Representing Uncle Sam
Mett Miller is the frontman for the U.S. General Services Administration
If brokers want to do business with the General Services Administration — the biggest customer in the Northern Virginia real estate market — they’re likely to cross paths with Mett Miller.
Miller, an executive managing partner for Savills Studley, represents the GSA, a federal agency that leases about 21 million square feet in Northern Virginia.
Among the agencies he’s worked with are the Department of Justice, the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Homeland Security. In all, Miller has worked on GSA deals totaling more than 6.7 million square feet.
That makes him a player in a lot of leases. Among them is one of the biggest in recent years: the decision last year by the National Science Foundation to move its headquarters out of Arlington County to a new 660,000-square-foot site in Alexandria along the Eisenhower Avenue corridor. Alexandria threw in tax abatements that the landlord, Hoffman Development, could pass along in lower rents to the NSF. The $331 million deal closed in June 2013.
“Not every lease has this kind of potential, but this one did,” says Miller. “It just made for a really outstanding outcome for the NSF, for GSA and for the city of Alexandria and the landlord.”
Even though that deal happened fairly quickly — just six months from soliciting bids to signing a lease in June 2013 — it took a couple of years of preparation. “That’s not unusual,” says Miller. “We do a lot of homework upfront and usually it pays off.”
Miller also played a key role in 2009 in renegotiating a large portfolio of GSA leases with Vornado/Charles E. Smith for government tenants in Crystal City facing relocation under the Base Realignment and Closure process. Because the timing of the BRAC-related relocations was uncertain, Miller negotiated a master agreement that would let government tenants leave Crystal City as needed. In return, the GSA agreed to return and do some longer-term deals with Vornado for new tenants, taking about 350,000 square feet. That master agreement covered more than 39 lease extensions totaling 1.5 million square feet.
Crystal City landlords took a big hit during the BRAC relocations, and Miller thinks the area’s aging office is still overlooked by many tenants. It needs better marketing, he says. “I think that may be part of the problem; Arlington doesn’t really view Crystal City with the same focus and favor as it does the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor,” he says.
Miller, 46, didn’t plan a career in real estate. He’s a 1993 graduate of the Vanderbilt University School of Law and spent 13 years working as an attorney. “Government leasing was something I’d never heard of before I came to Washington,” he says.
His work with the firm Kilpatrick Stockton gradually shifted from litigation to advising clients about lease transactions, and in 2007 he joined what was then Studley to work as a broker. Studley, a New-York based company with an office at Tysons Corner, recently merged with Savills in London, one of the world’s largest real estate advisory firms. “In this role I get to focus on the most fun aspects of what I did before, the strategy, the deal making,” he says.