Fifteen years ago, when Anyeley Hallová was studying sustainable agriculture and environmental systems as an undergraduate student at Cornell University, becoming a real estate developer was the farthest thing from her mind. She was committed to restoring the natural environment, a goal she presumed to be at odds with many in the development industry.
Her perspective began to change, however, when she entered the ULI Hines Competition as a graduate student in landscape architecture at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design in 2003. It was the competition’s inaugural year, and the teams were charged with creating a revitalization plan for an underused site near the Anacostia River in Washington, D.C. The mixed-income development proposal submitted by Hallová and her teammates was strong on design, but the pro forma was weak, which meant that the team did not make it to the final round of the competition.
“At the time, I didn’t understand the significance of the financials to a project,” she said.
“The Hines Competition was the first time I understood that all of these different aspects—finance, design, and sustainability—need to be integrated to create a successful development.”
A second turning point came after she graduated from Harvard and was hired as a landscape designer at EDAW Inc. in Atlanta, which later merged with AECOM. Her clients were real estate developers, many of whom she found to be enthusiastic about incorporating sustainability features during project planning and design phases, but who tended to strip out those elements if costs on a project started to escalate. The experience of seeing sustainable features treated as a “nice-to-have,” rather than a “must-have,” deepened her conviction that development could, and should, occur in harmony with nature, not in spite of it.
After she and her family moved from Atlanta to Portland, Oregon, Hallová decided to make a career switch from landscape architecture to real estate development—a move that, she reasoned, would allow her to set up a sustainable design-focused agenda. “I thought, ‘I can bring a certain set of values to the situation,’ ” she said.
Hallová tapped into ULI Northwest’s network of sustainability-focused real estate firms. She looked for companies that had sponsored local ULI events because she knew their values would likely correspond with her own. One developer Hallová spoke to was Tom Cody, a principal at Gerding Edlen at the time and fellow Harvard graduate. She was persistent in her outreach. “She wouldn’t take no for an answer,” Cody recalls. “She wore us down, but it ended up being a terrific decision. Often, the most incredible and the most valuable people are also the most tenacious.”
Their business relationship ended up being fortuitous; after working with Cody as a development manager, she joined him as a partner in Project ^, a firm he spun off in 2009. “We’ve complemented each other really well,” Cody says. “She was instrumental in helping execute on the opportunities we’ve had. We’ve differentiated ourselves in the competitive landscape by having a more creative response to market demands.”
Project^ specializes in unique, design-centric multifamily and retail projects with a heavy focus on resource efficiency, walkability, place making, and green infrastructure. All of the firm’s new construction projects have earned either the Silver or Gold level of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
Union Way, the firm’s signature retail project, repurposed a Portland alley near Powell’s Books into a boutique retail corridor reminiscent of Japanese alleyway or “roji” districts. Project^ hand-picked the tenants because it was looking for an eclectic mix of food and soft goods. “We didn’t call up a broker and ask them to find us retail tenants,” Hallová says. “We curated the retail, coming up with a vision for each spot.” The end result includes an apothecary, a leather goods store, and a ramen noodle shop.
Student housing is another one of the firm’s niche markets, and Hallová hopes to bring a “paradigm shift” to a product type that she believes has not benefited from as much innovation as other types. ArtHouse, a dorm for students at Pacific Northwest College of Art, incorporates natural light into every available space, from individual rooms to the hallways and stairwells. The goal of the design was to provide students with as much light as possible to do their work, creating an “art studio” feel for each room. A massive rain garden and retention pond create a visual amenity for students while serving as a source for stormwater treatment.
ULI Opening Doors
While juggling a fast-paced career and a young family, Hallová has made time to give back to ULI by serving as a Hines Competition juror, an Advisory Services panelist, and a participant on the Louisville study panel for the ULI Rose Center for Public Leadership. In Atlanta, she was also a juror for an UrbanPlan student team from Georgia State University. She credits the Hines Competition and the ULI network for opening doors that might not have been available to her without strong mentors. “I’m hoping that all of these [ULI] programs help create an actual pathway for people to take [as they pursue real estate careers].”
Through her six years at Project^, Hallová has learned to thrive in a field that once held a certain stigma for her. She is now quite comfortable negotiating with investors and being stewards of their equity. She is well versed in creating pro formas and ensuring that her developments are both meaningful and profitable.
“I had to get over wondering if I was doing the right thing with regard to my personal values,” she says. “I had to go through a rebirth of sorts to say, ‘I am a real estate developer.’ ”