Meet Jeff Baker, Partner at Weller Development Partners – A Rising Star in Luxury Hospitality and Branded Residential Development
From Ithaca to Bethesda
Jeff Baker’s path began at Cornell University, where he pursued studies within the real estate program at the Hotel School, with a particular focus on development. His interest in urban planning, placemaking and commercial real estate was sparked during college internships, laying the foundation for his future career.
After graduating, Baker embarked on his professional journey at The JBG Companies (now JBG SMITH), one of the top real estate development firms in the Washington DMV, starting as an analyst and eventually working his way up within the development team. At JBG, he gained invaluable experience working on large-scale, mixed-use developments, honing his expertise and gaining the trust and recognition of his peers in the industry. In this role, he gained a strong institutional knowledge of the development process, a foundation on which he has built multiple large-scale development projects across all asset types totaling over 2.5M SF and $1B in development value.
Currently, Baker holds a key position as Partner at Weller Development Partners (WDP), located in Bethesda, Maryland, where he leads the acquisition and development of the firm’s hospitality and branded residential projects.
Weller Development Partners Unique Approach
Weller Development stands out from other real estate development companies due to its unique triple-bottom line approach, designing strategies that are financially viable and provide returns to investors, while also providing benefits to the surrounding communities and the environment.
Baker notes that sustainability is at the core of all WDP’s developments, and it is critical to understand the existing nature of the land before proceeding with any design or construction. “Before we design or build, we need to fully understand the site and how we integrate buildings and strategies that are sustainable. It is critical that we understand the site first and design the structures accordingly rather than vice versa.”
He explains further, “In addition to our triple bottom line approach, what differentiates us [Weller Development Partners] from other real estate development companies is our entrepreneurial culture. We take pride in our start-up like culture while still being able to produce institutional quality product for our investors.” This combination of entrepreneurial agility and institutional focus sets Weller Development apart, making it a force to be reckoned with in the hospitality industry.
Baker highlights the importance of focusing on data and market trends to make informed decisions. He acknowledges the increasing demand for sustainable practices, experiential product, true community engagement, and a significant increase in the interest in luxury assets globally. Understanding these trends helps WDP shape its vision for the company and for its luxury hospitality and branded residential projects.
Furthermore, Baker emphasizes that a project’s success is only as good as the entire team and recognizes the importance of forming and collaborating with a diverse team of best-in-class experts across all development disciplines.
Development 101 with Jeff Baker
Jeff Baker’s journey and insights in the real estate development field are further shared through the “From the Ground Up with Marc Weller” podcast, featuring his expertise in an episode titled, “Development 101.” In this podcast, Jeff Baker takes pride in discussing his leadership role in developing Peninsula (formerly known as Port Covington), using it as a case study throughout the episode.
Throughout the podcast, Baker walks listeners through the intricate real estate development process, from acquisition to asset management. He stresses the importance of upfront due diligence and careful analysis when evaluating real estate deals. Working with the right team during this process, including land use attorneys and civil engineers, is crucial for successful outcomes. During the design and development phases, Mr. Baker underscores the significance of curated retail mix and large investment into public spaces to make a great place. For him, creating a walkable environment, with a curated ground-floor experience including diversified retail and integrated public spaces, are key towards creating a successful development. The goal is to create a vibrant and attractive place where people are willing to visit, live, work and invest. This extreme focus on curated design, placemaking, and sustainability are key to all of Weller’s future development projects.