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Owners Magazine 2017: Interviews with NYC’s Top Landlords

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At the risk of stating the forehead-slapping obvious, it’s been a strange 12 months.

There’s been a mixture of good and bad real estate news that can paint a picture of continued stability or darkening clouds on the horizon, depending on your point of view.

By October, the vacancy rate in all three major Manhattan markets for office space appeared to be falling, per Cushman & Wakefield data. Hundreds of thousands of square feet have been leased by Spotify, GroupM, Amazon and others. All of that is inarguably good news.

However, a year ago, few people knew that we were sitting on a retail powder keg ready to blow and take some of the biggest names in the industry with it, like Toys “R” Us, Aerosoles, Payless, Radio Shack…you get the idea. This is inarguably bad.

This is one of the reasons why it’s important to have a magazine like this one.

Yes, the data, the deals and the numbers are critical to understanding the state of real estate. But it’s also important to get a sense of what the key players are thinking right now. That’s why we asked 36 of the biggest names in the business what their vision of the market looks like.

We’ve supplemented these questionnaires with our own reported features.

Last year, New York was considered immune to the vicissitudes of the world economy because we were always a safe, stable place to park cash. That looked like less of a sure bet when China announced new outbound investment rules. Lauren Elkies Schram examines the topic in her story in this issue.

Some in the real estate community long hoped for a challenge to Mayor Bill de Blasio in this year’s mayoral election and put substantial money behind Paul Massey (one of their own) to take the reins of City Hall before that fizzled out. At the risk of propagating a Dewey-Truman blooper (we ship this magazine before Election Day), Aaron Short reported what developers are expecting and hoping for in de Blasio’s second term.

While many developers have spent the last few years touting the Far West Side of Manhattan, there is actually quite a bit of activity on the East River, something that Rey Mashayekhi examines in depth.

Finally, Liam La Guerre looked at something that’s always been written off as anathema to real estate developers: technology. It turns out, the shrewd owners are not only interested in tech, but they’re also developing their own. — Max Gross 


Source: commercial

Why More Real Estate Companies Are Getting Into the Tech Game

Over the weekend of Oct. 13 through Oct. 15, the Real Estate Board of New York hosted its inaugural hackathon, which brought teams from 40 different organizations together to compete for who could develop the best app to address real estate problems.

Prescriptive Data, a one-year-old software company, came away with two wins at the event’s sustainable maintenance and operations, and location intelligence categories.

It should be noted Prescriptive Data had a serious leg up. It was spun off from a division of institutional landlord and developer Rudin Management Company to sell its software Nantum, which gathers building data, such as occupancy, electricity usage and other factors, to help maintain optimal indoor temperatures and efficient energy use.

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A screen shot of the Nantum platform. Photo: Prescriptive Data

This is one of the open secrets of real estate and tech: Despite all the hand-wringing about how real estate is populated by dinosaurs who only understand brick and mortar, there are plenty of landlords worried about just how far behind the industry is and have been actively trying to fix the problem. Landlords are investing venture capital directly into new companies, creating venture capital arms or funding venture capital firms that invest in real estate tech, and making their own in-house technology.

The initial version of Nantum, Prescriptive Data’s first product, was created in 2013, and Rudin tested it with its buildings. 

“We wanted to improve our business, and once we developed Nantum and we saw how powerful the system was in our properties, we thought, ‘Wait a minute, we may be onto something here,’ ” Michael Rudin, a vice president at the company, told Commercial Observer.

Rudin started Prescriptive Data last summer and began selling Nantum on the market to landlords. At that time, it was using the product in 17 Rudin buildings encompassing 10 million square feet, according to a release. The company now has more than 12 million square feet of properties on its platform, according to a spokeswoman. (Rudin declined to say if Prescriptive Data was profitable yet.)

And through Rudin Ventures, Rudin has invested in a series of technology companies, including Hightower (since merged with VTS) in 2015, Radiator Labs in 2016, Honest Buildings and Latch in 2016 and Enertiv in 2017.  

But Rudin is hardly the only real estate company to invest in related technology; Blackstone, which has its own tech division with Blackstone Innovations, has invested capital in various startups, including property management platform VTS in January 2015 with $3.3 million.

Today, Blackstone executives, along with Rudin, Equity Office and other large real estate players that use VTS’ technology, make up the company’s customer advisory board. They meet as a group once a quarter to talk about things they like about the product and ways to improve it—on a voluntary basis.   

“They are seeing the value that they are getting for the product, and if they can get a stake in it, it is a pretty great thing for them,” VTS co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer Nick Romito said. “It’s better to be in the car than watch the car pass you.”

Brookfield Property Partners, Rudin and Milstein family’s Circle Ventures have invested in Honest Buildings, a project management platform that helps ensure developments are completed on time and on budget. And mall operator Simon Property Group, via Simon Ventures, has invested in Appear Here, a marketplace for short-term retail space (with terms from one day to as long as three years).

Appear Here recently raised funding from Fifth Wall, a venture capital firm that supports emerging real estate-related technology companies. Fifth Wall injected the undisclosed amount into the company to support its expansion in the United States, according to a release on the partnership. This is significant because Fifth Wall has investments from major real estate landlords such as Equity Residential, Hines, Macerich and real estate investment trust Prologis, and Appear Here needs landlords for its model to work.

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Appear Here’s software. Photo: Appear Here

“At our end, we are really trying to disrupt an old industry,” said Elizabeth Layne, Appear Here’s chief marketing officer and U.S. general manager. “But in order for that to be successful, we need landlords to put their space online. We need them to use our dashboard. And that’s a big change for an industry that is just used to using brokers and talking to a person instead of using the internet.”

Fifth Wall, meanwhile, has raised $232.3 million to date and has already invested in many successful tech companies that are seeking to enhance real estate-related services, including OpenDoor, which lets people instantly buy and sell homes, and States Title, which is seeking to revamp the title and underwriting process. Fifth Wall’s success via those startups has raised eyebrows among real estate executives looking to make their foray into the world of tech.

“We launched a corporate venture group in March 2016. The idea started when our CEO had conversations with Fifth Wall,” said Will O’Donell, a managing director at Prologis, during the inaugural MIPIM ProTech event in Times Square on Oct. 11. “The reality of why we started it is everyone at the company has a day job…but if you actually create a group that is 100 percent accountable for identifying where disruptive trends are occurring—where technology is coming out—and forcing the company to deal with it, it’s a very creative and helpful friction.”

The MIPIM event brought out more than 800 professionals—most of whom were new startup founders and marketers—but there was a sizable group of real estate executives from institutional developers and landlords, including Blackstone, AvalonBay, Vornado Realty Trust, Silverstein Properties, Equity Office and Japan’s Mitsui Fudosan. Ric Clark, a senior managing partner and chairman of Brookfield Property Partners, and Owen Thomas, the CEO of Boston Properties, were panelists at one of the forums.

The showing revealed just how hungry landlords are for tech. Many used the time to network with young entrepreneurs and discuss new technologies.

“We ran a very large [request for proposals] back in the spring looking for a technology vendor that we could essentially partner with to handle everything from lease management, lease pipeline, tenant tracking all the way through to the asset management and the accounting,” said Jonathan Pearce, a senior vice president at Ivanhoé Cambridge, during the panel discussion. “And we had very smart people around the table, and believe it or not, there isn’t just one solution that does all of that.”

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A panel at the MIPIM ProTech event about new ventures by real estate companies, which was moderated by VTS co-Founder Brandon Weber. Photo: Reed Midem

When the moderator Ryan Simonetti, a co-founder of online meeting-space provider Convene, suggested a company at the event might have a product that Ivanhoé was looking for, Pearce replied, “I’d love to talk to them.”

“What is happening is as companies have been successful in developing technology, large real estate companies are embracing them, and they see an ability to prosper both on the innovation side and the management side,” said Robert Courteau, CEO of Altus Group, an advisory services and software provider for real estate companies. “By investing in these [startups], it has immediate benefits on their own companies and perhaps make some money in the market. They are being opportunistic.”

Landlords are also ramping up the use of tech in their properties. Cove Property Group and partner Bentall Kennedy are wrapping up construction at 101 Greenwich Street, where they have partnered with Convene.

Convene, which Brookfield has invested in numerous times, will debut a mobile app for 101 Greenwich that will allow employee access through security turnstiles. The app will also allow tenants to give mobile building access to visitors, book Convene conference rooms and order the delivery of food to their space from Convene’s kitchen. In addition to this, Cove is adding facial recognition technology to the building to be used by employees to access their place of employment.

“We look for technology to increase the tenant experience in the building and things that are going to make us run the building more efficiently,” said Amit Patel, the chief operating officer of Cove. “If you are rushing into the building into the morning and you have something to do like a meeting, you want to be able to get into the building as quickly as possible. And it will alleviate pressure off the security staff.”

Last year, developer Savanna employed Cortex Index, which provides building engineers with an app that helps them operate complex HVAC systems more efficiently, at 110 William Street. This helped the developer reduce annual operating costs by $250,000, according to a Savanna release. Now the developer is looking for further tech opportunities.

“As we have done with Cortex and other technology platforms, we will continue to selectively implement technologies that fit within our portfolio and also help drive operational efficiencies and savings, ultimately creating value for our investors,” Nicholas Bienstock, a co-founder and co-managing partner of Savanna, said in a statement to CO. “I think we are now starting to see technologies that generate real payback on the initial investment required to implement them, in addition to providing certain operational efficiencies or data analytics.”

And then there’s the startup Outernets, which transforms vacant storefronts (or any window, for that matter) into interactive digital displays or advertisements. Omer Golan, who co-founded the company two years ago with his wife Tal, said that they have secured a few major landlord investors who are “very much involved,” but he would not reveal the names.

United American Land is working with Outernets, as is office-space provider and soon-to-be landlord WeWork (once considered a startup itself) at its headquarters in Chelsea. The company installs a special material on the glass and a projector system inside that creates the graphics onto the window. Outernets shares the ad revenue with landlords. And the technology also has sensors that pick up demographic data about the people passing by, which they also share with landlords.

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Outernets’ technology on a window at Dylan’s Candy Bar in Union Square. Photo: Kaitlyn Flannagan

These technologies are just the beginning as landlords increasingly see their value, Courteau said.

“You’ll see more capital going into [startups] as larger asset owners invest in technologies,” Courteau said. “There is still a lot more capital coming in.”

The next generation of real estate players may be a hybrid of landlord-tech developers.

Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation began offering courses in real estate technology in June, called Hacking for Real Estate 1 and 2, to teach the next generation of developers about the importance of property technology applications.

There students learn how to use a variety of real estate applications and how to think critically about incorporating technology in their projects. The one-year master of science degree in real estate will be useful as technology begins to play a much bigger role in development, according to Patrice Derrington, the director of the program.

“We are teaching our students how to be digitally literate,” Derrington said. “That means capable of all apps, understanding the place for applications, being critical in terms of the usage of applications and having a more incisive look at daily real estate activities and considering potential digital solutions. They even do a little bit of coding to know just what it is like.”

To date, real estate companies have been targeting real estate-related ventures, hardly straying from things that would support their core business. But then there is amazing story of SilverTech Ventures, which works in collaboration with Silverstein Properties (as it was in part founded by Silverstein President Tal Kerret). SilverTech Ventures has been investing in both real estate and non-real estate startups for more than two years.

Kerret and other founders meet with about around 50 to 60 companies each month and choose one startup in which to invest every two months. To date, they have invested in 17 startups, including mobile wallet Cinch, identity protection startup Semperis and property management service Rentigo. Kerret said before the selection they like to spend a few months getting to know the executives.

“The graph is always up and the revenue will always come in the future,” Kerret said. “From the hundreds and hundreds of companies that we have seen it’s always [the same]. It’s like going on a date before you begin seeing someone.”

But for Kerret, investing in young companies provides them with something other than just the next business opportunity or way to enhance their own portfolios.

“I want to have fun with what I do in life, and I want to be around people I enjoy,” Kerret said. “I spend a lot of time with the CEOs, and I would rather spend time with people that I can have more fun with.”


Source: commercial

Savanna Closes $195M Purchase of Midtown’s 304K-SF Berkeley Building [Updated]

Developer and real estate investment manager Savanna has completed a $195 million purchase of the 18-story office building at 19 West 44th Street from Germany-based Deka Immobilien GmbH, Commercial Observer has learned.

Mesa West Capital provided the acquisition financing, sources told CO. A spokesman for Mesa West confirmed that Russell Frahm, a vice president in the firm’s New York office, originated a floating-rate loan which will allow Savanna to complete the repositioning and lease-up of the building, but declined to provide the loan amount or further details on the financing.

The 303,943-square-foot property between Fifth Avenue and Avenue of the Americas, previously known as the Berkeley Building, was built in 1916. It features oversized loft-style windows, terraces and a masonry facade.

“Today, the property has physical attributes that tenants are looking for, including tremendous light and air on all four sides, flexible 18,000-square-foot floor plates and excellent ceiling heights,” Andrew Kurd, a director at Savanna, said in prepared remarks.

Savanna is planning a $25 million renovation of the building, including upgrades to the building systems, and development of a new entrance and lobby, according to information provided by a company spokesman. The new owner will also renovate the roof, facade as well as modernize bathrooms and corridors.

Savanna has selected JLL’s Mitchell Konsker, Barbara Winter, Benjamin Bass and Kip Orban to lease the building, which is about 86 percent occupied according to The Real Deal, which first reported in July that Savanna was in contract to buy the property.

“Given its premier location and ownership’s vision, 19 West 44th Street will provide a unique opportunity to attract a wide variety of tenants,” Bass said in a statement.

Deka Immobilien purchased the more than a century-old building for $123.2 million in September 2010 from SL Green Realty Corp., as CO previously reported. Colliers International’s Richard Baxter and Robert Stamm handled the deal for Deka.

“A combination of stable cash flow with excellent upside potential and a desirable Midtown location between Fifth Avenue and Avenue of the Americas made this property incredibly attractive to institutional investors,” Stamm said in a Colliers release of the sale.

It wasn’t immediately clear if Savanna had a broker in the deal. 

Lawrence Britvan, Matt Jacobs, and Michael Straw of Hodges Ward Elliott arranged the financing, sources told CO. Officials at the brokerage did not immediately return a request for comment. 

Update: This story has been updated to include Mesa West as lender in the acquisition financing and Hodges Ward Elliott as the debt broker in the transaction.

With additional reporting by Cathy Cunningham. 


Source: commercial

City Leases Entire Former Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company Building

The New York City Department of Citywide Administrative Services has completed a lease for the entire 158,150-square-foot commercial building at 95 Evergreen Avenue in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, Commercial Observer has learned.

The Savanna and Hornig Capital Partners’ building, which is the former home of the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company, will house offices for the city’s Human Resources Administration, marking another large deal for that agency this year. The lease also includes the parking lot at the building, which has about 25 spots.

The deal is for 20 years, and the city has the option to renew for five more years. The rent will be $6.9 million annually through the first five years, $7.5 million for years six through 10, $8.1 million for years 11 to 15 and $8.7 million for the final years.

The agency will be relocating three Brooklyn offices to the Bushwick property, according to Thomas Farrell, a managing director at Savanna.

Public documents state that the the landlords will perform the buildout of the space for the city agency. The maximum the city will pay for the work is $20.5 million, of which the landlords will contribute $5.8 million, according to public documents. Representatives for HRA did not immediately return multiple requests for comment.

Savanna and Hornig completed a $30 million renovation of the entire five-story building near the intersection of Melrose Street in July 2016. It had deteriorating yellow tiled walls, dark unpolished floors and the joint venture transformed it with white tiles, smaller columns and a backlit montage of 8,400 Schlitz beer bottles near the entrance, as CO previously reported. The owners also added a roof deck and were hoping for a tech or media tenant to anchor the building, but opted to do a deal with the city as it expressed interest shortly after the building hit the market last summer.

“Number one for the city was the location and access to transportation,” Farrell told CO. “You can get to this part of Brooklyn from a lot of other parts of Brooklyn, which is important for their employees. And the building was sort of ready to go, so to speak. That’s why they jumped on it right away.”

The landlords were represented by Brian Reiver of Savanna in-house, Andrew Clemens of Ripco Real Estate and a Cushman & Wakefield team of Mitchell Arkin, Joseph Cirone, Myles Fennon and Remy Liebersohn. C&W’s Robert Giglio, JRT Realty‘s Ellen Israel and Lauren Calandriello, and DY Realty‘s Paul Yuras and Warren Baymond handled the deal for the tenant.

This latest deal for HRA is just a string in recent office moves and consolidations for the agency. The city signed a nearly 200,000-square-foot deal in May to relocate the HRA’s offices to 375 Pearl Street from 250 Church Street, as CO previously reported. Also, the city renewed two leases totaling 424,000 square feet for offices in Manhattan and the South Bronx in April.

Savanna and Hornig paid $33.7 million in January 2015 for the property. Crain’s New York Business was first to report that HRA was interested in the building last year.


Source: commercial

Netflix Subleases Space from Twitter for New York City Offices [Updated]

Movie and TV online streaming giant Netflix has signed a subleased space from social media company Twitter at 245 West 17th Street.

The digital video company has inked 11,592 square feet for the entire 10th floor of the property between Seventh and Eighth Avenues in Chelsea, according to a news release from brokerage CBRE. The asking rent in the five-year deal was not immediately clear.  

A CBRE team of Timothy Hay, Robert Hill, Jared Isaacson and Sacha Zarba handled the deal for Netflix, while Cresa PartnersBarry Spagna and Eric Thomas represented Twitter in the transaction.

Netflix, which is headquarter in Los Gatos, CA, has office locations around the country and the globe, including in Brazil, Japan and South Korea.

A spokeswoman for CBRE did not immediately respond to a request for further information, and Spagna declined to comment on the transaction.

Twitter has been subleasing parts of its 140,000-square-foot east coast offices at the building as the company has been going through growing pains and its stock price fell, as The Real Deal reported last year. TRD said the asking rent was in the mid to high $60s per square foot for subleased space at the time. In addition to Netflix, Twitter has also subleased 24,000 square feet at the property to Major League Baseball, as CO reported in November 2016.  

“We’re always looking at ways to use our office spaces more efficiently and effectively,” a spokeswoman for Twitter said via email. “We remain committed to Twitter’s presence in New York.”

Twitter originally leased the space in January 2014, just after it went public in November 2013 with a stock price of $26 a share. The stock’s value has fallen steadily over the years and currently rests just above $16 per share.

The company posted its second quarter results on July 27, which showed revenue of $574 million, a decrease of 5 percent year-over-year, during that quarter. Its daily active usage increased 12 percent year-over-year in that period, the company said.

A representative for Netflix did not immediately responded to inquiries seeking comment.

New York REIT, a publicly traded real estate investment trust, purchased the nearly 150,000-square-foot building from Savanna for $335 million in August 2014.

Update: This story was edited to include a comment from a Twitter spokeswoman.


Source: commercial

A Big Chunk of Downtown Brooklyn—on Albee Square West—Is Finally Having Its Moment


Source: commercial

Savanna Buys NoMad Building for $126M, Fifth Time Property Changes Hands Since 2006


Source: commercial

The Playmaker: Savills Studley’s David Carlos is the Go-To Guy for NYC’s Nonprofits

For most commercial real estate brokers, the idea of working on a single deal for years on end would be unpalatable. In a demanding, intense business where time is money, expediency and prolificacy are highly valued.

But for David Carlos, that’s just not how things work.

Over the past decade, the Savills Studley senior managing director has built one of the top-producing teams at the brokerage by taking the opposite approach. Working predominantly with not-for-profits like hospitals, universities and religious organizations, Carlos advises those clients—who are usually far from familiar with the intricacies of zoning, land use and development—on often-convoluted transactions that frequently take years to come to fruition.

“We do more work in this area—helping nonprofits solve complicated real estate problems—than anybody else in the city,” Carlos told Commercial Observer earlier this month at Savills Studley’s offices at 399 Park Avenue in Midtown. “It’s an area that we’ve chosen to focus on; New York State leads the country in not-for-profit entities, and half of those entities are in New York City.”

That focus on the nonprofit sector has reaped sizable returns for Savills Studley, which specializes in tenant representation, as well as industry acclaim for Carlos himself. In 2016, Carlos and his team closed $336 million in nonprofit investment sales alone, a haul that helped earn him the firm’s top producer award last year (given annually to the highest-producing Savills Studley broker who has not already won it twice in the past).

And in April, Carlos and his partner Ira Schuman received their second Most Ingenious Deal of the Year award in three years from the Real Estate Board of New York for their work with the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS). The pair advised the religious-based academic institution for nearly three years on a series of transactions that generated more than $131 million in real estate sales and helped finance JTS’ transformation of its Morningside Heights campus via a new 100,000-square-foot building. (Carlos and Schuman previously received the REBNY award in 2015 for their work helping Congregation Habonim find a new home on the Upper West Side.)

The 40-year-old Carlos, who lives in the Westchester County town of Larchmont, N.Y., with his wife and four children (ages two-and-a-half through seven), took a relatively unorthodox path to his career as a commercial real estate broker. The youngest of eight children born to Portuguese parents who immigrated to the U.S.—“They had a tough go of it and sacrificed their lives to give us a better shot,” Carlos said of his parents—he grew up in Waterbury, Conn., and was the only one of his siblings born in the States. He went to Cornell University, where he majored in consumer economics and was captain of the varsity soccer team. (He also had a brief stint playing professionally for a second-division side team in Portugal, where he says he “warmed the bench.” Carlos, whose wife is Jewish, will represent the U.S. at the Maccabi Games in Israel this summer as a member of the over-35 soccer team.)

Soon after graduating from Cornell, Carlos found a job at branding and marketing consultancy Landor Associates, a subsidiary of advertising and communications firm Y&R, formerly known as Young & Rubicam. His work as a branding consultant at Landor led to a three-year stint helming the firm’s Asia Pacific region operations out of its offices in Hong Kong—where, as Carlos put it, he was “a 23-year-old kid telling Malaysian CEOs what they should be doing” with regards to their branding strategy.

Carlos eventually returned to New York with Landor and in 2003 found himself working with a new client: Julien J. Studley Inc., as the brokerage was then known. The firm had recently undergone a significant change in management (a group of brokers had just completed an internal takeover of the business after buying out founder Julien Studley and his partners), and Julien J. Studley had retained Landor to help it reposition the brokerage’s brand and image.

“It became very apparent right away that the person driving the project was [Carlos],” Michael Colacino, the president of Savills Studley, recalled. “His rebranding efforts for the company really propelled us to where we are today—that we should think of ourselves as only doing the most complicated projects and let the simple things go to our competitors.”

Before long, Studley had persuaded Carlos to join the firm and lead its branding and marketing efforts internally (he played a role in the company’s name change to Studley Inc.). But Carlos said it soon became obvious that, if he really wanted to make an impact at the brokerage, it wouldn’t be through branding. “Very quickly, I realized that in order to be successful long-term at this company, you really needed to be on the front lines—the brokerage side, the revenue-generating side,” he said.

After two years as Studley’s branding director, Carlos made the transition to a career as a broker at the firm in 2006. He began working with Schuman, an executive vice president at Studley who has been with the company since 1978 and has mentored some of the firm’s top executives. (“Ira is a remarkable guy; he trained me,” Colacino said of Carlos’ now partner.)

Carlos described his switch into the brokerage business as “a big transition” as far as picking up on “the nuts and bolts of leasing and investment sales.” While Schuman echoed that sentiment—“When he started, he didn’t know anything,” he noted with a chuckle—he cited Carlos’ work ethic and smarts as critical to his ability to eventually learn and adapt to the new role.

“To a very large degree, David’s success is attributable to his hard work and brains,” Schuman said. “Nobody is born knowing anything about how to be a good real estate broker. [But] you’ve got to have the right raw material.”

3080 The Playmaker: Savills Studleys David Carlos is the Go To Guy for NYCs Nonprofits
The Jewish Theological Seminary at 3080 Broadway in Morningside Heights.

Together, Carlos and Schuman have built a brokerage operation catering to not-for-profit clients (previous clients include the New York Public Library, the City University of New York, Brooklyn Law School and New York–Presbyterian Hospital) that goes far beyond the traditional leasing and investment sales platform that constitutes most commercial brokerages’ core business.

The pair and their team of six work with nonprofit clients on deals—usually involving property sales and purchases—that are often made complex by those clients’ specific space use requirements. That could entail an educational institution that needs dormitories, classrooms and dining halls in close proximity to each other, or a religious organization that needs to accommodate places of worship alongside offices and community spaces.

“There are more complicated zoning, land use and legal restrictions, and clients have needs in all different areas,” Schuman said. “To a large degree, the solutions don’t exist in [property] listings and can be crafted in any number of ways. You never know what you’re going to be up against when you do a project.”

And in addition to having stricter financial considerations than for-profit businesses, nonprofit organizations are usually organized differently in a manner that can prolong, if not derail, transactions.

“With a private sector company, the CEO can make a decision and that’s it—you go and you do it,” Carlos said. “With a nonprofit, it’s much more complicated; there’s leadership, there’s a board [of directors], and you have to build consensus. From that perspective, they’re completely different animals.”

According to Carlos, the typical transaction involving a nonprofit client takes two to four years to complete from start to finish, and he cited one pending deal for an undisclosed client that Savills Studley has spent 11 years on. “These are more esoteric deals that are extremely complicated and require a level of attention and stick-to-it–iveness that most ordinary deals don’t,” he said.

Despite those challenges, many New York City-based nonprofits find themselves holding valuable real estate assets that can make any property sale a lucrative proposition capable of bolstering their coffers—and so they turn to Carlos and his team to help them capitalize on the situation.

Marc Gary, the executive vice chancellor and chief operating officer of JTS, said that he met with Carlos and Schuman after seeking a closer examination of the organization’s real estate assets and “whether we were using them in the most beneficial way.”

After expressing his concerns about the institution’s outdated campus library—which JTS had initially planned to upgrade through a $20 million capital improvement plan—as well as its lackluster residence halls, Gary said Carlos returned with a comprehensive “options book” of numerous different approaches the organization could take in addressing its issues.

After narrowing the choices down and fleshing them out further, Gary said he was most drawn to a plan that would see JTS build an entirely new library as well as new residence halls that would create more of a 24/7 campus environment.

It would take almost three years, but Carlos and his team eventually spun a web of transactions that included the $96 million sale of a portion of the JTS campus at 3080 Broadway and an off-campus dorm building on West 120th Street—plus more than 250,000 square feet of air rights—to developer Savanna (which has since planned residential condominiums on the former campus parcel, at 543 West 122nd Street). In addition, JTS offloaded another dorm building, at 3060 Broadway, for around $35 million to Esplanade Partners.

The deals also included several leaseback agreements as well as a city-issued tax-lot subdivision that allowed the transaction with Savanna to go through. The arrangement was the first time that the city allowed a tax-lot subdivision on a nonvacant property, according to Carlos, who said Savills Studley had to persuade the city that the zoning change was imperative to sealing the transaction and insulating JTS from risks associated with sharing a tax lot with a private developer.

All things considered, JTS ended up monetizing its real estate assets to the tune of more than $130 million and is using that capital to help fund a new, 100,000-square-foot campus building that will give the institution its desired state-of-the-art library, as well as an on-campus student residence hall, an auditorium and conference facilities. Work on the new building broke ground last week with the development slated for completion in 2019.

“To shepherd a transaction of this size, scale and complexity to an outcome that allows both the buyer and seller to end up in what they feel is a terrific place is quite a feat,” Nicholas Bienstock, the co-managing partner of Savanna, said of working with Carlos on the JTS transactions. “David understood the complexity of the project, and that allowed [his team] to intermediate and be creative problem-solvers to get a deal done.”

Gary provided a similarly rapturous assessment of his experience working with Carlos, describing him as a “calming influence” for clients like JTS. “You always understand that he’s not trying to change what’s important to you,” Gary said. “He accepts that, and says, ‘How can we achieve that?’ He’s one of those people who you just enjoy having in the room.”

Somewhat ironically, given the fairly nontraditional career arc that led to his becoming a real estate broker, Carlos attributes his success in working with clients to his start in the consulting field. “That’s how I view my job here: I’m a consultant,” he said. “Previously, I was helping [clients] make decisions about branding and marketing; now I’m helping them make smart decisions about real estate.”

And while he does also have clients who are not nonprofit organizations, like your more traditional law or financial services firms, Carlos appears to take genuine pleasure in helping schools and community organizations find solutions that mean they’ll be better off in the future.

“With each of these projects, I can’t help but get my heart and soul and guts involved,” he said. “Each of these nonprofit organizations are different, but they’re all doing good and you can’t help but want to help them.”


Source: commercial