Women’s History Month Spotlight: Lynn Hackney of Community Three

Thursday March 23, 2023

In honor of Women’s History Month, we sat down with Lynn Hackney, Principal and Co-Owner of real estate development firm Community Three, to discuss her 35 years of experience in development and investment in urban mixed-use projects, her advice to people interested in getting involved in the industry, and her insights on the latest residential property coming to Mount Vernon Triangle!

Lynn is a true trailblazer for women in the Real Estate industry. When she founded Urban Pace in 2001, she was the only woman in the DC-area to have sole ownership of a major real estate company. Today, she invests a large portion of her time into mentoring young women and encouraging the next generation to get involved in the industry. Her top three pieces of advice?

  1. Network.
  2. Stick with your company.
  3. Go into the office as much as you can.

Enjoy the full transcript of the interview below:

MVT CID:  What first got you interested in real estate?

Lynn Hackney:  I was an Economics and Finance major in undergraduate – I always liked numbers and the economies of business and real estate was somewhat of a fit with those disciplines.  I really like urban core, like the urban architecture, like the way cities evolved.  I went to college in Richmond, Virginia and I really liked the historic architecture and then combined with the new expanded Virginia Commonwealth University campus at the time and the new contemporary building that became part of the campus, I liked the whole evolution of the architecture development of the buildings and how it all came together.

In the beginning I went down a financial road of my career and made it into real estate at the worst possible time – graduated from college in 1988 and then decided to switch over to the real estate field in 1990 and interest rates were, I think, 18% and so I could not have picked a worst time and so I think what this has done for me over the years when things have been bad and there have been downturns, I started out when things were really rough and what I have learned is you just dig in and there is always a way to come out on the other side of it.

MVT CID: Looking at your resume and your bio, you have had such an illustrious career.  Starting with Urban Pace being one of the only woman-owned real estate corporations in DC at the time to being the first woman elected President of the DC Building Industry Association (DCBIA) in 2015 to your involvement of being on the boards like Eagle Bank and Johns Hopkins and Trust for the National Mall  you have had a really impressive career. What does it mean to being a woman in this industry and how do you think the real estate industry could benefit to seeing more women in leadership positions?

Lynn Hackney:  There are very few of us in the industry, particularly very, very few in the real estate part of the industry and then you take the very few that are in real estate development and then you pare that down that are actually owners.  It is a very very tiny percentage of women [joke…..  Because most women are too smart to get into real estate development.] I spend a significant amount of time working with young women.  After this interview I am on my way to have lunch with a young woman who we sponsored at the University of Miami for a graduate degree in real estate and finance on her way to real estate and development.  I am actively working to try to get the next generation—a lot more women. You are seeing a lot more young women coming up in the business, still not enough, but certainly a significantly higher percentage when I was doing it.

I have been very lucky to have some very involved and significant male mentors in my career and I feel very very fortunate that has been the case. Despite the fact there has been a lack of women, many men have been significant in my career and what I have been able to do today.

MVT CID:  Thank you for being a trailblazer in the industry and it is really great to hear that you are mentoring the next generation. What is some advice you would give to them?

Lynn Hackney: That is a great question. One of the biggest pieces of advice is you have to actively look for mentors, women or men, and not just where you work but getting involved in organizations like DCBIA, Urban Land Institute and you have to be  all in.  It is not just enough to go in in the morning and leave and night – you have to go above and beyond. One thing I learned very early on is networking and how important networking is and the value of those relationships. Networking comes easier to some than  others. It is a significant piece of advice that I give to young women. I also do some work in the industry with males as well. I am open to working with anyone who has an interest but I am heavily focused on helping young women.

I also think there is a trend that a lot of people – probably below mid-thirties – do not stay with jobs very long and in most cases that can be a mistake and I believe “the grass is greener” is a big issue now. But if you stay in the position, you really learn that job and you learn that company and develop relationships with those people and that is going to be more valuable than increasing your salary by 5-7%.  I don’t feel that young people think about that commitment enough to stay put, but that is another piece of advice.

The piece of advice I give lately is you need to go into the office – you cannot possibly remote work when you are starting your career and get even half as much of what you get out of it – out of sight, out of mind – and I think remote work is an extremely negative situation for young people in their careers. I am also about flexibility. At Community Three we have a vacation policy that says take as much as you want correlated with getting the job done. We are a company with flexibility but we do expect everyone to be in the office Monday to Friday, short of life things that you need to do. That is how we are successful as a team. You know the general pieces of advice that you would expect just on what your skill set is and focusing on the right path of what you are interested in, etc.

MVT CID: We at Mount Vernon Triangle are ready to welcome our office workers back. Speaking of Mount Vernon Triangle, we are excited to see that Community Three just announced your new project for the neighborhood called “The Claret.” Excited to hear that you are invested in the neighborhood and developing this new project at 950 3rd Street NW, so we have to ask you know…..why MVT?

Lynn Hackney:  My partner, Grant Epstein, and I wanted to find a good site in MVT forever – we always thought it was a such a good part of the city and a great neighborhood, particularly in the last few years with all the retail and restaurants on K Street and it is really the closest real neighborhood to downtown if you think about it and so the fact that you can have a neighborhood feel and people can walk to their offices, we just think it is a fantastic location. But it was hard to find a site in MVT, so when the opportunity came up to buy the site, we jumped on it. We had a great experience with the seller on getting the job done. To own a building in that location is a rare opportunity.

MVT CID:  We are really excited to have you be one of the final puzzle pieces in completing the triangle and  filling it in to its fullest potential. Thank you. Do you have any other thoughts you want to share about the building?

Lynn Hackney: We designed the building around the 100-year-old Heritage tree which was a little bit of a challenge but we were happy to do that.  We really carefully designed the units – they are very efficient – we are going to have high-end finishes than you would normally see.  We think that the building’s 133 units – boutique – we think it might attract an older demographic – when I say “older,” I mean relative to the normal, entry level renter and purchaser that you would see and so, with that in mind, we designed units that we think are attractive to that demographic.  I currently have an apartment at City Center and so we think that City Center is a good model for what we are going through with the building. We have a wide range of unit types and so I think we will cast a wide net, but the most important thing is the finish levels and the attention to design are at the highest level and it’s going to be a really, really nice building.

MVT CID: We are looking forward to seeing it and seeing the progress as it goes up, so I am sure we will have more to say and report as that goes along.

Lynn Hackney: I have to give a shout out to the BID and Kenyattah Robinson for really being so supportive whenever I asked them for assistance.  You all have really been a part of our success in getting this building underway, so thank you

MVT CID: We appreciate that and that is why we are here – to help. That wraps up my questions and thank you again for doing this interview. I appreciate your taking the time.

Lynn Hackney: Thank you. It was good to connect.

Rendering of Community Three’s latest project, The Claret, located at 950 Third Street NW in Mount Vernon Triangle.