Corban Tomlinson and Mario Levine
Corban Tomlinson and Mario Levine are the co-founders and managing directors of Georgetown Partners, a real estate sponsor that targets defensive real estate opportunities across the Washington, D.C. metro area. They focus on opportunities with in-place stabilized yield and significant value-add or opportunistic components. Georgetown Partners, founded in late 2017, specializes in multiple product types, with a special focus on workforce and affordable housing.
Mario and Corban have maintained this commitment to community over their extensive careers, which have included the acquisition and asset management of distressed debt and traditional real estate valued at nearly $4 billion. Corban’s experience includes the acquisition and asset management of over $3 billion of distressed debt, largely collateralized by real estate or operating businesses. Corban also serves as the director of Acquisitions for Aspect Health (formerly Maplewood Healthcare), which has developed over 250,000 square feet of medical office space valued at about $100 million. Mario served as the director of real estate for Allegiance Realty Corporation, Maplewood Healthcare, and Trigild, where he contributed to the development and asset management of a $500 million conventional and medical office portfolio, $300 million worth of acquisitions and disposition of property, and a two-million-square-foot portfolio of CBD offices across the nation.
Georgetown Partners has grown quickly since its inception, having acquired $68 million of real estate to date with a pipeline of another $45 million of deals under contract with fully committed capital. Their core commitment is to help to revitalize underrepresented communities while creating value to their investors. We sat down with Mario and Corban to find out more about Georgetown Partners and their mission to invest in and improve the “forgotten” communities in their own backyard.
Your passion for your work and your community is compelling. How would you describe what you do?
Corban: We are active participants and stakeholders committed to the progress of Washington, D.C., and its diverse population. Our goal is to make investments in multifamily real estate where we can create value and effectuate change. Our focus is on improving the quality of life for our tenant residents by investing significant amounts of capital back into the real estate and operating the properties to a high standard. Unfortunately, the tenant demographic that we serve has been neglected and disenfranchised for decades. It is our responsibility to rebuild trust within these communities. We see the issues firsthand, and we are working to create a better environment for our residents to live in.
When we acquire a property, we immediately start working with our property management team to address any major concerns we have at the property. Our goal is to decrease crime in the area, keep the properties clean, and generally make the neighborhoods better places to live. The time is right for investing capital into these properties. In Washington, D.C., there is a significant priority to preserve affordable housing (naturally or subsidized). Many of these properties and the neighborhoods where they are located have been deprived of the necessary capital reinvestment for decades. A lot of capital needs to be deployed into these areas and it requires the participation of both the public and the private sector. We are one small part, but we are working to create a healthier, better environment for our residents.
You are improving the lives of D.C. residents while also providing a return for your investors. How does your experience allow you to successfully serve both communities and your clients?
Mario: We both have experience in managing asset portfolios and developing commercial properties. We have dealt with all types of assets throughout their lifecycle. This experience helps us identify value in what otherwise appears to be a challenging asset. We are not afraid to get to the hard work. The education of entering the Washington, D.C., housing market has been extremely rewarding for us. I was born and raised in D.C., so I know pockets of the city that are growing and have the greatest potential. Corban and I have experience in rehabilitating properties through capital investment, and we have witnessed the results. While working together at a previous firm, we operated a portfolio of multifamily properties, often properties in distress. In most cases, we brought in new management, hired security guards, and did whatever was necessary to get rid of criminal activity. In these situations, the residents are desperate to live in an area where they feel safe. Once safety and security were restored, we focused on improving the quality of the property and generally increasing our residents’ quality of life. We saw our efforts rewarded as occupancy and collections increased at the properties. You can feel the difference when something like that is achieved. The diversity of our experience provides Georgetown Partners with a strong foundation for building a successful, enduring real estate investment company. We hope that we can help restore these communities in the process.
What drew you to founding a firm focused on workforce and affordable housing in disadvantaged communities in Washington, D.C., in particular?
Mario: Corban and I both live here, and I grew up in D.C. and have seen the city grow in the last 30 years. Areas that were full of culture and diversity have evolved into predominantly institutional ownership. Although D.C. has grown, and in many ways improved, we have also seen the culture of D.C. dissipate. We invest where we see long-term growth potential, but we also prioritize maintaining the integrity of the communities.
What makes the housing situation in Washington, D.C., unique, and how is Georgetown Partners helping to change it?
Corban: We are passionate about workforce and affordable housing in Washington, D.C., and the surrounding areas. The D.C. area has a drastic shortage of quality housing for the working-class population. Most of the affordable housing stock was constructed prior to 1940 and has deteriorated over the years. D.C. has a unique environment for multifamily housing relative to the rest of the country. Rent control regulations and legislation around tenant rights make for a high barrier to entry.
For several years now, we have participated in this market and have navigated the complexities. Given the recent social turbulence, the economic and social dynamics of workforce and affordable housing in Washington, D.C., has become a very pertinent example of the challenges we are facing as a nation. These communities have been disregarded by landlords who have allowed the properties to become dilapidated. Intentionally or not, many landlords in these areas have become slumlords and, unfortunately, these neighborhoods are better known for illicit drugs and high crime rather than being a safe place to live and raise a family.
We do what we commit to, and that is the most important thing. We involve ourselves in the details of the property operations. Sustainable change requires proactive effort. The only way to create real change is to build trust with our tenants and the greater community. We are proving that we are legitimate and committed; this is not just lip service.
Why is this important to you? What do you find most fulfilling about your work?
Mario: We enjoy our fiduciary duty of returning a profit for our investors while at the same time prioritizing the wellbeing of the property, our residents and neighborhood. We are not your typical firm in the industry. We are a small firm with a deep care for our properties. A community is a lot more than just an apartment that people live in. We are making a cleaner, safer environment for our D.C. residents. The quality and management of a building affects the entire neighborhood. Improving the quality of housing for our residents brings us the most joy.
Corban: We have been fortunate that the greater Washington, D.C., community has embraced us. Our investors range from traditional real estate capital, entrepreneurial family offices, and high-net-worth investors. The individuals themselves range across many ethnicities and belief systems. We are proud that Georgetown Partners and its investors reflect the diversity of the Washington, D.C., area. Again, to reiterate, our core passion is to create a better environment to live in. We do that by on-the-ground efforts and by putting our money where our mouth is. We hope to grow a portfolio that improves the quality of life for our residents and the surrounding neighborhoods. Addressing these challenges in Washington, D.C. has the potential to set an example for the rest of the US.
Corban Tomlinson, Co-Founder and Managing Director
Mario Levine, Co-Founder and Managing Director