The Engineer: From One-Man Project Management Firm to Top Manager in Mega-Firm
As upstart businesses go, the project management firm that real estate vet Ray Quartararo founded in the mid-1990s was the very picture of success.
Nimble and detail-oriented, the firm, Quartararo & Associates, blossomed from a one-man operation to a group with 50 employees and a big footprint covering Hartford and Philadelphia-and nearly every city in between.
In New York in particular, the firm’s growing web of assignments ranged from a theater for Alvin Ailey on the Upper West Side to the Time Warner Center, one of the past decade’s most-buzzed-about developments in Manhattan.
“That was kind of the coup de grace for everything we had done as a firm,” said Mr. Quartararo, 45, of his work for Time Warner, which involved equity interests and, later, tenant needs. “It all came together for us with that job.”
Naturally, interest in the firm hit a fever pitch amid the Columbus Circle project and, soon enough, the city’s big real estate companies came calling. In the end, Jones Lang LaSalle made a successful bid for Quartararo & Associates that year, beating out Cushman & Wakefield and CB Richard Ellis, among others.
In the six years since the acquisition, the New York-based firm has grown from being a company worth more than $4.5 million to a division within Jones Lang LaSalle that, today, is on track to reap $22 million in revenues.
“There were days where I said, ‘Why would I possibly give up that small, nimble, independent business that I had for so long?'” said Mr. Quartararo of his early days with JLL. “By that same token, what I found was that I had surrounded myself with some of the brightest people I’d ever worked with-people with enormous energy and passion. And that’s still something that I think differentiates us today.”
Meanwhile, the Long Island native’s reach has expanded. Indeed, in 2008, he was named international director at JLL, a position that has allowed him to spend his time in the market, selling the firm’s portfolio of services to the top 15 percent of the company’s client base.
In that senior role, Mr. Quartararo serves alongside tristate president Peter Riguardi and COO Stephen Schlegel on a senior executive level for clients that include Madison Square Garden and Deloitte, he said.
“I’m part of a small group that, from a business perspective, oversees all the businesses in New York,” said Mr. Quartararo. “By design, that’s a small amount of my time, because my role in that is to be the one focused on sales and business development and go-to-market strategy-which means I can’t be here thinking about it. I have to be out there doing it. So I’m out selling.”
Despite his newfound responsibilities, however, Mr. Quartararo still keeps a close eye on the project management group he began more than a decade ago. In 2005, in fact, he was tapped by Malkin Properties to serve as a senior project manager at the historic Empire State Building. While his role at the trophy building began with a directive to reposition the asset as a much more attractive alternative for large tenants, it soon evolved into an eco-friendly initiative that, so far, has reduced annual energy consumption by 38 percent while setting a template for other building owners.
“We were already in the process, and there was this $500 million plan, and Tony [Malkin] said, full stop, ‘If we’re going to do this anyway, how about if we do it with this whole new approach around energy savings?'” said Mr. Quartararo of the retrofit assignment that began in 2009. “It was really a remarkable approach and one that only someone like Tony could pull off successfully.”
MR. QUARTARARO WAS BORN and raised in West Hempstead, Long Island, and went to college in Boston, where he studied engineering and ergonomics at Tufts University. It was as a student that he first stumbled onto a specialty that combined his love for engineering with its impact on human beings.
Among his assignments as a student was a research project on fighter jets and how much information-be it a speedometer or a heads-up display-a pilot could digest all at one time. In a strange way, the research helped Mr. Quartararo see his work in the real estate industry in a totally new light.
“I apply a lot of that to what I do now, but it’s really about how real estate impacts the client,” said the broker, who lives with his wife and two young boys in Rye, Long Island. “Where I’m most valuable is not by helping my clients understand the real estate transaction or a project, but by getting into their heads and understanding what they think the challenges are.”
While he never actually entered the engineering fold, Mr. Quartararo accepted a job as a project manager for Turner Construction. The position, he said, allowed him an opportunity to run projects in New York, including the redevelopment of 1301 Avenue of the Americas, otherwise known as the JC Penney building, the broker said.
An avid fisherman who routinely goes tuna fishing off the Jersey Shore, Mr. Quartarao spends time at the beach with his wife and his 12-year-old and 9-year-old sons when he isn’t preoccupied with his work as an assistant leader for the Boy and Cub Scouts, or with the nonprofit groups he does charity work for, like the March of Dimes. Chief among those groups, he said, is his high position on the board of the Westchester Museum, as well as his role on the Advisory Committee at Hofstra University as it seeks to start a new engineering school.
“I just think we are in a time where it is so important for us to do it, and I want my boys to see that I do it and that others do it,” Mr. Quartararo said. “Our industry is extremely generous, and I think it’s the most generous industry in the world-in the most generous city in the world.”