1. How did you get started in the business?
I interned with a land brokerage company during the summer before my last year in college. I took to it immediately and got my real estate license that summer. My clients didn’t know I was taking classes and was a full time land broker during that last school year. I knew I wanted to be on the ownership side and, upon graduation, I accepted a job at Bozzuto doing acquisitions of development sites. I was there for about 5 and a half years and really got my education in the apartment business.
2. What do you love the most about it?
I have always had focus problems so I get frustrated with the time it takes to develop projects but the business satisfies both side of my brain. I love the chase – the deal side of things but also love the design side.
3. What projects are you working on right now?
We have closed two deals this year – 360 unit development in San Antonio, TX and 293 unit high rise development above a Whole Foods in Philadelphia. We have another phase in Texas which I’ll start to focus on later this year. For now my big focus is on our development project in Alexandria, VA – redevelopment of an old shopping center consisting of two phases with 478 units and 55,000 sf of retail including a grocer. We are also looking at real estate opportunities in the shale oil and gas areas of the country.
4. What’s the most challenging thing about your job?
We are a new, small company (two people) doing big projects ($250mm total this year) so biggest challenge is definitely management of time and resources. While investing all our time on the projects we are constantly thinking about growing the company from a systems and best practices standpoint.
5. What is your dream project to work on? Why?
I dream about scale and growing businesses as much or more than I do about creating an amazing building. My dream is to create the next large real estate company in an asset class that today might not obviously be real estate. My partner and principal of our company essentially turned data centers into real estate and scaled up to become a REIT and I would love to do that with something new. In terms of a real estate project I would love to do a $5,000 a foot sale price, high rise condo in New York City.
6. Any words of wisdom for young folks looking to get started in the business?
There are many ways to participate in this business – architecture and design, construction, development, etc. Know what you want to do. Many people say “I want to be a developer” without knowing what it means and the risk that it entails and not everyone has that stomach. The business is getting tougher everyday – more competition and thinner returns as it continues to institutionalize so you need to have a clear plan for success -some niche, a capital partner, etc. So know what you want to do and have a plan to go do it. Once you believe in that plan you have to outwork everyone and take calculated risks to make it a success.
7. What’s your favorite building? Why?
I have two – 1) Eisenhower Executive Building in DC. Its such a grand old building that exudes power. The materials, the detailing, etc. would be WAY too cost prohibitive to be built today. 2) The Hearst Building in Manhattan. I love how it blends the old and the new and the tower with the glass and diamond pattern is striking.