Cool Boutique Developers

Let's get a list going of very cool, boutique (or larger) developers. Always think it's cool to hear about these shops of just a handful of guys doing really badass projects. I'll start with a few:

Scott Gillen (Malibu, CA)
Plus Development Group (West Hollywood, CA)
Aby Rosen (NYC)
Michael Stern/ JDS Development (NYC)
Ilan Sharone (Beverly Hills, CA)
Edit: Rick Caruso (Los Angeles, CA)
CIM Group (Los Angeles, CA)

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Comments (74)

Dec 27, 2018 - 9:52pm

Can't believe I forgot to mention these guys. Good call!

“The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary.” - Nassim Taleb
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Dec 27, 2018 - 10:13pm
RealAssets:

TMG (best developer in San Francisco)

I've heard the horror stories of trying to develop in SF. You must have to kiss some serious ass to be able to pull off deals there. I couldn't do it. I could not prostrate myself at the feet of utter insanity in order to pull off a deal.

Array

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Dec 30, 2018 - 10:50am
real_Skankhunt42:

RealAssets:

TMG (best developer in San Francisco)

I've heard the horror stories of trying to develop in SF. You must have to kiss some serious ass to be able to pull off deals there. I couldn't do it. I could not prostrate myself at the feet of utter insanity in order to pull off a deal.

I got to tour the transbay terminal, Salesforce Tower, and the condo high rise there a couple years back. The Boston Properties guys were saying how some companies' entire business model was entitlements. Closed on dirt at $70 MM, took 5 years to get it entitled, and then sold the entitled dirt at $170 MM. 5 years!

Commercial Real Estate Developer

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Dec 27, 2018 - 10:05pm

Also in LA, I think Worthe (Lead by Jeff Worth) does cool stuff as well.

I was able to hear him talk about his 1333 Ocean Avenue project in Santa Monica that frank Gehry designed -- looks pretty sweet.

Array
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Dec 27, 2018 - 10:22pm

Worthe is awesome, great add.

I should add Jamison (Los Angeles, CA) as well

“The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary.” - Nassim Taleb
Dec 27, 2018 - 10:51pm

Out of curiosity, what qualifies as "boutique"? CIM is huge and active everywhere, it seems. Firms developing millions of square feet and thousands of units in any given year are bigger than anything except the very very biggest national firms.

Dec 28, 2018 - 12:03pm
RealAssets:

Don't think there's a precise answer, but I think of boutique as any firm where the GP is actually owned by private individuals, not a public corporation or government entity. CIM for example is huge, but it's the product of a very successful partnership between a few original founders. So yeah, some of the 'boutiques' are massive.

Got it. Then Related and Extell are good ones as well. Many NYC developers are doing cool stuff, often at large scale. Can't honestly claim much knowledge outside the metro area.

  • Anonymous Monkey's picture
  • Anonymous Monkey
  • Rank: Chimp
Dec 28, 2018 - 8:29am

Billionaire might be a stretch but wouldn't be surprised. RFR builds some amazing projects...absolutely love the stuff that firm does combining real estate + art work. I think Aby is hilarious as well - worth a follow on IG!

Wonder what the status is with Lever House since they defaulted on the loan - anyone have any info on that?

Dec 30, 2018 - 10:51am
Mark Queban:

I've always thought that Jamestown Properties did some cool work.

Ponce City Market is incredible in Atlanta

Commercial Real Estate Developer

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Dec 28, 2018 - 12:43pm

Whatever you want it to be. This is just a list for fun to talk about cool projects people are taking down. Everyone in the RE world knows about Hudson Yards. But I wanted to collaborate and get a list of lesser known but badass firms.

If you really wanted to put a definition, I'd agree with @RealAssets above

“The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary.” - Nassim Taleb
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Dec 28, 2018 - 12:11pm

L&L Holding Co (NYC) - in no particular order, 425 Park, TSX, 390 Madison, and 195 Broadway could all be counted in the "badass" category. Not really ground up projects, but heavy NYC office redevelopment

Dec 28, 2018 - 12:46pm

Just looked them up- they have a good looking portfolio!

“The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary.” - Nassim Taleb
Dec 28, 2018 - 7:20pm

Wainbridge is super cool. Huge fan of Irvine company's work too.

I had a flair for languages. But I soon discovered that what talks best is dollars, dinars, drachmas, rubles, rupees and pounds fucking sterling.
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Dec 29, 2018 - 12:50pm

Irvine Company is awesome. From their job postings it looks like they're expanding further and hiring construction managers more.

“The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary.” - Nassim Taleb
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Dec 29, 2018 - 4:49pm

Irvine Co. (aka 50 shades of beige) will be interesting to watch in the coming years as Bren ages out. The guy is in his 80's and from what I understand still very much involved but the sole owner. They tend to purge upper management every 2-3 years and I would assume they have some sort of succession plan but have heard nothing from friends who work there. There have been a few videos of Bren uploaded here but the sheer vision and scope of what he has accomplished is mind boggling. They literally set the market for multi/office/retail in Orange County and continue to expand in SD & NorCal.

My group was in B&F for a large NorCal site with Irvine Co. being the other party and we thought we had it until Bren called the land owner personally and it was game over. Helps when your founder has front pocket change of literally billions. They also can railroad projects in Orange County just like they did with Trammell's Class A Office development Boardwalk in Irvine. From what I was told Irvine Co. approached their legacy tenants who were interested in Boardwalk and offered to match their current lease and move them to Irvine Co's new Class A towers at The Spectrum. This might explain why one of the nicest office developments in Orange County has literally sat vacant for well over a year. Would hate to be the unlucky soul losing their shirt on that deal...

Most of their initial land holdings in SoCal have been built out so how they continue to grow will be something to keep an eye on whether it's new markets/coasts or simply redevelop current holdings. If anyone has insight on this would love to hear more.

Dec 29, 2018 - 7:53pm

Great color. I've always been super fascinated myself having grown up in that area. I am most interested in hearing about his succession plan is (whatever that might be).

I had a flair for languages. But I soon discovered that what talks best is dollars, dinars, drachmas, rubles, rupees and pounds fucking sterling.
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Dec 30, 2018 - 10:52am
SponsorPromote:

Let's get a list going of very cool, boutique (or larger) developers.

Bit of a contradiction, no? CIM Group develops incredible projects, but they're no more boutique than Related or Hines is...

Commercial Real Estate Developer

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Dec 30, 2018 - 10:11pm

I always thought CIM was substantially smaller than Related or Hines. My point of this list wasn't to define boutique or not, but to get a list of developers others may not have heard of.

I'd imagine everyone in the RE forum knows Related/ Hines/ Starwood/ BlackStone. And there are other threads on REPEs. Maybe everyone knows about CIM. But the other boutique developers mentioned are more in line of what I was looking to get together.

“The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary.” - Nassim Taleb
  • 4
Jan 1, 2019 - 1:06pm

Some of those bigger companies are more acquisition focused than development, so while their AUMs may be much larger, their development volume might be similiar to CIM.

Jan 1, 2019 - 8:09pm

That is a good point. I also know their are smaller firms that mostly do acquisitions, like RedCar based out here in LA. Though they do focus on core-plus deals, it's not normally ground up for them.

“The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary.” - Nassim Taleb
Jan 2, 2019 - 1:15pm

Not that I personally know. I'm in SoCal so that's why I keep tabs on LA/ OC stuff. NYC gets a lot of RE Development headlines too.

Hopefully someone else can shed some light here.

“The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary.” - Nassim Taleb
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  • Anonymous Monkey
  • Rank: Chimp
Jan 5, 2019 - 6:20pm

My favorite developer for the past few years. I've toured one of their developments and its absolutely stunning. Love everything that they have done lately & how they incorporate art into their projects. I'll list a few more NYC firms:

DDG Partners
Naftali Group
Madison Equities
Metroloft Management
Cape Advisors
VE Equities
Bizzi & Partners
Adam America (Brooklyn centric firm)
Ceruzzi Properties (RIP LOU)
Tribeca Associates

Jan 17, 2020 - 2:28pm

Wow I was in a crazy deal with Lou and when that happened their negotiations weakened big time, I guess his wife is trying to run the show while also handling his Will?

Dec 23, 2019 - 2:14pm

I can throw out a few:

Austin - Endeavor Real Estate Group, Cielo Property Group, Momark

Houston - DC Partners, MetroNational, Kaldis Development, GID Development, Caydon (last two national/international with offices and interesting projects in city)

Dallas - Beck Ventures, Kaizen Development, Hillwood

Jan 15, 2020 - 3:30pm

Agreed that Radom Capital is doing some cool stuff. Montrose Collective looks awesome!

Midway Companies, in Houston - their EaDo project looks sweet.

Stonelake Capital, especially their work at the Domain in Austin.

Jan 11, 2019 - 3:38pm

Adventurous Journeys Capital (Chicago Athletic Association, Soho House Chicago)
https://ajcpt.com/portfolio

For the sake of urban fabric, every development should have some ground-level humane spaces for the public to just duck in, sit and be.

Like the Chicago Athletic Association's second floor lobby. A couple hundred people a day get a drink or bite while they hang out there because there's a sense of place, sense of society (it's like a public library combined with a club).

Jan 11, 2019 - 3:57pm
statementofcashflow:

I know they develop almost exclusively in the Northwest but Vulcan is a powerhouse in the Seattle market (developed Amazon's campus). They always have sexy looking deals popping up every year.

Never even heard of them.

Looks like they build some cool stuff though

Commercial Real Estate Developer

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Mar 7, 2019 - 3:23am

CIM is huge and active everywhere, it seems. Firms developing millions of square feet and thousands of units in any given year are bigger than anything except the very very biggest national firms.

Jan 14, 2020 - 9:23pm

i like how i opened this thread to read about some creative, scrappy 3-man shops who are trying to do something unique and have to fight for capital ... instead it's about the same billion-dollar players who already dominate the headlines.

Jan 17, 2020 - 2:29pm

At the time I created it, some of the shops were a lot smaller. Since then they've grown a lot. Some were already big, admittedly.

“The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary.” - Nassim Taleb
Jan 15, 2020 - 9:02am

They're not a pure play developer, but Brandywine Property Trust has built and owns a lot of cool buildings in the Philadelphia area, and they seem to be expanding more into other markets mostly in the Mid-Atlantic. They focus on office buildings, but they have a good blend of urban vs suburban

I’m a fun guy. Obviously I love the game of basketball. I mean there’s more questions you have to ask me in order for me to tell you about myself. I'm not just gonna give you a whole spill... I mean, I don't even know where you're sitting at

Jan 15, 2020 - 10:29am

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Jan 15, 2020 - 11:39am

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I’m a fun guy. Obviously I love the game of basketball. I mean there’s more questions you have to ask me in order for me to tell you about myself. I'm not just gonna give you a whole spill... I mean, I don't even know where you're sitting at

Jan 15, 2020 - 12:18pm

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Commercial Real Estate Developer

Jan 17, 2020 - 3:30pm

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