Tammy Jones on Investment Strategies That Make an Impact

Diversity is at the foundation of Basis Investment Group's business decisions, says the firm's CEO.

Today, the multifamily market is at a pivotal point. Interest rates, demographic trends and a heightened focus on sustainability and social responsibility are all reshaping investment strategies. In this environment, multifamily projects are not just about providing housing. They’re about creating communities that are inclusive, environmentally-friendly and resilient.

As we continue to observe Women’s History Month, we shine a light on women entrepreneurs who have made lasting contributions to the multifamily industry. One of them is Basis Investment Group CEO & Founder Tammy Jones, whose career has been molded by a steadfast commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.

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Recently, Basis made a $100 million preferred equity and limited partner equity investment in the AVE Navy Yard project in Philadelphia. This step not only represents progress toward more inclusive multifamily financing practices, but it also reflects the company’s dedication to assembling diverse investment teams. The AVE Navy Yard—a mixed-use initiative bringing much-needed affordable and market-rate housing to the metro—serves as a paradigm for future real estate projects.

Tell us more about the large-scale development projects and Basis’ commitment to diversity.

Jones: While many firms have only just begun to address disparities seen throughout the industry, AVE Navy Yard continues Basis’ reputation for assembling diverse sponsorship and investment teams for large-scale development projects, making substantial investments in affordable housing and prioritizing capital access to female- and minority-led initiatives, beginning with the firm’s inception.

Other related large-scale development projects and investments by Basis include: The Arboretum at Farmingville, a 494,000-square-foot, 292-unit garden-style community at 510 Horseblock Road in Farmingville, N.Y. The project is developed by BRP Cos., a Black-led and -founded real estate firm.

Another example is its equity partnership with Tishman Speyer for its Santa Monica Collection development, a portfolio consisting of eight developments across nearly 3.1 acres in downtown Santa Monica, Calif.

There’s also Related Beal’s 22 Drydock, a 319,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art life sciences complex on Boston’s waterfront; 90Ninety, a mixed-income housing development set to deliver 614 residential units to downtown Jamaica, Queens, and The Crossings at Brick Church, a transit-oriented development in East Orange, N.J., spearheaded by Triangle Equities, with additional investments from Goldman Sachs, Urban Investments Group, Incline Capital, and others.

Why was picking a diverse team important for the AVE Navy Yard project?

Jones: The assembling of the team behind AVE Navy Yard was a blueprint for real estate development teams across the U.S. to expand upon lackluster diversity initiatives, as well as an unprecedented opportunity for Basis and its partners to be a case study of how a minority-led team can further shape the skylines of the communities in which they operate—communities that reflect the diversity of the project team itself. 

Can you provide an overview of the AVE Navy Yard project? In what ways does it stand out?

Jones: The AVE Navy Yard is a $285 million mixed-use development and the first privately developed residential project in the Philadelphia Navy Yard, providing much-needed affordable and market-rate housing to the region. Opening in 2025, the two-building complex will include 614 residential apartments in a variety of configurations—including luxury, flexible-stay furnished, market-rate and affordable—boasting more than 75,000 square feet of private indoor and outdoor amenity space, along with 25,000 square feet of retail.

Basis led a $100 million-plus investment in the Philadelphia Navy Yard, rounding out minority representation at every level of the project, including developers, contractors, architects/designers and, eventually, retail proprietors. The project’s team included Ensemble/Mosaic—a joint venture between Ensemble Investments and Mosaic Development Partners, a minority business enterprise firm with a 22 percent ownership in the partnership—as the developer.

The AVE Navy Yard development is a game-changer for the continued revitalization of the Navy Yard as it brings critical housing and retail to an area already anchored by an active life sciences hub where more than 17,500 people are working. Ensemble/Mosaic’s approach and commitment toward elevating a community with a focus on sustainability and inclusion aligns with Basis’s broader mission and investment strategy.

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How did Basis Investment Group become involved in the project’s financing? What role did DEI play?

Jones: The combination of Basis’s proven track record of investing $1.3 billion of capital with diverse sponsors and its expansion to providing diverse capital to large-scale development projects positioned the firm to be the capital provider of choice for the Ensemble/Mosaic and Korman Communities team on the development of the Navy Yard. As diverse operators/developers, the partners were already aware of Basis and became more familiar with our desires to support public-private deals through our partners at the Boston Real Estate Inclusion Fund with which Basis has executed other DEI-focused public-private investments.

Once we became aware of the Navy Yard Project, we were excited to find that Korman—with whom Basis shares a long-standing relationship—was also a partner in the development. After we reviewed the business plan, which included DEI initiatives at every level, participating was a no-brainer. The project represented an opportunity to support a diverse developer, reinvigorate our relationship with the Korman family, and invest in the generational project the team envisioned.

You allocated almost half of the construction spend for AVE Navy Yard to M/WBE contractors and subcontractors. Please expand on this decision.

Jones: As it was important to prioritize and elevate DEI at every level of this project, it was equally as important to ensure that a percentage of construction spend—approximately $90 million—was committed to MWBE contractors. Despite the talent resident in minority-owned general contracting firms, they are often unable to scale their firms because they are unable to compete with larger contractors to win projects.

Putting a focus on allocating the project’s work to diverse contractors ultimately provides them with capital to scale their operations and experience managing larger projects. One of the underlying tenets of well-thought-out DEI efforts is the acknowledgment that the talent exists, and that it is the opportunity that must be provided. The 45 percent allocation to MWBE contractors does just that.

It is also important to note that the project’s DEI goals, including grant money designated to attract and support minority retail tenants, went far and beyond what was required by the PIDC (Philadelphia’s public-private economic development corporation), distinguishing Ensemble’s vision for the Navy Yard from all other plans submitted and ultimately demonstrating Ensemble/Mosaic/Korman and Basis’ true commitment to DEI.

What challenges do you foresee for projects like AVE Navy Yard in 2024 and beyond?

Jones: The project team has done an excellent job in putting together a superior project that includes largely fixed, discounted land cost, financial subsidies and the ability to control supply as the project grows. Most other development projects will face interest rate pressure without the benefit of these attributes. That will make these projects more difficult to pencil and ultimately be capitalized.

I would expect an unfavorable environment for future developments like this to persist through most of 2024. For the projects that do happen, they are likely to be built at a cost much higher than that of AVE Navy Yard.

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