Each One Teach One: Massey Knakal Broker James Nelson


James Nelson recently ushered a dozen Colgate University undergraduate students on a tour through The Abingdon, a West Village nursing home-turned-luxury condo where some units, which sold out this month, ran for more than $10 million.

With the help of his team, Mr. Nelson, a partner at Massey Knakal, sold the property at 607 Hudson Street for just over $33 million to Flank Architects in 2011 on behalf of nonprofit group VillageCare, which previously ran a nursing home there.

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Much like the undergrads, the investment sales heavyweight traveled The Abingdon’s hallways with looks of awe, as Jon Kully, a principal at Flank, led the group into its sprawling condos. The building bore no resemblance to the nursing home Mr. Nelson had first stepped foot into in 2007. “They had 200 beds packed in there, and it wasn’t up to code, and it was in desperate need of renovation,” he said. “This was a complete transformation. It really was amazing what they did, and to know that I had a small part in making that happen was great.”

DSCF2283-2Mr. Nelson, who completed 42 sales worth over $440 million in 2012, co-founded the Colgate Real Estate Council to give students at his alma mater the opportunity to experience New York City firsthand, before jumping in headfirst.

He brings them under his wing in much the same way that Massey Knakal Chief Executive Paul Massey, also a Colgate alumnus, did during an on-campus career fair just before Mr. Nelson joined the firm in 1998.

“There’s no substitute for seeing people in action and making the rounds,” Mr. Nelson said. “They get a snapshot of what everyone does in this business, and for us it’s a great recruiting tool.”

The stroll through The Abingdon strengthened many of the students’ aspirations to become the real estate developers of the future, but Mr. Nelson assured them, both in words and through a series of lectures and information sessions held at Massey Knakal and at real estate firms throughout the city, that there would be teeth to cut before jumping to that level.

The story behind the sale of the former nursing home, its eventual relocation and the rise of The Abingdon is the real meat and potatoes of real estate.

“The brokerage industry is a great introduction for some to get a real diverse experience in the business, because you see every point of the transaction, from beginning to closing,” he told them.

VillageCare approached Mr. Nelson in 2007, wanting to sell its building and to build a state-of-the-art facility elsewhere in the city. He would ultimately grant it both wishes, tracking down Mr. Kully from Flank, another Colgate alum, as the man for the job at 607 Hudson.

Mr. Kully was willing to put up a 25 percent deposit, which gave VillageCare assurance that the deal would go down and the means to get a construction loan for the new facility, Mr. Nelson said.