Theirs is a Georgetown story few could keep up with, much less conceive. Developer Herbert Miller and his wife Patrice Miller have lived throughout Georgetown in some of its finest houses as well as being part of community service and charities. In Herb’s case, his career involves work on major real estate projects across Washington, D.C.
While the Millers lived here for decades from N Street to O Street to Q Street and back, they have downsized to a condo near 14th and P Streets, NW, and have departed Georgetown.
For all this, they are the honorees for the 2013 Georgetown Gala — the annual Citizens Association of Georgetown event that brings together more than 350 guests, neighbors, sponsors and politicos — to be held Oct. 18 at the Italian Embassy. The gala committee said of the Millers: “We couldn’t let them leave without a proper goodbye.”
CAG’s big event and the Millers certainly meet the group’s goal: “to celebrate Georgetown and CAG’s mission of historic preservation and improving the life of the community.”
While Patrice Miller has volunteered for many Georgetown non-profits that include CAG and Georgetown Senior Center as well as offering the family home for many fundraisers, she is not one to be in the limelight.
The Miller family has five children: Ben, Alexis, David, Daniel and Caroline (the oldest two from a previous marriage), now in their 20s and 30s. Ben and Dan Miller have their own take on development work with their Fundrise concept and run the Powerhouse on Grace Street.
The empty-nesting parents spend a lot of time in their place on the Eastern Shore, where Patrice is on the board of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, Md.
She charmingly points to her husband, whose mixed retail projects in D.C. are epic tales. They married in 1983, after Herb asked Patrice to marry him on a birthday and the same day he bought a house on N Street. Meanwhile, Patrice is happy to have Herb talk at length to anyone else.
After George Washington University, Herb Miller lived on M Street, next to the Round Table, near 28th Street. In 1967, Miller founded Western Development Corporation, a real estate development and management organization with a 44-year history of innovative mixed-use development.
Its signature work in Georgetown: the condos and the Shops at Georgetown Park retail as well as Washington Harbour. Elsewhere in D.C.: Market Square on Pennsylvania Avenue and Gallery Place next to the Verizon Center.
Miller also formed the Mills Corporation — which held super regional malls: Potomac Mills, Franklin Mills (Philadelphia), Sawgrass Mills (Ft. Lauderdale) and Gurnee Mills (Chicago).
In the mid-1990s, Miller led the Mayor’s Interactive Downtown Task Force, a 100-member committee charged with re-vitalizing Washington’s central areas. Apparently, it worked: a new convention center and renewed Carnegie Library, two examples among many.
Today, after taking back, trying to retain and revitalize Georgetown Park in his own vision, Miller seems pragmatic, knowing all things change. He did note that the complex could not get an anchor, such as Bloomingdale’s Soho, a deal he almost sealed — it was complicated by D.C. government. After all, this is the guy who in his first years as a broker in the shopping center business convinced Stanley Marcus to put Neiman Marcus at Mazza Gallerie. Some people also forget that Georgetown Park was the first urban mall in America.
These days, Miller will only work on projects that have a community benefit, he says. There is one that involves businesses, real estate and the community, but that’s all he is letting on for today.
One of his passions is the Chesapeake Crescent Initiative, “a regional collaborative to advance innovation in energy, life sciences and security in the ‘Chesapeake Crescent’ region of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia. CCI’s leadership includes federal government agencies, state and local government leaders, major private sector companies as well as academic institutions.”
Miller believes it is the national capital region that should be leading the way in innovation and integration of “safe and smart city” technologies.
“Government needs innovation,” he says. He cites numbers and statistics: growth over decades, only 6 percent for the non-military part of the federal budget, whereas states have averaged a 400 percent increase and cities a 600-percent increase. The aim is to get rid of things that are inflexible, he says.
As far as the so-called Walmart bill that was vetoed, Miller says, “Don’t penalize the merchants, help them.” Perhaps, he adds, give back a bit of excess sales tax to them to help increase wages. And in the campaign for mayor, as much as he likes Mayor Gray — who has not declared whether he will run for re-election or not, Miller simply says, “It’s Jack’s time,” referring to councilman Jack Evans, who is running for mayor.
And, as much as Miller is seeing the big picture in terms of government and economic development, he concludes: “In the future, people need to manage their own neighborhood.”
That is something Georgetown knows a lot about — and it is glad to have had Herb and Patrice Miller in its midst for, lo, these many years.
Meet the Millers — and Your Neighbors — at the Gala
Come to the Georgetown Gala, Oct. 18, to cheer the Millers and also thank other for their community work, such as the second of the gala’s“Community Pillars”: Capital Asset Management Group.
A Community Pillar sponsorship patron, Capital Asset Management Group, founded by John Girouard, is celebrating a big year. Not only was the firm named as one of the Premier Advisory Practices in the Washington, D.C., metro region, Girouard ‘s second book, “Take Back Your Money: How to Survive the Next Recession and the One After That” will be published this month. For over 35 years, Girouard and CAMG have taught families throughout the Washington metropolitan area region how to achieve financial independence sooner and safer in both good times and bad through CAMG’s learning center, the Institute for Financial Independence. The Girouard family has planted deep roots in the Georgetown community as John’s wife, Colleen Girouard, is the co-chair of the Citizen’s Association of Georgetown Gala and on the board of the Washington Animal Rescue League. John Girouard is on the board of the George Town Club.