The Art and Science of Placemaking
Creating places that people want to be is the heart of good real estate development. Let's see how four developers are creating entirely new neighborhoods.
Thesis Driven dives deep into emerging themes and real estate operating models by featuring a handful of operators executing on each theme. This week’s letter features four GPs executing on large placemaking developments; we’ll dig into their planning, programming, underwriting, financing, and more.
The largest real estate fortunes are made not by flipping deals, but by creating places that people want to be. The most ambitious—and successful—real estate entrepreneurs have executed on a vision to remake or create new neighborhoods from scratch. Placemaking is often far more complex than normal real estate dealmaking; permitting, underwriting, financing, and marketing offer additional challenges when development is done at the scale of entire neighborhoods rather than individual buildings. But with difficulty can come tremendous upside.
For all its power, real estate placemaking is still alchemy. But we’ll attempt to shine a light on it in this letter by profiling four real estate developers with significant experience creating new places. Specifically, we’ll cover:
The elements that make a good “place”;
Examples of placemaking done well;
Specifics of attracting desirable amenities and retail;
The underwriting of new places without straightforward comps;
How new places get funded.
These insights will be drawn from conversations with four of the top placemaking developers in the US today:
Devon McCorkle, President of Miami Freedom Park;
Eric Weatherholtz, Partner at Healey Weatherholtz Properties;
Thomas O’Brien, Managing Director at HYM Investment Group;
Steve Edwards, SVP at Ensemble Real Estate