Reading the newswire the past week, you’d think developers across the country are getting active again. Just this week, Atlanta-based Gables announced that it was bringing on John Malone joins the Gables team as a development director in its Washington, D.C., regional office located in McLean, Va. Gables also hired Gil Rodriquez in Florida as a senior project manager and brought Gus Laver back as a project engineer. “We have a lot of development going all over the place,” says Lynette Hegeman, vice president of marketing at Gables.
Gables isn’t alone. In a small sampling of the industry, a number of multifamily owners are starting to at least look at adding development talent again. Houston-based Camden Property Trust brought a D.C. development director aboard and is interviewing more candidates after laying off developers in 2008. McLean, Va.-based Jefferson Apartment Group hired a young developer last month and will be hiring a second in the next 60 days. And Greenbelt, Md.-based The Bozzuto Group recently hired a development manager from the outside and moved two of its developers back into their previous roles (from other parts of the company).
While D.C. is obviously a development hub, firms are adding people in other markets as well, though in a more limited manner. For instance, Minneapolis-based Opus Development Corp. brought on Tom Lund as vice president of real estate development and Celeste Tanner as senior manager in its Denver office. And Atlanta-based Wood Partners has hired Scott Orser as vice president of development for the Pacific Northwest in its newly opened Seattle bureau. It also plans to hire developers in its Boston office.
Still, despite the hiring by a number of firms (many that are active in the D.C. market), no one is ready to say that the world is back to normal for developers. A number of general contractors and architects still say they haven’t noticed substantial staffings at their clients. Some say developers just seem to be doing more with their downsized teams.
“Nobody is hiring in a big way,” says Rohit Anand, a principal with in the Northern Virginia office Irvine, Calif.-based architectural firm KTGY Group. “Everybody sort of held onto their core staff and that’s whose doing the work.”
Others agree. “There are a few positions out there, but not widespread hiring,” says Jim Butz, CEO of JAG.
Meanwhile, some companies, who are adding in other areas, aren’t bulking up in development. For instance, Dallas-based Mill Creek Residential Trust has added about 30 construction professionals in the last months, but no one in development. CEO Charlie Brindell says the company invested in its development platform in 2009 and 2010 so that it would have a team in place to hit the ground running when the market turned.
“As we are gearing up in development and construction acts, we have been adding construction professionals, superintendents, project managers, estimators, and various support positions—just to complement various communities we have started,” Brindell says.
But overall, Brindell sees the world improving for those in construction and development. “The market is improving, and there are opportunities emerging for those who have been without opportunity for the last two or two-and-a-half years,” he says.