CO’s 30 Under 30: The Top Leasing and Sales Professionals of 2018
The young leasing and sales professionals to watch in 2018—and beyond
One feels a little like an admissions director at a top tier university evaluating the incoming class of 2018.
Every year, Commercial Observer blasts various publicists, senior brokers and friends we have in the industry asking, Who are the best and brightest? Every year (usually the day of the deadline), the applications come flooding in. The heavyweight feeder firms—I probably don’t have to name the culprits—clog our inbox with candidates. Their deals are in the billions. The square footage of their leases is in the hundreds of thousands. The designs and architectural plans they dreamed up would alter a city skyline.
The only bad part is that every year we have to send the regretful emails to perfectly worthy candidates who didn’t make the cut, entreating them to please try again next year. (Well, in truth we tell their representatives.)
Our class always veers to a diverse, cross-section of the industry. We want sales and leasing brokers, certainly, but we’ve also believed that there’s a place on this list for the legal eagles that untangle the various knots of zoning and 99-year leases. We want lenders and debt and equity brokers, of course, but also the math whizzes at the big development firms that are crunching the numbers. The electrical engineers and prodigy architects, naturally, but also the guy picking the furniture. (Provided it’s furniture for 1-million-square-foot offices.)
When all is said and done—when our 30 leasing and sales professionals under the age of 30 are chosen, followed by our 25 debt and equity professionals under the age of 35 and the 20 architects, engineers and contractors under 35—the excitement is as palpable as the first fall day on campus.—Max Gross
Alex Barnes, 29
Senior Manager, Real Estate and Business Development, Knotel
New York City—and San Francisco, London and Berlin—has become more and more crowded in the flexible workspace sector, but Knotel has managed to make a large dent. In those locations, the nearly three-year-old company has 60 locations, totaling about 1.3 million square feet.
One of the key players in the real estate effort is Alex Barnes, a senior manager at Knotel. Based in Manhattan, Barnes has personally sourced, negotiated and executed 500,000 square feet of leases and management deals in Manhattan since starting at the company a year and a half ago.
A couple of recent deals include a management agreement (“whereby we essentially, instead of signing a traditional lease, manage the space on behalf of the landlord and share in the net operating income” from the space Knotel manages, per Barnes) for 45,000 square feet at landlord Sapir Organization’s 261 Madison Avenue. At Winter Properties’ 3 East 28th Street, Barnes negotiated a 15,000-square-foot lease, and at Savanna’s 31 West 27th Street he brokered a 23,000-square-foot lease.
Barnes came up with the idea to market spaces in buildings prior to signing leases in order to “reduce the risk,” he said. He also helped the London Knotel team as it was finding its sea legs. The first London location opened at the beginning of this year.
Part of the company’s 20-person real estate and business development team, Barnes is now leading Knotel’s expansion in Midtown, and he “will also be leading the expansion in Brooklyn, which we will be looking to grow into next year.”
Knotel, which counts Observer Media Chairman and Publisher Joseph Meyer among its investors, has raised $95 million in financing to date.—Lauren Elkies Schram
Alexander Benisatto, 29
Vice President, CBRE
Some people may not be fond of cold-calling as a means of finding new business, but Alexander Benisatto found out early on—while working as an intern at JLL—that he was pretty good at it. So good, in fact, that his efforts saw him rewarded with a full-time gig at JLL, where he worked until departing for CBRE in 2014.
“I’m purely cold call,” he said of his methods for procuring new clients. “I’m not a very well-connected person. This is validation that head-down, hard work actually works.” Benisatto described himself as “sort of an atypical type of broker” who prides himself on a tone that’s “a little more honest and genuine than the ‘Hire me, hire me’” type of approach that others may be prone to exuding. So far, his methods appear to be paying dividends. Benisatto is active on both the landlord and tenant sides of the Manhattan office leasing market; on the ownership front, he is part of the team that handles leasing for One New York Plaza, Brookfield Property Partners’ 2.5-million-square-foot office tower in the Financial District, and he was previously part of CBRE’s office leasing efforts at the Hudson Yards mega-development on Manhattan’s Far West Side.
He’s kept busy on the tenant side as well, with recent transactions including technology firm R3’s move to 21,000 square feet at 11 West 42nd Street in Midtown as well as deals for Victory Capital Management and Cambridge Asset Management at 280 Park Avenue and 437 Madison Avenue, respectively.
Moving forward, Benisatto said he hopes to take “the next step in my career from [being] a business generator to an actual executor”—with larger deals and a valued Rolodex of repeat clients squarely in his sights. “I’m just trying to push the pace and see if I can go a little bit bigger,” he said.—Rey Mashayekhi
Fred Bijou, 25
Senior Associate, TerraCRG
As far back as Fred Bijou can remember, he’s always wanted to sell.
“I used to sell candy, anything I could do to make a buck,” said Bijou, a Midwood, Brooklyn, native. “I used to go to the flea market. It taught me how to deal with different types of people.”
So it made sense that Bijou would wind up at TerraCRG handling multifamily, mixed-use and retail sales in neighborhoods in Brooklyn like Bushwick, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Williamsburg and East New York.
This past year, Bijou has been responsible for about $100 million in sales with another $30 million deals in contract. The closed deals include the neighborhood record-setting sale of 1501 Pitkin Avenue in Brownsville for $53 million in December 2017.
“I really was at the right place at the right time,” said Bijou, who met a distant family member at a party and found out he was looking to sell a Brownsville property.
But it’s not just pulling on his deep Sephardic and Brooklyn ties to get deals, Bijou said he puts the work in to beat out larger companies for exclusives and relies on building relationships with clients to keep their business.
“I keep calling and touching base,” he said. “I’m on their radar, so when they’re ready I’m ready.”
Bijou graduated from Baruch College with a bachelor’s in real estate and then took a job as a property manager for the Orfali Group. He was drawn to brokerage because there was no fixed income and he could focus on the thing he’s always done—selling—so he joined TerraCRG two years ago.
When not working, Bijou cheers for New York sports teams—like the Jets and Mets—and hosts fundraisers for nonprofits in Israel with his wife.—Nicholas Rizzi
Michael Cimino, 28
Senior Associate, Marcus & Millichap
Michael Cimino went from being a client of Marcus & Millichap to working for the firm. When Cimino’s family sold the building that housed their famed Boston bar, Daisy Buchanan’s, in 2014 for $14.5 million, they used Marcus & Millichap to broker the deal.
Cimino, who graduated from Boston University, was helping to manage his family’s restaurant and real estate holdings but was looking for a change. He applied to Marcus & Millichap and landed a job that year.
“Bars and restaurants are extremely management intensive,” said Cimino. “Having worked in that line of work, being on the landlord side was a little bit more attractive.”
He’s currently the second in command of Marcus & Millichap’s New York Retail Advisors team focused on the Brooklyn market where he works on acquisitions, 1031 exchanges and financing.
In the past year, he was promoted to senior associate and has been responsible for about $125 million in sales or under contract, including 10 multi-tenant retail assets. His biggest this year was the $7.9 million sale of 2702 Emmons Avenue in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, which has two local restaurants and a bait and tackle shop.
“We generated 20 offers,” said Cimino. “This is an area that has a lot of traffic and a lot of other restaurants, but there’s not a huge amount of commercial space. You feel safe and secure with these types of restaurants.”
Cimino lives in Stuy Town and enjoys checking out new restaurants around the city when not on the clock.—N.R.
James Cleary, 29
Director, Advisors Commercial Real Estate
There are those who come into the commercial real estate business from an unorthodox background, and then there’s James Cleary. A trained ballet dancer who spent years on the road performing with the likes of Cirque du Soleil, Elton John and Celine Dion, Cleary found himself looking for a new career several years ago after shoulder and knee injuries put an end to his time on the stage.
It was ultimately a reference from his father, an executive at fashion company Camuto Group, to Jeffrey Rosenblatt, a principal at Advisors Commercial Real Estate’s New York office, that got Cleary his start in the business. After joining Advisors in November 2015, he hit the ground running—working alongside Rosenblatt on his first deal, headhunting firm The Bachrach Group’s 16,000-square-foot relocation to 1430 Broadway in 2016.
“This wasn’t even on my radar as a job,” Cleary said of his start in the brokerage business. But despite the initial challenges to be expected with any career change, he soon found his new profession to be a natural fit; he compared the process of canvassing spaces to being back “on stage.”
From that first deal for The Bachrach Group, Cleary has gone on to handle bigger transactions for Advisors. He recently helmed Broadway rehearsal space Open Jar Studios’ 51,000-square-foot deal at 1601 Broadway, and also helped his dad’s firm, Camuto Group, consolidate within 43,000 square feet at 1407 Broadway. While most of his work is on the tenant side, Cleary also consulted for Zar Property NY on the landlord’s office building at 250 West 54th Street, which Zar acquired in 2017 and has set about repositioning.
Moving forward, Cleary aims to hone his newfound craft as an office leasing broker, though he does have an eye on expanding his horizons within the commercial real estate business. “I think down the road I may toy with development,” he noted, describing it as an “opportunity to be a little more creative and hands-on.”—R.M.
Connor Daugstrup, 27
Director, Cushman & Wakefield
Connor Daugstrup gets into the office at 7:30 a.m. and usually doesn’t return to his Hell’s Kitchen home until after 8 p.m. But all those long hours have paid off. In the past year, Daugstrup was able to lease around 700,000 square feet and was a part of the team that represented landlord 17-18 Management Company LLC in its deal to lease its entire 166,539-square-foot 18 West 18th Street to WeWork in February.
“It was a complicated deal,” said Daugstrup, who manages more than 4.1 million square feet. “It was a huge tenant buyout and ultimately we leased the whole building on a long-term basis.”
That deal helped push Daugstrup’s leasing figures over the production threshold to be promoted this year from a senior associate to a director at Cushman & Wakefield. Aside from the WeWork deal, Daugstrup has worked on about 200,000 square feet of leases at 1 World Trade Center and 57,000 square feet at 220 East 42nd Street.
Daugstrup grew up in a suburb of Cleveland and got a bachelor’s in economics from Denison University in Ohio. He interned at boutique firm, Wells Street Companies in Chicago, handling both residential and commercial real estate, and decided to focus on the commercial side.
After his internship, he relocated to New York City and joined C&W’s Professional Real Estate Program. He’s been at the company for five years.
“I’ve always been challenged every year,” he said. “It’s a great place to build my career.”
Daugstrup is a member of C&W’s Future Leaders Program, and obtained a green certificate from the U.S. Green Building Council.—N.R.
Zach Ehrlich, 29
CEO and Founder, Stoop
“It’s like Knotel for residential.”
That’s how Zach Ehrlich, the CEO and founder of Stoop, explained his one-year-old company.
“We are a changing the nature of housing,” he added. “We are removing the friction of the housing process” and making renting “as simple as booking a hotel room.”
To that end, Stoop—which has raised $2 million in venture financing since its inception—offers furnished bedrooms and apartments to rent for terms from 30 days to 12 months.
For longer-term deals, renters can turn to Mdrn., Stoop’s more traditional residential brokerage arm, which has been around for four years.
Like Knotel, Stoop works with landlords by either signing a master lease for vacant units—or even an entire building—or arranging a management agreement, which “de-risks the project for the owner,” per Ehrlich, who worked for four years overseeing components of developer DDG’s development portfolio.
The 20-employee Stoop, Ehrlich said, grew out of his 65-agent Mdrn. when he saw a “need for furnished housing and flexibility around lease structures.”
Stoop has close to 200 beds in 25 buildings available for rent in 14 New York City neighborhoods on its online platform. Forty percent of the inventory is in the Columbia University area. Ehrlich anticipates growing to 500 beds in the next six months and expanding into Washington, D.C. and Boston within the next nine months.
Studio apartments start at 250 to 300 square feet and bedrooms start at 80 to 90 square feet. Monthly rents range from $1,100 for a bed in Ridgewood, Queens, to $3,000 a bed in Murray Hill, and $3,000 for a Midtown East studio apartment up to $9,000 for a three-bedroom pad within a Williamsburg, Brooklyn townhouse.
“We are a changing the nature of housing,” Ehrlich said. “We are removing the friction of the housing process.”—L.E.S.
Simon Elkharrat, 29
Real Estate Associate, Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson
“People told me I couldn’t stop arguing as a kid,” Simon Elkharrat told Commercial Observer. It stands to reason he would become an attorney.
As one of five children raised in Midwood, Brooklyn (he lives three blocks from where he grew up), Elkharrat was a young man in a big hurry. He finished at NYU in three years and went on to Cardozo School of Law, where he decided to go into real estate. When looking for a job, he landed a summer associate position at Fried Frank. “Everyone said, if you’re interested in real estate, it’s not even a question”—he should go there.
And since arriving at Fried Frank five years ago, Elkharrat hasn’t slowed down. (Just how big a hurry is Elkharrat in? He’s already been married for seven years and has two children.)
He has his fingerprints on such prominent projects as Essex Crossing, where Elkharrat represented the joint venture of Taconic, BFC, L+M and Goldman Sachs in their $260 million loan from Square Mile Capital Management for the development of 202 Broome Street. When RXR wanted to place New York Presbyterian Hospital into more than 500,000 square feet at 237 Park Avenue, Elkharrat was structuring the 30-year leasehold condominium interest in the property. (“It was a unique deal,” Elkharrat said. “It wasn’t a lease, but the relationship was similar to one.”) He represented Brookfield Office Properties in their acquisition and financing for Greenpoint Landing in Brooklyn.
And just this summer, Elkharrat represented Trinity Church Wall Street in their $650 million, 99-year lease of 4 Hudson Square to the Walt Disney Corporation, which Disney is planning on making their New York headquarters.
“It was unlike your typical ground lease,” Elkharrat said. Both Disney and Trinity had various ideas of what they wanted to do with the property, and where the future is a murky proposition for the normal buyer of a property when it reverts back to the original owner a century hence, that might not have been the case here. “I don’t think anyone expects to be there in 99 years—but [Trinity] church does!”—M.G.
Evan Fiddle, 28
First Vice President, CBRE
In his six years at CBRE, Evan Fiddle has already made a name for himself—no small feat considering that name also belongs to one of the firm’s top New York City office leasing brokers, his father (and CBRE Vice Chairman) Howard Fiddle.
But the younger Fiddle, 28, has proven his own chops to date. This past year has seen him seal more than 550,000 square feet of New York City office leases on behalf of his clients—including more than 400,000 square feet for landlords including Boston Properties, which tapped Fiddle’s CBRE team to handling leasing at 399 Park Avenue in the wake of Citibank’s departure from the Midtown office tower.
On the tenant side, Fiddle has found a niche working with financial services companies, in particular; notable recent deals include asset management firm CBAM Partners’ relocation to 25,000 square feet at 51 Astor Place in the East Village and private equity firm American Industrial Partners’ deal for 21,000 square feet at 450 Lexington Avenue in Midtown.
For his efforts and accomplishments so far, Fiddle was rewarded earlier this year with REBNY’s annual Most Promising Commercial Salesperson of the Year award. Despite the plaudits, he has no intention to rest on his laurels, and has particularly made an effort to establish connections and build his personal brand via frequent posts on LinkedIn and his own personal website.
“I was probably only six or eight months in the brokerage business and I remember thinking, ‘Everyone is doing the exact same thing I’m doing—you have to differentiate yourself,’ ” Fiddle recalled.
Outside of the office, Fiddle has become an avid runner. He completed the New York City Triathlon this past July and plans to run in both the Chicago and New York City marathons this fall—with his dad expected to join him for “all 26.2 miles” of the New York race on the first Sunday in November.—R.M.
David Fries, 29
Associate, Rosenberg & Estis
When David Fries was weighing his options for what firm he would join after law school, he decided on Rosenberg & Estis because it promised a chance to be smack in the middle of the action.
“We staff our deals much more leanly,” Fries told Commercial Observer. “It would give me an opportunity to take on a leadership role—and I found that to be very true.”
Indeed, since starting at the firm four years ago, the Washington University in St. Louis and Cardozo Law School graduate has been involved with some of the marquee names in New York real estate, playing a very large part in their deals.
Probably his most prominent has been in the Durst Organization’s play in East Harlem.
Fries was one of “four or five lawyers” who helped Durst convert their debt on 1800 Park Avenue into ownership from Ian Bruce Eichner’s Continuum Company. “There were two components, the acquisition and the financing,” Fries said. “I was the only person [on the Rosenberg team] switching between the two.”
In the transaction, Durst purchased $100 million in distressed debt from Continuum on the property at the corner of East 125th Street in early 2016, and then bought the site outright for $91 million later in the year. (He has also worked with Durst in their acquisition of Queens Plaza Park and the Queens Clock Tower Building.)
Fries was, by his own account, pretty much destined for a life as a real estate attorney. “My father is an attorney doing very similar work.” Even before law school, the Westchester native knew that this was what he wanted to do.
And rather than pursuing one-off deals for Durst, Fries has been helping the developer pad its portfolio in East Harlem—such as last year’s acquisition of a site at 1801 Park Avenue from the Northern Manhattan Rehabilitation and Nursing Center.
“What I really liked about that deal was you keep hearing about the way the city changes: ‘What’s going to be the next Williamsburg?’ That deal and some of the others in the area signal to me that could be it.”—M.G.
Aylin Gucalp, 26
Senior Associate for Retail Services, Cushman & Wakefield
Aylin Gucalp has helped brands open a lot of firsts. She was a part of pen manufacturer Lamy’s 2,000 square foot lease for its New York flagship and the first NYC location for Lou & Grey at 138 Fifth Avenue.
“You really feel like part of their business,” Gucalp said. “You’re really their partner and their advisor. A great retail space is going to take a brand to another level so it’s really so important to do right by them.”
Gucalp has always been interested in how real estate shapes the city but her passion really developed at Cornell University when a professor told her it would combine all her study areas—city planning, architecture and economics—in one.
So, she joined Cushman & Wakefield’s PREP program when she graduated in 2014 and after working in different parts of the business found her place on Joanne Podell’s retail team.
“I didn’t want to leave,” she said. “Every day is so uniquely different, you could never, ever be bored. You feel like you’re kind of in the fast lane all the time.”
And if working on high-profile leases wasn’t enough, the Upper East Side native is also an accomplished photographer and has shot some famous musicians.
She volunteered as one of the officials City Parks Foundation photographers for the public SummerStage concerts from 2012 to 2015, getting to shoot performances by Florence + The Machine and Neon Trees.—N.R.
Joseph Italiaander, 26
Real Estate Salesperson, ABS Partners Real Estate
Joseph Italiaander almost wasn’t on this list. The Atlanta native wound up in New York City basically by accident.
After graduating from the University of Alabama, Italiaander knew he wanted to get into real estate and had several job interviews with brokerages in Washington, D.C. While waiting to hear back, he went to the Big Apple to visit some friends.
Those friends were in the financial industry and worked late nights, leaving Italiaander with a lot of free time. Instead of seeing the Statue of Liberty or climbing 30 Rock, he set up job interviews.
“I got hired on the spot at a place called 5 Boro Commercial Real Estate,” Italiaander said. “I took a gamble and moved to New York two weeks later with everything I owned.”
The gamble paid off. He stayed at 5 Boro, as a tenant representative in the Bronx, for 18 months then was hired by Mark Tergesen to join his retail and industrial leasing team at ABS Partners Real Estate.
He’s been at ABS for two and a half years as a licensed real estate salesperson, focusing on markets like the Upper West Side and the Bronx.
“We really like the Bronx because it’s consistent,” he said. “We don’t see rents fluctuate as much as we do in Manhattan. Rather, we see a very steady and consistent market with great fundamentals.”
His biggest deals this year include leasing 60,000 square feet of retail at a building in Mt. Vernon, N.Y., 35,000 square feet at 19-80 Steinway Avenue in Astoria, Queens, and selling a former 12,400-square foot Duane Reade in the Bronx.
When not working, the Greenwich Village resident plays golf and tennis and cheers for his alma mater’s football team, the Crimson Tide.—N.R.
Amanda Keller, 27
Retail Leasing Associate, SCG Retail
Hotel Chocolat, a British chocolatier and cocoa grower with 103 shops globally as well as cafés and restaurants (plus a hotel on its working cocoa plantation in the Caribbean), is looking to open its first store in New York City.
To find a 500- to 1,000-square-foot location in Manhattan for its first-ever U.S. store, Hotel Chocolat is working with industry vet Chase Welles, a partner at SCG Retail, and SCG’s young weapon Amanda Keller.
Keller, who has been at SCG Retail nearly three years, has a lot of experience with food chains, having handled key aspects of six Starbucks deals including an 18,000-square-foot Princi bakery and commissary at 160 Van Brunt Street in Red Hook, Brooklyn. (As of press time, the location was not yet open to the public, she said.)
Beyond food, Keller negotiated a three-year 800-square-foot deal for City Hats at 488 Madison Avenue in Midtown. The store opened a few months ago.
She won City Hats as a client because the company enjoyed working with Keller when she was on the other side of the table, representing landlord Vintage Group in a 625-square-foot deal at 55 East Houston Street in Nolita. On behalf of Vintage Group, Keller also negotiated a deal with OddFellows Ice Cream Co. for 625 square feet in the building.
Today, her landlord assignments include marketing retail space for Vintage Group at 135 Sullivan Street in Soho, Maverick Commercial Properties at 50 Clinton Street on the Lower East Side and Gilman Management Corporation’s 326 Bleecker Street in the West Village. The spaces range in size from 350 square feet to 3,000 square feet. (And, of course, she’s on the hunt for Hotel Chocolat where the tenant is looking at “busy office areas with good subway access,” Keller said.)
Keller chose to go the way of retail leasing—and working in Manhattan—after short stints in investment sales at Massey Knakal Realty Services (about a year) and then Brooklyn-focused TerraCRG (less than a year).
“I thought leasing was more interesting,” Keller said. “I was only in Brooklyn. I love Manhattan. I love the concept of retail. It’s so creative and it’s always changing. Every day is different.”—L.E.S.
Morgan Liesenfelt, 28
Senior Manager, Leasing, Macerich
As a kid, visiting Hawaii, it was not so atypical for Morgan Liesenfelt’s father to shrug off the pristine beaches and say to her, “O.K., we gotta go to the mall.”
Liesenfelt’s father worked for the shopping mall owner and operator General Growth Properties (acquired by Brookfield Property Partners earlier this year), and that meant a life revolving around retail and shopping centers.
“We would take helicopters to developments when I was young and to mall openings across the country,” Liesenfelt told Commercial Observer.
Clearly something rubbed off on the younger Liesenfelt. After a couple of years working in fashion (her degree from the University of Arkansas is in Fashion Merchandising and Design), the Dallas-transplant found that she was more at home in retail real estate. She landed a job at Macerich where she began leasing out spaces for the company’s Queens Center in Elmhurst, Kings Plaza Shopping Center in Brooklyn, Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream, Long Island and Cross County Shopping Center in Yonkers, N.Y.
“My first deal was for an H&M lingerie concept at the Queens Center,” Liesenfelt said. “They had a temporary lingerie pop-up” that they wanted to make permanent, which Liesenfelt shepherded into a 2,000-square-foot space.
Since then she and her boss Dustin Rand have worked with brands like Dr. Martens, e.l.f. Cosmetics, Express, Footlocker, Lids and Sunglass Hut. She recently got a Timberland store at Queens Center for the Christmas season. “Obviously, we hope for a long-term deal,” Liesenfelt said, “we never had that brand at Queens Center—it was a great addition for the holidays.”
The fact that Liesenfelt stepped into retail only three years ago, during the worst retail meltdown in decades, speaks well of her brokering abilities. “People tell me if you [succeed] in an environment we’ve been in the past two years, you’re getting the best learning experience,” Liesenfelt said. “Everything after will be easy.”
And as for following in her father’s footsteps: “We can’t stop talking business at dinner,” Liesenfelt said. “It really upsets the rest of the family.”—M.G.
William McGarry, 26
Associate Vice President, JLL
William McGarry didn’t mean to follow so closely in his father’s footsteps, it just happened that way. His father, David McGarry, also worked in commercial real estate at JLL for years.
“He wasn’t pushing me or anything,” he said. “It was almost sort of a genetic thing I ended up in real estate.”
McGarry spent his childhood in Bethesda, Md., interested in buildings—finishing plenty of LEGO sets—and when he got older wanted to pursue a job in finance. During college, he realized real estate was the perfect way to merge both interests.
After graduating from Boston College, McGarry took an internship at the REIT Management & Research Inc. and applied for a job at JLL in New York, without telling his father.
“I obviously knew JLL because he worked here, but also JLL is one of the largest real estate companies,” he said.
McGarry has been with JLL for four years working in the consulting and advisory group, which is focused on “taking a consulting and financial approach to every leasing transaction,” he said.
In the past year, he’s worked on several high-profile deals including Deutsche Bank’s 1.1-million-square-foot lease at One Columbus Circle and BlackRock’s relocation to 850,000 square feet at 50 Hudson Yards.
For next year, McGarry is focused on growing the consulting team, which he said is like a “startup in a well-established company,” and bringing on newer members to the bigger deals.
When off the clock, the Hell’s Kitchen resident is the captain of a softball team and enjoys traveling overseas to places like Paris, Slovenia and Germany.—N.R.
Mac Means, 27
Vice President, Transwestern
After two years working for asset management firm Neuberger Berman right after college, Mac Means decided he wanted a different challenge. Through the magic of networking, he met a fellow Washington and Lee University alumnus who formerly worked at commercial real estate brokerage Transwestern; one thing led to another, Means joined the firm in 2015 and less than three years later, he’s now the youngest vice president in Transwestern’s New York office.
“What’s pretty unique about Transwestern is our entire office works together as one team,” Means said of his role at the firm, citing a “pooled commission system” that “encourages collaboration amongst brokers”—a structure to which he attributed “a lot of my personal success.”
That success includes what Means described as the largest deal of his career to date: the $45 million acquisition of a Harlem office condominium by the nonprofit Children’s Aid that will house the organization’s headquarters. Not only will the move allow Children’s Aid to consolidate various New York City offices, but the fact that the nonprofit owns the four-story, 55,565-square-foot commercial condo—built-to-suit in a new building that’s currently under construction at 114 West 125th Street—means that it will be able to realize significant tax savings.
The deal was somewhat atypical for Means in that it was a sale; the bulk of his activity is in the realm of office leasing, where he represents tenants ranging from tech and media companies to financial services and law firms. He and his Transwestern colleagues are also hoping to do more on the landlord side of the equation, with the firm recently picking up an assignment at 16 East 34th Street and looking to further build that side of its business.—R.M.
Jeremy Nazarian, 27
Managing Director, Venture Capital Properties
Jeremy Nazarian didn’t initially plan on going into the commercial real estate profession; after graduating from Baruch College with a bachelor’s degree in business, the Long Island native went to work for UBS as an analyst focused on the wealth management sector. “That’s when I started cold calling,” Nazarian recalled, adding that the experience taught him “a lot about discipline and being organized.”
It was during a brief stint working in mortgage brokerage for Brooklyn-based Cornerstone Group that Nazarian met senior brokers at Midtown-based Venture Capital Properties. Drawn to the opportunity to try his hand in sales, he joined Venture in 2014, and for the past four-and-a-half years has specialized in office and retail property transactions across Manhattan.
Over the past year, he’s advised the Gorjian family on its $90 million acquisition of 192 Lexington Avenue, a 140,000-square-foot office building at the corner of East 32nd Street, and represented W Brothers Realty and its joint venture partners in the $37 million acquisition of 766 Madison Avenue, a mixed-use commercial building on Madison Avenue’s “Gold Coast” retail corridor in Midtown.
While he specializes primarily in investment sales, Nazarian also did his first ever lease this year: furniture retailer Lazzoni’s 15-year deal for a ground-floor retail space at 145 Madison Avenue. Nazarian described brokering a lease transaction as different from what he’s usually accustomed to, since it’s “more about marrying people together” for a given space, rather than the more transactional nature of investment sales.
But it was a challenge he welcomed as he seeks to expand his knowledge and experience in the commercial real estate business. “I know I have a lot more to learn,” Nazarian said.—R.M.
Brandon Polakoff, 28
Director of Tri-State Investment Sales, Avison Young
Brandon Polakoff was marketing a 72-unit building for a client in Dubai when a potential buyer contacted him in January to say he had a 1031 exchange running out, could we sign the deal in five days?
Polakoff and co-workers at Avison Young decided to hole up in a conference room in one day to see if they could get it done.
“We got there on a Thursday at 3 p.m. and the contract wasn’t signed to 3 or 4 a.m.,” said Polakoff. “It was a rush that I’ll never forget.”
That sale of 68-72 Thompson Street closed at $62 million and was the biggest this year for Polakoff, but it wasn’t his only. In the past year, he’s had more than $300 million of aggregate sales and is overseeing 11 total listing for Avison Young.
“I’m working from the second I wake until the second I go to bed,” he said. “I’m reachable at any time, I’m always on email.”
Polakoff grew up in Princeton, N.J., and got a bachelor’s in economics from Trinity College. His cousin is Marty Burger, the CEO of Silverstein Properties, who gave him his first job in real estate once he graduated college in 2010.
Three years later, Polakoff wanted to try to get on the sales side, so he randomly put in an application on Massey Knakal Real Estate Services’ website and landed a job under James Nelson.
When Massey Knakal got acquired by Cushman & Wakefield, Polakoff stuck with Nelson. After Nelson jumped shipped to Avison Young to lead the new tri-state investment sales team this year, Polakoff wasn’t far behind and was soon the team’s first hire.
“We were really starting from scratch,” Polakoff said. “It meant that we were going to work that many more hours in a day. Six months later, we got like 40 people and $2 billion worth of product on the market.”
Aside from closing deals, the Chelsea resident spends his time training for the New York Marathon and teaching lacrosse for a non-profit in Harlem.—N.R.
Greg Richner, 29
Associate, Blank Rome LLP
Attorneys often play an overlooked role in real estate transactions, whether it’s drafting up the actual terms of leasing and sales transactions or vetting whether a deal makes sense for their clients.
Blank Rome’s Greg Richner handles those integral responsibilities for a range of clients across a variety of asset classes and transaction types, both in New York City and across the U.S. The bulk of Richner’s deals fall under the leasing category, where he and his colleagues represent landlords and tenants in the retail, office and industrial sectors.
Over the past 12 months he’s worked on more than 40 retail leases, with a particular focus on representing “nontraditional retailers” like health care provider CityMD and fitness concepts SoulCycle and Equinox. On the office front, he’s represented both landlords and tenants in more than 750,000 square feet worth of transactions over the past year, including seven separate locations across the tri-state area for Schweiger Dermatology Group. And in the realm of industrial real estate, Richner has worked on behalf of an undisclosed but “well-known” technology company in securing 13 leases at industrial properties across the country.
Since joining Blank Rome in 2016, Richner has seen his responsibilities steadily grow; in the past year in the particular, his role has evolved from that of an associate charged with supporting the firm’s partners to one where he’s now the “point person” who runs deals from their letter-of-intent phase all the way through to their closing.
As far as how he found himself in his current practice area, Richner noted an appreciation for the “tangible” nature of the transactions he oversees as an attorney. “I definitely see myself staying in real estate,” he said. “I like walking around the city and seeing deals that I helped get done.”—R.M.
Matthew Schuss, 28
Director, Winick Realty Group
After majoring in economics at the University of Wisconsin, Matthew Schuss initially planned to go into the world of finance. But it only took a couple of internships for Schuss to realize that “I don’t want to spend my day behind a computer for 16 hours.”
Schuss consulted with a friend who was an office leasing broker and found himself with his foot in the door at Winick Realty Group, which he joined in 2012 through the firm’s agent training program. He quickly worked his way up and now serves as a director at the retail brokerage, for whom he represents both tenants and landlords in deals across Manhattan.
On the tenant side, Schuss has particularly carved a niche in the food and beverage sector, which has proven more resilient in the face of the retail market’s recent struggles. Clients include fast-casual Mediterranean restaurant chain Roti and Irving Farm Coffee Roasters, both of which have expanded their Manhattan retail presence in recent years.
Landlord clients include Equity Residential, for whom he secured dog care business Biscuits & Bath for the 3,100-square-foot ground-floor retail space at 71 Broadway in the Financial District this past summer. Schuss and his colleagues at Winick also recently represented landlord Madison Capital in a 13,000-square-foot lease with high-end health and wellness club The Well at 2 East 15th Street.
While he’s worked on a few outer-borough deals, Schuss said Manhattan continues to capture his imagination. “The way I look at it, below 90th Street it’s six miles-by-three miles and there’s a ton going on,” he said. “You want to have an expertise in every area, whether you’re doing tenant rep or landlord rep. I pride myself on knowing what’s going on in every submarket.”—R.M.
Vivianna Schwoerer, 29
Global Head of Real Estate Transaction Management, WeWork
Armed with a degree from New York Law School and a stint at boutique law firm, Vivianna Schwoerer was ready to move into real estate transactions at coworking giant WeWork two years ago.
“Frankly, there was an opportunity with WeWork to join their real estate group,” Schwoerer said. “I knew that WeWork was exactly the kind of company I wanted to work for. I knew the values aligned with mine and the vision aligned with mine”
She started out doing leasing deals, negotiating and closing over 4 million square feet in commercial office space leases and management agreements up until five months ago when she was promoted to a new position—WeWork’s global head of real estate transaction management. Her deals included 80,000 square feet at 115 Broadway, Manhattan, 120,000 square feet at 515 North State Street in Chicago and 100,000 square feet at 501 Boylston Street in Boston.
Today, Schwoerer leads an international team of 40 negotiators across 23 countries, with overall responsibility for all real estate transactions involving WeWork.
She built her own team, and personally hired 15 of the 40 current employees in cities including New York, San Francisco, Singapore, Shanghai and Tokyo. She also formed and leads WeWork’s global lease administration group, dedicated to promoting the company’s real estate planning and portfolio management, which is part of the real estate transaction management group.
Prior to joining WeWork, Schwoerer practiced corporate real estate law, advising and representing clients on the acquisition, disposition, financing and leasing of real estate at New York-based law firm Pardalis & Nohavicka.
Schwoerer’s achievements earned her the 2018 WeWork Excellence Award for embodying WeWork’s core values such as tenacity, authenticity and entrepreneurship.—L.E.S.
Matthew Siegel, 28
Associate Director, Newmark Knight Frank
The first big real estate deal that Matthew Siegel ever completed was when he was a junior at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
He was on the lookout for a new house for his fraternity, Sigma Alpha Mu, and he stumbled upon an interesting-looking house—but learned that it was being redeveloped.
Siegel decided that he would go to the city council meeting and see firsthand if the owner’s plans were approved or rejected. (He was hoping for rejection.)
As he sat listening to the owner’s plans—two adjacent lots would be combined for a 10-story piece of student housing that looked nicer than anything else on campus—he began to get excited.
After the hearing Siegel approached the owner.
“Full disclosure,” Siegel said, “I was hoping you wouldn’t get approved.” But Siegel also said that he thought his plans were great, and that he could fill up the building with prospective students. And that’s precisely what Siegel did.
“I went around to different fraternities and student organizations” selling his fellow students on the building. Siegel wound up leasing out the whole project.
It’s no surprise that Siegel (a Long Island-native who was getting his bachelor’s in real estate and urban land economics) would wind up in real estate.
After interning with Newmark Knight Frank for two summers, he was taken under the wing of NKF President David Falk in 2012 and over the last 15 months have closed transactions totaling 640,000 square feet with a total value of approximately $500 million. He now divides his time 60-40 between tenant and landlord representation, respectively.
“The ones I really like are the ones where I cultivated the relationship,” Siegel told Commercial Observer. That includes tenants like the digital media publisher Digiday, which he put at 1 Liberty Plaza; FlexPort at 111 West 19th Street; Lilly Pulitzer at 130 West 42nd Street and 1st Dibs at 261 Eleventh Avenue. (Even the ones he didn’t originate, like John Varvatos at 26 West 17th Street, or repping Industry City when the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets took 70,000 square feet are pretty noteworthy.) And as a landlord broker, he has worked with some of the best in the business, including the likes of Related and L&L.—M.G.
Michael Stimler, 29
While Bethesda, Md.-based commercial real estate brokerage Greysteel has been an active player in markets nationally since its founding in 2012, the company only launched its New York City office last year. To lead the investment sales-focused enterprise, Greysteel lured Michael Stimler from Marcus & Millichap—and together with his five-man team at the firm’s Downtown Brooklyn office, the fledgling operation is already making waves.
Greysteel closed its largest deal in the city to date earlier this year: Swedish real estate firm Akelius’ $35.5 million acquisition of a three-building, 78-unit portfolio in Park Slope. The deal falls right in line with Greysteel’s “bread and butter” when it comes to the New York City market, according to Stimler: multifamily buildings located predominantly in the outer boroughs. (The firm also handles mixed-use properties and development sites, he added.) He stressed that Greysteel “[does] not discriminate by deal size,” with the firm happy to handle smaller deals like the $6 million sale of another Park Slope building that it closed just last month.
For Stimler, it’s been an impressive rise. Marcus & Millichap was his first job in commercial real estate; a few short years later, he now finds himself leading a national brokerage’s office in the country’s largest commercial real estate market.
“I wanted to be in an industry where you’d be rewarded by your tenacity, and this seemed like a good one,” Stimler said of his career path. “Opportunity is opportunity; there are always people looking to do trades and deals. As long as you’re tenacious, you’re going to be successful—regardless of the market.”—R.M.
Brendan Thrapp, 28
Senior Director of Commercial, EXR
Brendan Thrapp was working at hedge fund Mason Capital Management—helping to manage about $10 billion—when his childhood friend John Le Vine asked him to jump ship to his new company, EXR, and lead the commercial brokerage side of the business.
“I think it fits within my skill set in terms of interacting with people and problem solving,” Thrapp said. “It was a really exciting opportunity to come over to a young growing firm and have a say in building out the commercial division.”
And after nearly three years of joining, the firm has started to become one of the top retail leasing companies working in Brooklyn. Thrapp’s team has grown to 15 members and has nabbed leasing assignment for some high-profile projects.
“We’ve seen a lot of growth in terms of the prestige of the projects we’re working on and really getting a lot of talented people in brokerage to really help us grow,” he said.
EXR had worked on the retail and office portion of the William Vale Hotel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and the retail section of the Rheingold Brewery in Bushwick, Brooklyn. So far this year, the team was behind the largest office and retail leases in Williamsburg like the 46,000 square foot deal at 1 Nassau Avenue to Vital Climbing Gym.
“We were able to position ourselves as the guys who understood the market and understood the tenants that were looking,” said Thrapp. “It was really sort of that attention to the client and it spread by word of mouth.”
Thrapp grew up in northern New Jersey and graduated with degrees in marketing and economics from Penn State. The Williamsburg resident said sales was in his blood and he spent his youth working at his family’s 10 sunglasses and optics stores that were spread around the Tri-State area.
When not on the clock, Thrapp likes to go hiking and travel around the world, recently visiting Ireland, Thailand and Vietnam.—N.R.
Clayton Traynham, 24
Director, Meridian Retail Leasing
Spending time canvassing at what is now Bennett Williams Commercial (for his father) while in high school, at Rhino Realty Group while in college and then post-college at RKF gave Clayton Traynham a leg up when it came to finding clients.
“During my time canvassing, I was assigned zones in the city,” he said. “Within each neighborhood, I had to canvass each block, cold-calling landlords to locate available retail space, understand if their spaces were coming available, lease expiration dates, etc. Without cold calling, it was difficult to recover important information. Therefore, it was required. Now, I have a better understanding in how to speak with landlords about market trends and it makes it easier to generate a meeting to pitch available retail or what’s coming available in the future.”
But it was while working at RKF, starting in August 2016, that Traynham realized he didn’t really like canvassing.
“Canvassing was not as hands-on as I wanted it to be,” he said. “I wasn’t liking it and it wasn’t for me.” He wanted to be negotiating and closing deals.
So, he left RKF the following March to work for retail pro James Famularo at Eastern Consolidated. He closed his first deal within two months of starting at Eastern. How did he find the tenant, Murray Hill institution Best Wingers? By cold-calling, of course. He told Best Wingers that he had a great space for its second location, at 174 Delancey Street. It was a match and he represented both sides in the deal.
Within his first year at Eastern, Traynham closed 14 leases throughout New York City. Thirteen months into his Eastern tenure, Traynham—who has an identical twin, Colton Traynham at Marcus & Millichap—was promoted from associate to director. He has maintained that title since starting at Meridian this summer after Eastern shuttered.—L.E.S.
Jake Velazquez, 27
Commercial Leasing Salesperson, Compass
Residential brokerage Compass may have recently launched a commercial real estate division with high-profile investment sales and retail broker hires, but that doesn’t mean the firm didn’t already have a hand in the commercial market.
For the last three-and-a-half years, Jake Velazquez has been working alongside commercial agent David Graff in office leasing (and some retail), with a focus on tenant representation and expansion.
Perhaps most notably, Velazquez represented Etain Health, a women-owned medical marijuana dispensary, in its lease of roughly 2,200 square feet at 142 East 39th Street between Third and Lexington Avenues in 2017.
The client came by referral, like most his business (with the rest being repeat business).
He found 920 square feet for Sev Laser, a laser spa chain frequented by the Kardashians, at 120 Central Park South. The location opened last month. And he recently negotiated two deals for multi-specialty group medical practice Maiden Lane Medical. One is for obstetrics and gynecology—3,433 square feet—at 415 West Broadway in Soho, and the other for general medicine—2,573 square feet—at 110 East 60th Street. Velazquez in particular likes working with tenants that “want more than one space and need more coordination.”
Velazquez started at Compass when the firm launched six years ago (he is the longest-tenured agent at the company), working as a residential agent. After handing off a series of commercial deals to Graff, the commercial agent invited Velazquez to join him.
“I just thought it was more suited to my skill set,” Velazquez said. “I like working with businesses more.”
And staying at Compass has allowed him to have the “best of both worlds”—handling commercial deals but continuing to work with agents, and in a culture, he loves.—L.E.S.
Zachary Weil, 29
Associate Director, Newmark Knight Frank
In this election year, it sounds like Zachary Weil is running for public office in Brooklyn.
“Brooklyn is so under-schooled right now,” Weil told Commercial Observer. “Especially in Dumbo.”
Being under-schooled means that Brooklyn is not assuming its rightful place in the city’s office pecking order. Top executives want to live close to their offices. “I believe the principals of these companies have to move elsewhere because there are no schools.”
We’re not 100 percent certain whether Weil, who has never lived in Brooklyn before, developed these views before or after he was part of the team that brought Brooklyn LAB Charter Schools to 80,000 square feet at 77 Sands Street, but he makes a convincing argument. (The deal won Weil NKF’s internal “Catch of the Day” award for the broker who sourced the largest deal with under 10 years of experience.)
Weil took a shine to real estate when he got an internship at NKF while he was still a student at Union College.
“The atmosphere at Newmark felt very familial,” Weil said. “Everyone at the company is extremely approachable—it keeps things fun and light.”
But that doesn’t mean that Weil hasn’t taken his duties as a broker extremely seriously. He has served as the exclusive sales agent for Philips International’s 40 Rector Street in the Financial District, where he sold 400,000 square feet of office condominium space—including 115,000 square feet to Metropolitan College of New York. He’s also been hired to sell 250,000 square feet of office condo space at 866 United Nations Plaza. Weil has also done leasing for a diverse collection of tenants including Wix.com, Linq3 Technologies, Simon Meyrowitz & Meyrowitz and Morning Brew.—M.G.
Benjamin Weiner, 27
Director, Ripco Real Estate
Benjamin Weiner had just come back to New Jersey from a trip to Uganda working with a non-profit health clinic and was trying to figure out what to do next. He was at a barbecue in his parents’ house when the wife of family friend, Peter Ripka, suggested he take a job at Ripco Real Estate.
“I was interviewing at a few places and not interested in real estate or brokerage at all,” Weiner, who graduated from Union College, said.
However, once he met with the team at Ripco, he knew he wanted a job there.
“I loved the team,” he said. “I loved the fact that I was going to be working on 20-plus projects, I loved that I was going to be out of the office.”
Weiner has focused mainly on retail leases in the outer boroughs during his four years at Ripco and has worked on deals like the 7,500-square-foot lease for wearable tech company Thalmic Lab’s first U.S. retail space in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, and he’s gearing up to lease the Admiral’s Row project at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
“We have a lot of great projects and we’re really focused on getting those leased,” he said.
When not on the job, the recent Upper East Side resident likes to work out and explore the city. He also still works with the non-profit in Uganda and helps fundraise for them.—N.R.
Andrew Zang, 29
Assistant Director, Savills Studley
Andrew Zang could have been the next Sam Waterston.
When he was a student at New York Law School, Zang had hoped to be a district attorney. However, “I took a real estate course—and that’s all she wrote.”
It was probably his destiny—Zang’s father was an owner and manager of office buildings, and when he was 14 or 15 years old he was put to work handing out fliers on street corners and licking stamps for mailings.
Aside from providing Zang with an extremely coveted asset (read: law degree), New York Law School bestowed on Zang a real estate entree that most brokers would have killed for: he was going to school with Mark Lapidus, who would one day be the head of real estate for a little firm called WeWork.
Of course, Zang didn’t know just how handy that would end up being. He took the bar, grabbed a master’s in real estate and in the beginning was just pushing himself as hard as he could.
He has grabbed a number of high-profile assignments, including getting 10,000 square feet for the Permanent Mission of Benin to the United Nations at 305 East 47th Street; bagging another 10,000 square feet for public relations firm KCSA at 420 Fifth Avenue; and finding a new home for the Cochran Firm (the law firm of the late Johnny Cochran) in the form of a 12,000-square-foot office space at 55 Broadway.
But Zang has, indeed, worked his law school connections to ink one of those lucrative WeWork deals.
When one of his clients was vacating a space at Jack Resnick & Sons’ 880 Third Avenue, Zang pieced together that WeWork didn’t have a location on Third Avenue. And why not? He made his pitch to his pals at WeWork (“It was a warm call—not a cold call,” Zang told Commercial Observer) and then made his move.
“I walked into the landlord’s office and said, ‘You may not know it, but you’re going to have a 70,000-square-foot space available. And I have a $20 billion tenant.’ ”—M.G.
Scott Zinovoy, 29
Senior Associate, RKF
Scott Zinovoy has become a Times Square entertainment center expert.
The 29-year-old helped notch a 48,000-square-foot deal at SJP Properties’ 11 Times Square with Spanish park operator Parques Reunidos and its partner Lionsgate Entertainment for their U.S. flagship (Zinovoy worked on both sides of the deal). And he co-arranged a 12,346-square-foot lease with Pip’s Island at 400 West 42nd Street on behalf of the landlord, a joint venture including Richard Born.
“Often, if someone has a Times Square requirement, they’ll consult me,” for guidance about the market, how LED signage works there, etc., Zinovoy said. “It’s nice to have a little bit of a niche and people can look to me and I can help guide them.”
At 11 Times Square, he said, the retail space will be used as a Lionsgate-branded indoor experiential entertainment center and movie studio. Pip’s Island will be a fully immersive and interactive exhibit for children at the base of the Pod Hotel Times Square. It will mark Pip’s Island’s first permanent space.
Currently, Zinovoy is representing iP2 Entertainment—it creates, designs and operates family entertainment centers—with the national rollout of the company’s National Geographic, Mattel and Warner Bros. family entertainment concepts. IP2 is seeking locations of 30,000 to 60,000 square feet.
He has been working with the iP2 for a year and a half, and while “nothing has been signed officially in the U.S. yet,” Zinovoy said, “we’re finally getting close to realizing it.”
Being on the entertainment side of the business is rewarding for Zinovoy.
“We are getting to help shape the next iteration of what retail looks like,” he said.
Beyond the entertainment center, Zinovoy helped arrange a 44,000-square-foot Whole Foods Market transaction at 1 Wall Street on behalf of Macklowe Properties and a nearly 30,000-square-foot deal with Morton Williams at One West End Avenue, representing the landlords, Elad Group and Silverstein Properties.—L.E.S.