chief executive officer of EagleBank, Bethesda, Md.