Herbert Miller on building opportunity for people in Our Town ~
“This is a remarkable city, but it only works if we all work together. The racial divide, which Marion chopped at needs to be chopped more, and the economic divide, which is, I think, a bigger issue is something DC should, is, will represent as the proper way to deal with housing, to deal with jobs, to deal with opportunity. DC needs to be the land of opportunity. . . You’ve got to look at the synergy of not real estate as a place to live, or a place to work, or a place to shop, but a place where you build opportunity for people.”
Andy Ockershausen: And this man made Washington DC what it is. Our special guest on Our Town, a very dear friend, Herbert Miller. This man made our Washington what it is, one of the great cities of the world. He is the person behind major developments, like Georgetown Park, Washington Harbour, Market Square, Gallery Place. Nobody has changed Washington as much in the last 50 years as Herb Miller, and he knows development, and he knows business, and he’s made Our Town so great. Herby, welcome to Our Town, and WMAL.
Herbert Miller:Thank you, Andy, just to be with you on my favorite radio station I grew up with.
Andy Ockershausen: Now, it makes me feel so good to hear you say that, and I know you love that theme, and every time we meet, you sell me that theme again. That never happens. And you’re a fan.
Herbert Miller:Well, when you grow up with something like I did with WMAL, it’s sort of in your soul.
A Chance Meet Up in Italy
Andy Ockershausen: And it stayed with you for … One of the things that’ll never, never change in my life as knowing you, is standing in a hotel room, in a place that I never thought I’d ever see in Italy, or to go to Italy, but I was there on my honeymoon with my wife, Janice, who is here today. This man is checking in and talking to the desk, and he sings the WMAL theme. I couldn’t believe it. I said, “Herbert, what are you doing in Italy? What is going on?” You were on a boat. You were anchored somewhere off the shore.
Herbert Miller:Right, and I came in and I ran into you and Sonny. It was your wedding.
Andy Ockershausen: It was our wedding and my honeymoon. You were singing the anthem, but you do it-
Herbert Miller:Well I saw you and immediately responded, you know?
Andy Ockershausen: Well, see it sets a part of your life and my life, but you made Our Town, and I say Our Town as everything you’ve done everywhere has made Our Town greater, and it shows. There are monuments, you know that don’t you?
Potomac Mills, Sawgrass Mills, the Mills Company and Simon
Herbert Miller:Well, the people buried under monuments remember that. I also built Potomac Mills and about 10 power centers, strip centers. Built the first power center ever in the United States at Greenway Center.
Andy Ockershausen: Did you do Anne Arundel Mills, no that wasn’t you.
Herbert Miller:No, that was after I left.
Andy Ockershausen: But you had the Mills Company was your-
Herbert Miller:Right, I took it public.
Andy Ockershausen: But that was bigger than Our Town, that was our country.
Herbert Miller:Yeah, but number one, it’s very interesting that Simon now has Mills, and they’re a terrific organization. The number one mall in America is Sawgrass Mills, that I developed.
Andy Ockershausen: It still is?
Herbert Miller:The number two mall in America is Potomac Mills.
Andy Ockershausen: This is not the Simon that built Reston?
Herbert Miller:No, that’s Robert E Simon, this is a Simon from Indianapolis that owns the shopping center developers. The senior Simon owns the basketball team, Herby.
Andy Ockershausen: Where is the team?
Andy Ockershausen: Wow, they’re doing well too. They do great at the gate anyway. It’s the only thing in Indianapolis you can do in the wintertime.
Herbert Miller:Oh come on, it’s a nice town. It’s a very healthy, wholesome town.
Andy Ockershausen: It is, it’s really come alive haven’t doesn’t it?
Our Town is the Capital City of the World, At Least for Now
Herbert Miller:Yeah. The thing that DC has gone from a small town to a middle sized town to a totally congested urban environment.
Andy Ockershausen: The capital city, Our Town is the capital city of the world still.
Herbert Miller:Well, I’m not sure if the current president was to diminish that, but yes.
Homegrown History – Washingtonian
Andy Ockershausen: Well, that could change. Everything is going to change. Herbert, you’ve lived here all of your life. You’re a Washingtonian. Your dad was an attorney.
On His Dad
Herbert Miller:An engineer and a lawyer, and he worked for the government his whole life, and he went into real estate after I did, actually.
Andy Ockershausen: Did he ever help you in the engineering part of your developments?
Herbert Miller:No, but he complained that I wouldn’t listen to him.
Andy Ockershausen: He must have done something right. He got you into George Washington University. Where did you go to high school? In the city?
High School and Other Prominent Alumni
Herbert Miller:I went to Montgomery-Blair.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh yeah, now it’s called Blair.
Herbert Miller:Blair, yeah. It’s funny, I mean-
Andy Ockershausen: It’s a beautiful campus too.
Herbert Miller:Back then, I think I remember sitting with the skinny little Jewish kids at the table with Carl Bernstein and Ben Stein and we were all sort of at the same, and then the “hards with their black leather jackets would beat everybody up. I heard one was Sylvester Stallone, and they sent him to a foreign school. That’s what I heard. I don’t know if it’s true.
Andy Ockershausen: I thought he went to BCC, Stallone.
Herbert Miller:I don’t know. I heard he went from Blair to some private school that took care of tough kids.
Andy Ockershausen: Well, to me, growing up in Washington, I knew BCC, and I knew Blair, and Blair was for the tough kids. BCC were the rich kids.
Herbert Miller:Rich kids, yes.
Andy Ockershausen: Like you say, the people you were sitting with, Ben Stein, I haven’t heard that name in a long time. Very prominent.
Herbert Miller:Yeah, I ran into a guy that lived at another corner across from Ben Stein, and he now controls the liquor in Montgomery County, and he’s got big business in Easton. It’s amazing how people from middle class but smart backgrounds fought hard and moved up in the world.
George Washington University and Fraternity Stories
Andy Ockershausen: I think that getting you into George Washington must have been a chore for your dad, but what a great school.
Herbert Miller:It was a very good school.
Andy Ockershausen: I mean, your formative years, but you learned a lot at GW and met a lot of good people.
Herbert Miller:Yeah, I’ll tell you a story that nobody ever … When I was a sophomore I was the president of every committee in the fraternity except sports.
Andy Ockershausen: Did you live on campus?
Fraternity Fundraiser Awards Event and William O. Douglas, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court
Herbert Miller:Yeah, I lived on the campus, and I was house manager, and spring weekend chairman, and IFC chairman. I decided we wanted to have a fundraiser to raise money. I get on the phone and I start calling up federal officials and tell them they just won the award for … Can they come to this event. Some said, “That’s great, an award, but we can’t come to the event.” Finally, I found William O. Douglas, a Supreme Court member.
Andy Ockershausen: Supreme Court Justice!
Herbert Miller:He said he would come. He brought his 20 some year old wife, you know, it was really interesting. I got the president of the university who died the next year, who was the, I think he worked, Robert McNamara’s right hand guy who became president at GW, then he died of a heart attack very young.
Andy Ockershausen: What was his name?
Herbert Miller:I don’t remember.
Andy Ockershausen: But he worked for-
Herbert Miller:He was president at GW before Tractenberg.
Andy Ockershausen: Before Tractenberg.
Herbert Miller:We had this big event. William M Douglas comes and he says, “I don’t know why I got this award, but thank you.”
Andy Ockershausen: But he couldn’t resist. You know, you tell me something and you mention it, Harden and Weaver and William O Douglas, Douglas took them on one of his, remember his hikes?
Herbert Miller:Is that right, did they walk that far?
Andy Ockershausen: No, they didn’t go far.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: The C&O Canal trip.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: Yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: William O. Douglas listened to them on the air, and he asked them to go on a hike with him. They got off, of course. They went, and we still have the pictures. It was a great thing for as a radio station to have the Supreme Court justice call us up, but he did the same thing.
On the Environment – Justice Douglas One of Our Country’s Original Environmentalists
Herbert Miller:He was one of the original environmentalists in America. He got criticized for a lot of things. He was an amazing man and cared about the environment.
Andy Ockershausen: Thank God we had people like that.
Herbert Miller:Thank God, and hopefully there will be more.
Andy Ockershausen: There will be.
Herbert Miller:I mean, we’re killing Mother Nature.
Andy Ockershausen: The Sierra Club keeping everybody straight.
Andy Ockershausen: Sierra is keeping people straight.
Herbert Miller:A lot of people make money destroying the environment, so you have to make sure that enough people care about it to balance.
Andy Ockershausen: Now they’re trying to clean up Rock Creek Park, get rid of some of the deer that are destroying houses, I don’t mean houses, gardens all up and down the-
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: Autobahn.
Andy Ockershausen: The creek.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: Yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: Anyway, Herbert, you have done so much-
Herbert Miller:Well, I’ll give you a shotgun, I got my . . . .and you can go take out the deer.
Andy Ockershausen: I know one of the kids in the hunt, they’re culling the deer, but then it’ll make the deer healthier because you get rid of the bad ones. Tell me, Herbert, and I said Herbert, Herby, I call him everything.
Herbert Miller:Herb, thank you.
Andy Ockershausen: You’re in GW, you’re running the school practically, you’re tight with the administration.
Herbert Miller:Come on, come on.
Andy Ockershausen: And they’re going to let you graduate, and you did graduate. You lost the football team. Tell that story. Why did you lose the football team when you were there?
How George Washington University Lost Its Football Team
Herbert Miller:When I was a sophomore, they had just opened RFK Stadium. It had 50 some thousands seats, used to play at Griffith Stadium.
Andy Ockershausen: The crowd?
Herbert Miller:Yeah, and I remember, I wanted to go see the opening day and I didn’t have any money. My fraternity brother and I became vendors. I remember selling soda-
Andy Ockershausen: I sold hot dogs and cokes.
Herbert Miller:Yeah, I sold John Kennedy a coke. It was sad that they were beating up people … A mob . . . sports service, which was a Buffalo group, were beating up the vendors who were striking in the locker rooms, like one of these movies. They had them pinned against the walls and they were hitting them.
Andy Ockershausen: Right down in the stadium? In the bowels of the stadium?
Herbert Miller:In the stadium. I said, “Boy, do I need to continue my education.” It was very sad to see that. They went on strike, and they raised the price of everything a nickel, and they gave these guys one or two cents, that’s it.
Andy Ockershausen: They still had a crowd at the stadium? At that stadium, it looks like a crowd.
Herbert Miller:Yeah, the problem is it didn’t have enough events going on. You had basketball, I mean you had football and baseball. GW couldn’t afford the overhead cost, so they had to get rid of football because-
Andy Ockershausen: It’s very expensive.
Herbert Miller:Well, you go to a … 3,000 or 4,000 people showed up at Griffith Stadium, it was fine. 3,000 or 4,000 people show up at RFK was like it’s empty and depressing.
Andy Ockershausen: It is depressing, but the old stadium, they left the TPs up for you, for GW to have football. I remember it well, as I said. I saw Sam Huff play there when he played for West Virginia. Meanwhile, you’re graduating. You’re getting into the real estate business. Did you start as a broker?
Herbert Miller:I went to college full-time and I worked in real estate full-time.
Andy Ockershausen: You did?
Andy Ockershausen: Were you living at home? No, you were living in a dorm.
Herbert Miller:I was living in a fraternity house, but I went to the biggest broker in the city. He owned Riggs Bank at the time, and said, “I want to be a salesman for you.”
Andy Ockershausen: For who?
Introduction to Real Estate Sales – Floyd E. Davis Company
Herbert Miller:The week I turned 21, it was called Floyd E. Davis Company.
Andy Ockershausen: Floyd Davis?
Herbert Miller:Floyd Davis, remember Floyd? What a wonderful man.
Andy Ockershausen: Was that Elwood Davis’ father?
Herbert Miller:I don’t know.
Andy Ockershausen: The lawyer.
Herbert Miller:He owned a good part of Montgomery County.
Andy Ockershausen: Did he?
On to Shannon and Luchs – Notable Salesmen
Herbert Miller:You know out where Montgomery Mall is, that was his farm. A wonderful man. I got a salesman job there. A few years later in 67, I went to work for Shannon and Luchs, which was the number one firm in the city.
Andy Ockershausen: Foster Shannon.
Herbert Miller:Yeah. They were great, and Bill, Bill was a wonderful guy. Kenny Luchs too. The interesting thing, they had … Somebody ought to do a show on these old salesmen. Jimmy Salkeld had been the number one salesman in Washington from the Depression all the way to the, you know, this was 40 years, the 60s, like 67. He had never filed anything. He had piles on his desk. Warren Montouri was his assistant. He would, somebody would say, “You know that deal?” He sold the Bond Building eight times, so you know, he said, “What about this deal was done in 1948 or something?” He’d reach in, sort of this big pile, and sort of figure where 1948 came out, reach in and pull out the papers. One day, Warren Montouri with his young start up-
Andy Ockershausen: I know Warren very well. Wilson High School.
Herbert Miller:Right. Warren was going to decide to take his papers and file them. He almost fired him.
Andy Ockershausen: Then, he couldn’t find anything.
Herbert Miller:Couldn’t find anything.
Andy Ockershausen: How many times have we heard that story? Well, this has been a great conversation up until you graduated, now you’re going into the real estate business. We’re going to take a break here and then come back and talk about the rise of Herbert Miller as a developer.
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Announcer: You’re listening to Our Town.
Andy Ockershausen: This is Our Town, Andy Ockershausen having a conversation with a fascinating man who knows a lot about Our Town. In fact, he built it. He ought to know most about it. Now, we’re getting to the point where he is getting into the business world and is now going to begin to change Our Town. That’s you.
More on Shannon and Luchs: Meeting Colonel Sanders and Alvin Peck
Herbert Miller:Interestingly, Shannon and Luchs had one office on 900 17th Street. It did almost two thirds of all the commercial real estate deals in the metropolitan Washington out of that one little office. That’s how small the town was and how powerful that one firm was in commercial real estate.
Andy Ockershausen: They were well-connected, to say the least.
Herbert Miller:Just the give and take between the salesmen who half of them hated each other was so amazing. I mean, one story-
Andy Ockershausen: And you’re in the middle of this?
Herbert Miller:I’m the kid, you know? I’m the kid. They had one guy who would make you look like a kid. He was 93 or 4, and he hated Jimmy, and Jimmy hated him. The fight went on, and Jimmy was your age and this guy was 90. One of the interesting things is, I get off the elevator at noon one day. It was the second floor of 900 17th Street.
Andy Ockershausen: I know it.
Herbert Miller:There was Colonel Sanders sitting there with his cane, his hat, and no receptionist. Nobody was there. I go, “Hi, can I help you?” He says, “I’m here to see Alvin Peck.” Who was one of the salesmen, who was also quite wealthy. I go, so I go back and say, “Alvin, Colonel Sanders is sitting out in the reception area for you.” He said, “Okay.” So he goes out, meets Colonel Sanders, and buys the rights for South Carolina and Georgia for his son. The exclusive rights for the whole states-
Andy Ockershausen: For Kentucky Fried Chicken?
Herbert Miller:Yeah. He then also found this company called McDonald’s and got the exclusive rights to McDonald’s for both states. This guy is not, the son must be not poor.
Andy Ockershausen: Is he a partner, or is he just a sales guy? Pike.
Herbert Miller:Alvin Peck was a salesman for Shannon and Luchs, but he was wealthy and he bought the franchise rights to both states for his kids.
Andy Ockershausen: He’s negotiating with the old man himself, huh?
Herbert Miller:Well, this was a guy who started KFC at 85 years old, remember?
Andy Ockershausen: Oh yeah.
Herbert Miller:75, or 85 or something.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: Vada Wheeler, who is the niece of Colonel Sanders was Andy’s assistant for probably many, many years at WMAL.
Andy Ockershausen: She would bring him up. He’d come in and sit in the studio with Harden and Weaver.
Herbert Miller:With his cane?
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: Yeah.
Herbert Miller:Yeah, he always dressed . . .
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: White suit, black tie. Yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: He liked those guys. He didn’t know much about them, but people he was doing business with, he was selling franchises.
Andy Ockershausen: They were WMAL listeners and Veda put him on the air. But you know so many stories. How do we get from Herb Miller boy sales person to Herb Miller successful sales person to Herb Miller real estate icon and developer?
Herbert Miller’s Vision for Wisconsin and Western | Olga Mazza, Neiman-Marcus and The Mazza Gallerie
Herbert Miller:I decided the Wisconsin and Western would be a great place for a shopping center. Olga Mazza owned the property, and she was-
Andy Ockershausen: Where was the property?
Herbert Miller:Wisconsin and Western.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: Right here.
Andy Ockershausen: Yes, I remember it well.
Befriending Olga Mazza
Herbert Miller:Across the street. Olga Mazza inherited this from her mother. Olga Mazza was 57 years old and used to wear mini skirts and tight jackets, and I’d go, “Oh my God.” I befriend her to try to get a listing on this property, to try to put together a shopping center. I had never put together a shopping center.
Andy Ockershausen: You were with Shannon and Luchs at the time?
Herbert Miller:Yeah, she used to call up at three or four in the morning and talk for an hour. She’s a little interesting person.
Andy Ockershausen: I’ll bet.
Direct Line to Stanley Marcus – Neiman Marcus
Herbert Miller:You know, everybody is … We’re all a little crazy, right? She had some idiosyncrasies. I’d listen to her, and you know, I’m 20 some years old, what the hell. I said, “We should have a department store there.” She goes, “why don’t you” “who would go?” I said, “Let me call and get some. . .” I get on the phone, I call up Neiman-Marcus, I called Stanley Marcus.
Andy Ockershausen: Yourself.
Herbert Miller:Yeah. He answers the phone, I said, “You know, you need to be in Washington. I have a great location for you at Wisconsin and Western.” He said, “Okay, come on down to Dallas. Come on down to Dallas.” I went down and made a deal with him at Neiman-Marcus there. I was 24.
Andy Ockershausen: You were 24 years old?
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: That’s incredible.
Herbert Miller:I got paid a little tiny commission for 40 years. Today, it would be peanuts, but to put that deal together.
Andy Ockershausen: Wow. You had to buy all that property to get-
Herbert Miller:No, she owned the property except one restaurant, which we had to buy.
Andy Ockershausen: The Silver Fox was there, wasn’t it?
Herbert Miller:The Silver Fox, yes.
Andy Ockershausen: Son of a gun. I remember it was the biggest hole that I ever saw in Washington when they built that shopping area, the Mazza Gallerie.
Development Partner – ESSO nka EXXON
Herbert Miller:I brought in ESSO, they changed their name to Exxon as the development partner, because I had been working with them on a site out in Calvert.
Andy Ockershausen: They had plenty of cash, right?
Herbert Miller:They were a big deal. Probably still a big deal.
Andy Ockershausen: But it took you a phone call to the boss?
Andy Ockershausen: And you’re 20 … He looks you up and he probably found out, “This guy is nobody, but he’s got a great idea for a shopping center.” He was a brilliant guy, I’m told.
Herbert Miller:He was a wonderful man.
Ed Carter – Carter Holly Hill – Buys Neiman-Marcus During Negotiations
Andy Ockershausen: You had a great relationship with him?
Herbert Miller:The funny thing was, oh, I could tell you so many stories. While we’re doing the deal he sells Neiman-Marcus to Carter Holly Hill, a chain out of California, and Ed Carter was the chairman, because back then you’d deal with the head guys.
Andy Ockershausen: Conglomerate.
Edward Darrell Stone – Architect
Herbert Miller:I don’t know what they called it back then. It was just the chain, and they bought Neiman-Marcus. He decided to come up to the planning commissions, and the ESSO guys hired William. . .Edward Darrell Stone, who did the Kennedy Center as the architect for that project. Their office was at 59th and 5th, in an office building which is, I think, now the GM building or something. I remember we’d go downstairs, a guy named Reuben would make sandwiches in a place called Reuben’s.
Andy Ockershausen: That’s where it came from, right there by the plaza.
Reubens and The Plaza – New York – Ed Carter Buys Bergdorf-Goodman
Herbert Miller:Yeah, and he was named Reuben.
Andy Ockershausen: Did you stay at the plaza? Of course.
Herbert Miller:Yeah, I stayed at the-
Andy Ockershausen: Right across the street.
Herbert Miller:I have stories about the plaza. We go up. Ed Carter never was a minute late. We’re up there with Stanley Marcus and working on the plans. Ed Carter shows up 45 minutes late. I go, “What?” Stanley Marcus says, “What happened?” He says, “I’m sorry I’m late, but I just bought Bergdorf-Goodman across the street.
Andy Ockershausen: That’s a good reason to be late, wouldn’t you say? How did you direct all this knowledge and energy back to Washington to do things for Our Town bigger than Neiman-Marcus? I hate to say that, but you did things bigger than Neiman-Marcus, or Mazza Gallerie.
Georgetown Park, Roy Chalk and The Money Guy
Herbert Miller:The next thing I did was Georgetown Park. It was owned by the guy that owned the bus company.
Andy Ockershausen: Roy Chalk?
Herbert Miller:Roy Chalk, who was, in the interest … When I put together the deal, David Evans and I built a thing across the street, which is, I think, this building, Jennifer One, or no. Wisconsin.
Andy Ockershausen: Wisconsin.
Herbert Miller:I put the Booeymonger in there. They’re still there after 40 years. They were friends of mine.
Andy Ockershausen: In that little building?
Herbert Miller:In that building. We put together stores. David Evans, salt of the Earth, wonderful guy. We eventually sold it. I meet and I somehow meet Herman’s World of Sporting Goods out of New York.
Andy Ockershausen: You’re still with Neiman-Marcus, I mean not with Neiman-Marcus-
Andy Ockershausen: With Shannon-Luchs?
Herbert Miller:Yeah. We put in … I go up and meet with Herman’s World of Sporting Goods. Their attorney I got friendly with. Their attorney was also a money guy behind the scenes.
Andy Ockershausen: Ah-ha.
Herbert Miller:He actually owns Roy Chalk. He was the money behind Roy Chalk. He and his son and I got very friendly. I said, “You know, you got that garage in Georgetown, the bus garage, the trolley garage. I want to buy from you.”
Andy Ockershausen: O. Roy.
Herbert Miller:O. Roy, but he owned O. Roy-
Andy Ockershausen: Yes, that’s right.
Herbert Miller:He was the financial guy. You know, today people will tell you that they control companies, back then people didn’t tell you they control companies. People bragged less back then. He was a wonderful man. He delivered the deal to me. I’m a kid, then I . . . for Georgetown Park.
Andy Ockershausen: The whole block was O. Roy? He owned all those places?
Herbert Miller:He owned the whole block, except Clyde’s had owned a piece of the middle, and there were various owners up on –
Andy Ockershausen: You put it together right along the canal. A magnificent idea. I recall seeing, and you even had some mixed use apartments on top of it that people rented?
Georgetown Park Condominiums and 80s Market Crash
Herbert Miller:That was rent, that was, we built those, and then the market crashed. The retail did great, but trying to deal with condos. I get nervous with condos, because every time you build them when the market is good and you sell them when the market is bad. Rentals are always a safer way to go. I remember I put that together. What anchored, I got a big anchor in there. I’m trying to remember who it was.
Andy Ockershausen: Well, you had Britches in there for a while. A big name.
Herbert Miller:A store on the corner.
Andy Ockershausen: One time, and I remember it was many, many years, it was in the early 80s. You took me on a tour. You had a presentation of some visual you had come up with. I sat down and you showed me what was going on. It was mind-blowing what was going to happen, and now seeing it, it’s part of Our Town. It’s an anchor of Georgetown, I think, Georgetown Park.
Donohoe Partners with Miller on Georgetown Park
Herbert Miller:Well, and this is a quick, those buildings, we found out when building it that they could have fallen into the hole because they were built in the early 1800s. We had to have somebody hand-dig and put foundations. You know how cheap that was.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh my goodness.
Herbert Miller: Donohoe was our partner then, Dick Donohoe came in as a partner. Jimmy and his nephew and … There was not a finer guy alive than Dick Donohoe. Everything was great, they did a good job, and then we went down was the condo market. We had a crash in this country.
Andy Ockershausen: Who owns it now? Washington-
Herbert Miller:I bought it back with Danato and then we sold it to another group. I bought it back though.
Andy Ockershausen: We’re going to take a break here now because now the explosion of the Herbert Miller story is beginning with the Washington Harbour. I enjoy every minute of seeing and being with you. We’ll be right back on Our Town.
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Announcer: You’re listening to Our Town with Andy Ockershausen, brought to you by Best Bark Communications.
Andy Ockershausen: This is Andy Ockershausen, this is Our Town, and Herbert Miller is telling us about how he began to rebuild Our Town. He did it with Georgetown Plaza-
Andy Ockershausen: Georgetown Park, a fabulous facility. Then, you extended yourself to the suburbs of Northern Virginia, which is Our Town, incidentally, and built the Potomac Mills.
Washington Harbour Development
Herbert Miller:While I was working on Washington Harbour, which was a partnership with the railroad that owned most of the property, C&O Railroad.
Andy Ockershausen: Because of the tracks that ran down there.
Herbert Miller:Yeah, they owned the property.
Andy Ockershausen: They had a plant where they made concrete and everything.
Herbert Miller:Concrete, and you had … It’s interesting, because I’m working down at Buzzard Point now and they go, “It’s industrial.” I said, “Everything was industrial on the water in this place. Everything.”
Andy Ockershausen: Yeah, that was important to transportation. The water was a big part of the transportation system.
Tony & Joe’s – What’s in a name? Everything.
Herbert Miller:We built this, and then interest rates, again, went to 21%. Wonderful times. I put in, it was very funny, your friend Tony, he and Joe show up at our place. They want a lease. My leasing guy, Courtney Lord says, “we’ll Dancing Crab Two.” I go, “That’s a terrible name.” I said, “What are you opening?” He said, “An Italian restaurant.” I said, “Well, your name is Tony, your name is Joe. Call it Tony and Joe’s.”
Andy Ockershausen: Which is better than Joe and Tony’s, I love Tony and Joe’s.
Washington Harbour Condominiums
Herbert Miller:We built condos in the top for really rich people, that works nicely, except they were a pain in the ass, but they were mind . . .
Andy Ockershausen: Stuart Bernstein.
Herbert Miller:He’s a good guy. They were all good, it’s just a lot of work. We built those condos and sold them. But then, you know, interest rate his 20-some percent. It was tough.
Andy Ockershausen: Who was the guy from New York who had the restaurant over the top of Tony & Joe’s?
Warner LeRoy – Potomac
Herbert Miller:Oh my god, I got to tell you a quick story there.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: Warner LeRoy.
Herbert Miller:Warner LeRoy.
Andy Ockershausen: Janice knows everything.
Herbert Miller:Warner LeRoy, I make a deal with him, he never paid a dollar in rent. We put a sundial a foot high off the water, about 300 feet from the seawall, the sundial is blocking the view of my restaurant. This guy, I’ll tell you a story. I’m in his office.
Andy Ockershausen: In Washington or New York?
Somewhere Over the Rainbow – How It Survived the Cutting Room Floor
Herbert Miller:New York, making the deal, above Maxwell’s Plum’s. He has, I use his little private restaurant. I come out and a picture of him, obviously him at four or five years old, three or four years old, surrounded by Judy Garland and Ray Bulger and all these people in their outfits.
Andy Ockershausen: The wizard?
Herbert Miller:All of them. I go, “Gee, that’s an interesting picture.” He said, “I’ll tell you a story. They cut a song out of the movie, and my father made a record of it in 1938 or something, whenever it was, and played it 100 times.” He said, “The first thing I remembered at three and a half years old is that song.” He said, “Finally,” his father said, “g** d*****, I’m going to make them put “Over the Rainbow” back in the movie.” A lot of people heard it was cut out and put back in, if you look at the movie you can see it’s spliced there. It’s not really the background, somebody painted . . .
Andy Ockershausen: Film
Herbert Miller:On the film, yeah. It’s spliced in the film. The reason is the father, who had never, he said, “My father never got involved in any content in any movie that he produced.”
Andy Ockershausen: Who was his father, Mervin?
Herbert Miller:Mervin LeRoy.
Andy Ockershausen: Yeah.
Herbert Miller:But he loved the song so much he made them put “Over the Rainbow” back in. I talked to people, you know, somebody on the supreme court, a famous opera singer. They said, Oh yeah, we heard it was cut out and put back, but nobody knows why.” They’re all dead, so maybe I’m one of the few that does.
Andy Ockershausen: I’m sure. That’s a tremendous story, what a great, great thing to know about, and to share it with the huge audience that you have when we start promoting you as Herbert Miller. Now we’re in Potomac Mills, one of the great, you had the first thing from Sweden to open up down there, didn’t they?
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: IKEA.
Andy Ockershausen: IKEA.
Waccamaw Pottery’s George Bishop, Potomac Mills Mall and IKEA
Herbert Miller:We found IKEA in Canada. They had given a franchise to some guy in Canada. The owner’s son from Sweden was, they took back the franchise because somebody had screwed it up in Canada. He was running it. We met him in Vancouver where they had one. We convinced him to come to Washington in the US. They opened up because construction took a long time, they took over an existing department store in Philly, that was their first one. Our deal was the first deal they had ever done to come to the US. Then, I needed another anchor and I remember we went to South Carolina and Waccamaw Pottery, and George Bishop was the owner of that. He was a good old southern guy. we were trying to negotiate a deal with $3 rent for the whole building, per square foot. I told him about this whole idea of tying that and IKEA and other anchors and making an enclosed value mall. He said, “You Yankees are crazy.” He said to me. We shook hands and made a deal, three bucks.
Andy Ockershausen: You did, and you could live with it, and he could live with it.
Herbert Miller:Yeah, it worked.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh my. What’s it worth now? 50?
Herbert Miller:I don’t know.
Andy Ockershausen: It’s still hugely popular.
Herbert Miller:Yeah, it’s the number two mall in America. The number one mall in America is what we built in Sawgrass.
Andy Ockershausen: In Philly?
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: Florida.
Herbert Miller:Sawgrass in Fort Lauderdale.
Andy Ockershausen: Wow, we’ve been to that, haven’t we, Janny?
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: Yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: Now you’re building in the city. You’re finishing Washington Harbour, and then your eyes are probably getting big because you see what’s going to happen in Downtown Washington with the new stadium, Abe Pollin’s Place.
Market Square Condominiums
Herbert Miller:Before that, my partner and I worked on two things-
Andy Ockershausen: First time you’ve mentioned a partner, incidentally.
Herbert Miller:Yeah, Richard Kramer. He was a really good guy. We separated eventually. He took the office part and I took the retail part. At that time, we submitted against six Texas developers and one Washington developer, and we won the bidding for PADC or Market Square. We brought in a co-developer to do the project with us, because they had a lot more money than we did.
Andy Ockershausen: Oil company again?
Herbert Miller:No, no, this was out of Chicago. A good group.
Andy Ockershausen: Okay.
Herbert Miller:And built a project. We did the first condos. Nobody … I’ll tell you how condominium, when I was a broker, we converted … Hermen Greenberg and Al Small owned a project at Route 28-
Andy Ockershausen: In Maryland?
Herbert Miller:Yeah, you know, the road that goes up to Fredrick, 270.
Andy Ockershausen: Sure.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: 270, yeah.
Herbert Miller:I convinced him that we should buy and we should turn it into condominiums. He said, “What’s a condominium?” I go, “So, we did that deal,” and we had to do a condominium because they had common walls and you can’t separate townhouses that have common walls. I’ll tell you how, we put an ad in the paper for condominiums and misspelled condominiums. That’s how early it was, the first condominiums ever in the Washington area. Then, we decided to do condominiums on the top floor, one or two floors of Market Square. I found out the best thing to do is take your best units and sell them, if you’re going to take the risk of doing condos, because those are the people who can afford them and the views up there are unbelievable. We sold those off. Most of the work was done by our partners. We were always busy doing Mills and other projects. Then, when DC went bankrupt, which, you know, we’re booming now, so most people don’t remember.
Andy Ockershausen: That’s when they put in the-
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: Control board.
Andy Ockershausen: Overlook.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: Yeah, the control board took over.
Andy Ockershausen: Control board, what are they called?
On Mayor Marion Barry – Civil Rights Activist, Amazing Administrator, Desegregationist
Herbert Miller:Control board, but Marion became mayor after the control board.
Andy Ockershausen: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Herbert Miller:Fourth term? Maybe fourth term. Marion was an amazing person because he made a decision, and he … everybody talks about, you know, the bitch set him up. It’s probably true. He loved relationships, but everybody has their strengths and their weaknesses.
Andy Ockershausen: Right.
Herbert Miller:His strength was that he was an amazing administrator. He knew everything going on. When he first came in, this was the most segregated city in the country. It’s certainly a southern, we were a southern, segregated city. Marion decided, and all the people in … The government was run by white people, and black people were serving him. He said, “I’m going to put department heads that are black, because Walter Washington was a nice man, but he didn’t do any revolutionary changes.”
Andy Ockershausen: Pride started that, Pride-
Herbert Miller:He started Pride, it was, you understand, Marion had a PhD in chemistry.
Andy Ockershausen: I knew that.
Herbert Miller:He never picked it up because he didn’t turn in his final term paper because he got involved in Pride. Marion says, how do we get blacks in leadership positions in the city?
Andy Ockershausen: In Our Town.
Herbert Miller:In a totally segregated city. It was really sad, you know, he was a civil right’s picketer. I remember back in when I was a sophomore, junior-
Andy Ockershausen: At GW.
The March on Washington 1963
Herbert Miller:Yeah. They announced that Peter, Paul and Mary and Bob Dylan, there’s going to be a march down on the mall, and we’re going to be able to see these entertainers for free. We’re all left and civil rights. We go down and Vince Gray and my brother and a bunch of-
Andy Ockershausen: Bereano.
Herbert Miller:Bereano. I’m not sure Bereano could walk that fast. We went down to the mall and we sat, and the funny thing is they had all these buses coming of people from New York, and they were all priests, but they were unshaven. It turns out they had gotten priest collars and pretended they were priests. They thought there would be a riot. “No, you can’t hurt me, I’m a priest.” I’ve never heard that published.
Andy Ockershausen: I’ve never heard that story, but I know about wearing that collar changes everything.
Herbert Miller:It does. They bought a lot of collars, New Yorkers are a smart group. It was really an amazing experience. Eleanor was an organizer of that. She sat right on the stage.
Andy Ockershausen: Eleanor Holmes, right?
Herbert Miller:Eleanor Holmes Norton is an amazing person. One of the … Because I remember I convinced her and Williams and stuff that they needed to take the poorest part of our city and put a baseball stadium in. We talked them into putting a baseball stadium where it is. Marion decided to bring, he’s going to make a decision. He’s going to put minority heads of the departments in. It took three years and nothing worked in the city until people learned their job. After that time, you had a fully integrated government. Marion made it happen. He got a lot of criticism, but the city worked because of him.
Andy Ockershausen: I’m glad that you bring that up, because I lived through that. As I said, we’re into broadcasting. We were up with the mayor and I knew everything that was going through the white establishment. It was a learning experience for Marion’s people because they didn’t have any experience in government. They had to learn from the bootstraps up.
Herbert Miller:He had to make the decision, are we going to have an integrated city with true leadership. It was so bad then. In 61 I’d go picket the White House. I mean, I was a lefty.
Andy Ockershausen: A bomb-thrower without bombs.
Herbert Miller:No, you just, if you don’t have equality in the country, you don’t have a real country.
Andy Ockershausen: Well wait a minute, I’m paying you a compliment. I don’t mean you were throwing bombs . . .
Herbert Miller:Thank you.
Andy Ockershausen: But Our Town changed, and you were a big part of that change because you lived through it, but you also put your money where your mouth was, and you made this city happen and Our Town. What about Gallery Place?
On Bringing Our Town Out of Bankruptcy in mid-90s – “We got to get the heart of our city beating so the rest of it works.”
Herbert Miller:I was very close with Marion. It was his third or fourth term. The city goes bankrupt. They do a control board. I went to see Marion and I said, “We got to get the heart of our city beating so the rest of it works.” Because we were in terrible shape. We put together a task force.
Andy Ockershausen: What was that, 95, 96, something like that, right?
Andy Ockershausen: Or 85-86. I remember reading that.
Herbert Miller:I don’t know, I lose decades, but it was when they were bankrupt. It was amazing, the community spirit both in the community and developers and people from all over the country, “How do we make our nation’s capital work?” I collected people from all over the country, “How do we make our nation’s capital work?” I put together this task force. I said, “Anybody want to come on it?” The citizen we had, I called the undersecretary of commerce, the secretary of the Smithsonian. I ended up with 110 people. I go, “What do I do with 110 people?” I got Rich Bradley who was the head of the International Downtown Association chair it for me, who later became the head of the BID downtown. I hired a Republican lobbyist at my cost. We got eight bills through Congress, including bids and development districts, and TIFF approval, and all these things through congress.
Andy Ockershausen: You had a committee that made things happen.
How-To Revive a City in Bankruptcy
Herbert Miller:Well, we got David Carmen who is an amazing guy, he was a Republican lobbyist, got these things through congress when the city was bankrupt to do all these things we could do. It wasn’t about money. It was about rights the city could do. We’re not a state. We could do TIFFs. We set up business improvement districts. In the time we set up the business improvement district, 24% of the people thought downtown was safe. 24%. It went up to 72% in three years by just putting a bid on and making the streets safe and people clean them and people manage them. This was a group of people that felt that they wanted to give back and cared about the city and it was-
Andy Ockershausen: Our Town, they wanted to make it something.
Herbert Miller:And they really did. I said, “Okay, I’ll take on a project.” And the Akridge company, which is one of the finest, Chip Akridge is one of the finest people I’ve ever known.
Andy Ockershausen: We love Chip. He’s a very good friend.
Herbert Miller:Tom Wilbur was his partner. I took on Gallery Place. Abe had just opened the Verizon Center, and we did a connection, which charged me three million bucks to disconnect. It was very successful.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh my God. It made downtown happen. Now they’re talking about rebuilding something. I don’t know where that’s going to go.
The Lifeblood of Downtown
Herbert Miller:Well, please do not let, if the hockey and basketball team leave downtown, well some people in the sports commission want to move it out to the Anacostia. Maybe you deal with football and other things, but it is the lifeblood of downtown. If the owners need some help and refi and everything else, the city ought to help them and keep them there.
Andy Ockershausen: Well, Ted won’t need any help. They got plenty of money. I know they cry poormouth because they’re losing something on the franchise and so forth, but that’s a goldmine. Downtown is a goldmine.
Herbert Miller:Okay. I have to tell you, Ted and his partners are remarkable people, and they’ve done a lot for the city, and the city … I think they should help them refi the deal, it’s not going to cost the city much of anything, so that they can stay in downtown and keep downtown vital. It’s the heart of our city.
Andy Ockershausen: Our Town.
Herbert Miller:We came up with the slogan, they kept the heart of the city beating, the rest works. And it’s true.
Andy Ockershausen: It’s just been great for Our Town. It’s great for the area. Washington is the apple, but the core is downtown.
Sidney and Jane Harman – The Harman Center | BID and NOMA
Herbert Miller:I remember Sidney Harman was my friend for 20 some years. He invented hifi in the 50s. I helped convince him and others to give the money for the Harman Center, and his wife, Jane Harman, became a congresswoman. Each person did something. What was so good about the task force is that every person contributed. Rich Bradley, who was the operating guy came to run the BID. We set up a group for North of Mass Avenue. He said, “Let’s call it NOMA.”
Andy Ockershausen: I love that, NOMA.
Herbert Miller:We became NOMA, and that whole area is booming. It’s been booming for 20 years.
Andy Ockershausen: It’s Our Town, and it’s such a magnet for people, and having the Metro going there, that’s been a tremendous thing. Metro’s got to be fixed, and the only way to do that is money.
Jobs and Housing Today – Spreading the Wealth
Herbert Miller:Yeah, you know, the way they set everybody down, and all the government officials can’t leave the room until they solve it, that’d be a great solution.
Andy Ockershausen: That would be.
Herbert Miller:I’d be willing to get in the room and get bloody if that helps.
Andy Ockershausen: Herb Miller, you’ve won every award known to mankind for your philanthropy, you’re a giver, you’re a great part of Our Town, but the best thing you’ve given is the foresight, the future is great for Our Town, and that’s because of the work you’ve done and the buildings you’ve made in Our Town.
Mayor Muriel Bowser and Our Town Leadership
Herbert Miller:Well, you know, the leadership of Our Town is terrific. Muriel Bowser is doing a great job running your Town.
Andy Ockershausen: She really is. I adore Muriel.
Herbert Miller:Yeah, and she has wisdom and knowledge. We’ve had some very good mayors.
Andy Ockershausen: Muriel has good, good people working for her too, that makes a difference.
Herbert Miller:Yeah. John Falcicchio a continuity from a previous-
Andy Ockershausen: They were all trained-
On Working at Buzzard Point to Create Jobs
Herbert Miller:They really know what they’re doing. It’s a different thing. It’s got a lot of wealth, and how do you spread the wealth and help everybody. How do you get more housing, how do you get more jobs? I’m working down in Buzzard Point to get thousands of new jobs. They’re trying to get a new home for DC Central Kitchen that makes 12,000 to 14,000 meals a day for people out of –
Andy Ockershausen: Central Kitchen is a wonderful . . ..
Central Kitchen’s Success – A Dream for a Food Center
Herbert Miller:They take people out of prison. They have a 93% success record, the biggest in the history of the United States. We want to combine them with a permanent farmer’s market and Spike Gjerde, who won the James Beard for the best chef in the Mid-Atlantic to make a great food, you know, prepared foods. We’re working with a company not be mentioned to ship it out as a market so it becomes a synergy, where we become a food center with hundreds and thousands of jobs. We’re trying to get a second home for Imagination Stage, it’s in Bethesda in the city to bring, those kids, they have a lot of poverty in there, but where are the kids going to learn? Where are they going to become artists? Imagination Stage would be great.
Andy Ockershausen: Well, that new Duke Ellington school is finished, isn’t it?
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: Beautiful.
Where and How Are the Kids Going to Learn?
Herbert Miller:Yeah, but how about doing something in Southeast?
Andy Ockershausen: Anacostia?
Herbert Miller:Yeah, Anacostia, it’s right across the street. We think that the thousands of jobs we can bring, the opportunity we can bring with living classrooms, they have a facility there. We’re going to have a pier to bring a water taxi, but boats where they can train kids how to fix boats and work on boats so it becomes a community center.
Andy Ockershausen: A great, great thing. This is what your committee started many years ago, 20-30 years ago, but it’s still being … People are working at it. You are. Look, while you’re doing your building, somebody is working on the Wharf, the Navy Yard. Downtown, everywhere you look, there is still cranes. When does it stop? Never.
Herbert Miller:You know, when you convince, there is no end at the end. Be careful what you’re saying.
Andy Ockershausen: There is no end to it though. This city is going to continue to grow. It may have to grow up, but it’s going to grow. It’s people like you that are going to make that happen.
On the New Tax Bill – Adding to the Deficit, Not Smart Business
Herbert Miller:Well, we have a new tax bill. We’re going to increase our deficit by one and a half trillion instead of paying off 20 trillion dollars of debt over the next 40 years. It’s a bad economic plan by our government. I don’t care if it’s Republican or Democrat running, it’s wrong. We need to pay our debts so interest rates can be reasonable.
Andy Ockershausen: You can’t live in debt, you’re absolutely right. Both parties are guilty of that for all these years. They spend it.
Herbert Miller:The current group scares me because of the amount of deficit they’re adding to the deficit and that’s not smart business.
Andy Ockershausen: Well, Herbert Miller, you are a great, great part of Our Town, you’ve done so much. Want you to keep doing it because they need people like you. They need it, I mean all the people we’ve had on our talk about Our Town, and you are kindly favored by everyone we talk to Herb.
Mutual Admiration – Herb to Andy
Herbert Miller:Just let me make one final statement, Andy, you are Washington. You are the person that is a memorial and marble and monument of stone. You are a monument, Andy. I’ve known you for 50 years.
Andy Ockershausen: Herbert, you make me cry because this theme means so much to me, and what we’ve built was following, people, this was Our Town. WMAL was important because it was Our Town. All of our guys on the air worked for Our Town. You are a very dear friend. Thank you for being with us. God bless you in the future. You and I got to get together some time and talk about the Redskins and the Colts and growing up in Silver Spring and Baltimore and the university, how you ever got through Maryland, I don’t know, but you lived.
Herbert Miller:Well, I must tell you, you’re a remarkable guy. This is a remarkable city, but it only works if we all work together.
Andy Ockershausen: Absolutely.
More on Housing and Jobs – Terrible Economic Differential
Herbert Miller:The racial divide, which Marion chopped at needs to be chopped more, and the economic divide, which is, I think, a bigger issue is something I think DC should … Will represent as the proper way to deal with housing, to deal with jobs, to deal with opportunity. DC needs to be the land of opportunity.
Andy Ockershausen: Money, money, money, we need, and it’ll happen. This is my view, the thing you’re talking about. We’re waiting for this training program that Marion worked at. That’s probably true and economically too. This whole population is changing, particularly the black population. They’re getting very prominent and very wealthy. That’s happening.
Herbert Miller:You still have a terrible economic differential. You have a housing problem. You’ve got a jobs problem. You’ve got to look at the synergy of not real estate as a place to live, or a place to work, or a place to shop, but a place where you build opportunity for people.
Andy Ockershausen: And it’s happening. It’s going to take some time. You can’t change it over night.
Herbert Miller:Washington …
Andy Ockershausen: This is Andy Ockershausen. This has been Our Town, with Herb Miller.
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