CCIM Feature

Landmark Achievement

Broker lends his commercial investment expertise for new Realtor Building.

When the National Association of Realtors decided to investigate a new facility in Washington, D.C., it left the investment analysis to an expert: a CCIM. As the 2002–2003 Real Property Operations Committee chair, James L. Helsel Jr., CCIM, CRE, SIOR, partner with RSR Realtors in Lemoyne, Pa., led the volunteer team that guided NAR through the process. From conducting the initial site selection to analyzing the leases to hiring a property manager, Helsel's CCIM skills contributed every step of the way: “When you're working with a $46 million property, you better understand the investment side of it,” he says.

Started in 2001, the project required a year of analysis. “We looked at many options — renew the existing lease, buy a building, renovate a building, or build new,” Helsel says. With the help of a local real estate consultant, the committee toured dozens of sites and buildings while simultaneously conducting financial and investment analyses for the various lease, buy, and build scenarios. “This was where my CCIM skills contributed significantly,” Helsel says.

The committee eventually determined that constructing a new facility best met the association's future goals and made the most financial sense. After a rigorous evaluation of the committee's work, including questions about each scenario's profitability and investment potential, the NAR leadership team concurred.

Helsel and the committee then helped NAR secure financing to place a ground lease on the land and design and develop the building, which the organization now owns. Dedicated in May 2004, the 103,000-square-foot property meets the U.S. Green Building Council's standards for environmental performance and earned architecture and financing honors from the Washington Business Journal. It also houses a famous first-floor tenant — the Billy Goat Tavern — whose original restaurant is located at NAR's Chicago property.

In contrast to much of the historic architecture that characterizes Washington, D.C.'s central business district, the Realtor Building's glass façade and modern design make an intentional statement. “As contemporary and distinct as it is, the property fits with a progressive movement in Washington,” Helsel says. The 12-story, class A building's location — 500 New Jersey Ave. — also was selected with a purpose in mind. Situated two blocks from Capitol Hill, “we wanted to make sure Congress remembers [NAR] is there,” Helsel says.

Though the project required committee members to spend one or two days per month in Washington, D.C., and countless hours in phone and e-mail conversations, Helsel enjoyed the chance to use his CCIM expertise to help shape NAR's presence in the nation's capital. “I was really excited about the opportunity to work on this project,” he says. “We wanted to create a site that people will refer to as a landmark in Washington, D.C., and hopefully one that people can't resist remembering.”

Jennifer Norbut

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