HFZ’s Alicia Goldstein Talks Real Estate, Miami and the Movies

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Alicia Goldstein is something of a legacy in New York real estate. Her mother, Patricia Goldstein, worked at the highest levels of commercial real estate for decades, including as vice chairman and head of commercial real estate at Emigrant Bank, until her passing last April. And Alicia, 43, has made her mother proud. Currently the senior managing director and president of sales and marketing for Manhattan real estate developer and investor HFZ Capital Group, the junior Goldstein brought the expertise she developed in sales and marketing at Related Companies and Faena Group, working on projects such as the Time Warner Center and Miami’s Faena District, to HFZ properties including the current full-block projects The Eleventh and The Belnord. Goldstein—who lives on the Upper West Side with her husband, James, and their 9-year-old son, Jack—spoke to the Commercial Observer about some of her current projects and growing up with a mom in the business.

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Did having a mother in real estate give you a sense of the business growing up?

I definitely understood that she worked and that she gave her all to it and was very determined. She really believed in doing what was right in her business. At the same time, she was a mom. I don’t think I understood the significance of [her business life] until much later. It was just my life.

Looking back, are there aspects of it that you may have seen as a kid but only grasped the full significance of later?

I think it was more about the people. She made an incredible impression on people, and a lot of people admired her. She mentored a lot of people, especially women. Once I became more senior in the real estate business, we wound up working together, where my mom was financing some of the deals I was involved in. When I was growing up, it was about the fact that she really instilled in me a sense of personal integrity, independence and education. Those things were very important to her. Also, my father passed away when she was 49, and at the time she was the head of Citigroup global real estate and lending. So at that time, for a woman to have that sort of responsibility and position and to have two kids at home—myself and my [younger] brother—was a lot. I didn’t realize at the time how much she was handling, but looking back on it, having had my father ill and having to juggle all those things, I realize that as a woman, a mother and a career person, she had a daunting task. It’s hard to imagine what she was dealing with at the time.

Can you give us an example of a deal you worked on with your mother?

Prior to my joining HFZ, I worked with Alan Faena and Len Blavatnik on the Faena District in Miami Beach, and she was involved in the debt on that property. She came to the site with her team at one point, and Alan met her. I did a presentation, and I remember being nervous presenting in front of her. Not in front of anyone else, but in front of her.

How did she respond?

Very well. She thought it was a fabulous, transformative, mixed-use urban renewal type of project, and it was something she was very proud of. And she was proud of me.

How did the deal for The Eleventh come about?

When I came on board, [architect] Bjarke Ingels was already in place. This is his first five-star hotel and his first condominium project in New York. I was excited about that because I’ve had the privilege of working with a lot of incredible architects in my career, most recently with Norman Foster and OMA at Faena, and at Related with everyone from Robert A.M. Stern to David Rockwell. So Bjarke had designed this incredible scheme, and when I joined we started working on what the residential component would be, what the commercial component would be, the retail component and the cultural component, which is very important for a mixed-use development. For me, it was really exciting that the project had the High Line coming through the site, and that we were doing a plaza with Friends of the High Line on the eastern portion of the site.

How does the High Line connect to your project?

The High Line wraps naturally throughout the eastern portion of the site, hugging the eastern building we’re developing. The eastern portion of that is going to be a public plaza. It will be completed probably by the end of 2019.

What is the hotel brand for the project?

Six Senses. It’s pretty exciting, because it’s an international brand, and this is their debut in the U.S. They’re really the first five-star hotel brand that has a health and wellness component in its DNA. They do all kinds of different programs to enhance your lifestyle that have to do with mind, body and soul. I think it’ll be really unique in that sense, but also, it’ll be in the heart of west Chelsea, where there’s a confluence—there are new piers coming, and the Whitney Museum—it’s tech, art, commerce, everything all together.

Tell us about the condominiums at The Bryant.

This is a beautiful, David Chipperfield-designed project—his first residential project—so it’s a way for someone to purchase David Chipperfield’s design, which is really exciting. It’s about 60 percent sold out. It’s overlooking Bryant Park, and it’s been incredibly interesting to see how much the location and the architecture have resonated with purchasers. It really is the heart of Manhattan, but Bryant Park hasn’t typically been a residential neighborhood.

Goldstein in her office. Photo: Chris Sorensen/for Commercial Observer
Goldstein in her office. Photo: Chris Sorensen/for Commercial Observer

Was it tough marketing a residential project in the middle of Midtown?

I think the architecture is really unique, and the artistry of it—the intimacy of the 57 residences, the amenities—were all highly appealing from the day we launched it. I think that today, purchasers are less concerned about location, and more about product.

Why do you think that is?

Because neighborhoods have become so interconnected now. All neighborhoods in Manhattan are great neighborhoods for all the things people typically look for, whether it’s lifestyle, dining, athletics, schools. Being a lifelong New Yorker, I’ve seen how much it’s changed. You can find great restaurants, schools, gyms and outdoor spaces in every neighborhood in Manhattan.

That’s a big change for the city.

We did the Time Warner Center when I was at Related. I grew up on the Upper West Side. When we were kids, you didn’t go to that neighborhood. Now, it’s one of the most prolific neighborhoods in Manhattan, and the Time Warner Center was the catalyst to the entire Upper West Side, and West Side, revitalization. Right now, we’re doing three Upper West Side pre-war conversions: The Astor, The Chatsworth and The Belnord. The Belnord is a full block, one of the most significant properties in Manhattan, and those buildings now have so much relevance because the West Side is a completely different place [than it used to be]. They’re all being looked at again, and what we’re doing is re-envisioning them with more modern interiors and amenities, all the things you get in a new condominium, but also with pre-war details—the fireplaces, the ceilings, the grand spaces, etc. are all so highly appealing. We have a property, 8890 (88 and 90 Lexington Avenue), and it’s two buildings. This is very indicative of what HFZ does, because we do new development from the ground up, and a lot of conversions of historic properties. I don’t know any other developer that does both of those genres so prolifically. 8890 is a good example of that, where we preserved one building, and we’re building new for the other building. And, the neighborhood by East 26th Street and Lexington Avenue would not have been typically associated with the lifestyle it is now, but that’s the heart of NoMad, and that’s where some of the top restaurants, schools, and parks in that neighborhood are, as well as where some of the highest real estate prices have been achieved.

The market for super-expensive, super-large condominiums has seen a bit of a freeze. Have you been experiencing this with your properties?

No. I think that’s really more associated with the highest-price properties that were meant to attract investors and overseas purchasers. On the 57th Street corridor, where there’s some inventory left of that type, there are some buildings that were planned that were put on hold. We have properties in livable neighborhoods all over Manhattan that are really appealing to primary residents, and we also have what I would call attainable luxury. In a lot of our properties, what you’re getting, and the prices at which we’re able to offer them, is an incredible opportunity, and we’ve been seeing a lot of velocity across our portfolio, maybe as a reaction to that.

You worked on the Faena project in Miami. What was that like?

Bringing Faena from Buenos Aires to the U.S. was an opportunity to present a brand that had really been a catalyst for a neighborhood in Buenos Aires. The whole Faena success story there is that it was a dock, an urban port neighborhood, kind of like the Meatpacking District before it was developed. Alan Faena took an old grain silo, turned it into a hotel with Philippe Starck, and the neighborhood emerged all around it. We took that same concept and brought it to Miami, where we did a hotel, a restaurant, an art center and more.

It sometimes seems like the Miami market is making some of the mistakes that were made during the 2008 downturn, with lots of overbuilding with no buyers. Have you found that?

Not in the best locations. HFZ owns the historic Shore Club, which is on probably the best site on South Beach, and we’ve had a lot of success with presales in our development there. Faena was incredibly successful. I think location and architectural design will still win out. Real estate is cyclical in general. Miami’s cycles are a little faster, and it tends to go back up.

Is that what you think will happen?

I think right now, the velocity in Miami has slowed down a bit, but it’s just hitting more normalcy. It was incredibly enhanced at one point, and now it’s just more typical. I’m speaking more towards where I’ve worked, which is with prime beachfront South Beach properties, and now the new mid-beach area where Faena and The [Miami Beach] Edition and, further north, Eighty Seven Park are coming to market.

Before getting into real estate, you worked in the film business, at Miramax. What was your experience like there?

I worked there during the heyday of the independent film business. I was there through a lot of Academy Award-winning campaigns.

Were you there for Pulp Fiction?

Right after that. The English Patient, Emma, Good Will Hunting. I did film campaigns and personal publicity. I went to the Oscars for Good Will Hunting. I was there for that whole era. Then Philip Anschutz from AEG pulled together a bunch of ex-Miramax people for Walden Media, which was, and is today, a film production company. I was one of the founders of that. We licensed the C.S. Lewis series of books, and did The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and those movies. Then he moved the company to L.A., and I wanted to stay in New York and be in a more New York-based business. I ended up at Related, but wound up working all across the country for them. So much for my being in New York!

Was there anything you took from your time in that business that you found useful in real estate?

Very much so. That was a very foundational time—the first 10 years of my career. The concept of what we call in the film business, above the line [creative workers—writers, actors, etc.] and below the line [everyone else], I think is very applicable to real estate development in terms of my experiences, in terms of working with architects, designers, starchitects, etc., and then also working with construction teams. That concept is at the heart of my day-to-day, because I can, at one point, meet with a starchitect, and at another point with a hard hat on a site, or with a bunch of guys from our construction company.

Anything else coming up you’re excited about?

The projects I’m most excited about are The Eleventh and The Belnord. The fact that we have two full blocks in Manhattan, [formed] a hundred years apart. You’ve got history being revitalized, and a neighborhood that wasn’t residential, wasn’t luxury, being where it is today. I think that’s really exciting.