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 (57)

Dec 27, 2018

Property Markets Group (NYC I think, have offices a few different places)

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Dec 27, 2018

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

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Dec 27, 2018

TMG (best developer in San Francisco)

Sterling Bay (designed west loop Chicago)

Merlone Geier (best retail developers on the west coast)

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Dec 27, 2018
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.

Dec 30, 2018
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!

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Dec 27, 2018

Sterling Bay has so many things going on right now in Chicago, can't believe they can even keep it straight.

Jan 2, 2019

Do you have any more insight to TMG or any others in the bay area?

Dec 27, 2018

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.

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Dec 27, 2018

Worthe is awesome, great add.

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

Dec 27, 2018

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 27, 2018

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.

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Dec 27, 2018
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.

Dec 27, 2018

Agree, also, Aby Rosen is a billionaire, no?

Dec 28, 2018

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 28, 2018

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

Dec 27, 2018

Chelsea Market in NY was amazing. What a sale as well....

Dec 30, 2018
Mark Queban:

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

Ponce City Market is incredible in Atlanta

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Dec 28, 2018

I visited early this year and was blown away. What a place to work too... I believe the Jamestown guys office there.

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Dec 28, 2018

What are we considering boutique? Shop size? Square feet developed/AUM?

Dec 27, 2018

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

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Most Helpful
Dec 28, 2018

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

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Dec 28, 2018

L&L is a great one.

That TSX Project is going to be insane. Would be awesome to work on it.

Dec 27, 2018

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

Dec 28, 2018

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

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Dec 27, 2018

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

Dec 29, 2018

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.

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Dec 28, 2018

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).

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Dec 27, 2018

agree

Dec 29, 2018

Lalezarian

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Dec 29, 2018

Hackman Capital Group

Jamison Services

Primestor Development

Festival Companies

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Dec 27, 2018

Has Festival been pretty active lately? good list

Dec 30, 2018
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...

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Dec 27, 2018

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.

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Jan 1, 2019

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.

Dec 27, 2018

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.

Jan 2, 2019

Anything outside of NYC and LA?

In DC much smaller but Ditto used to do some cooler projects. Seems like they've lost their way recently...

Insight
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Dec 27, 2018

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.

Jan 2, 2019

If you're looking for DC insight PM me. Check out Carr Properties, MRP, LCOR, Edens, Kettler, Douglas Development, Stonebridge Carras, Ditto, Bernstein, Chevy Chase Land, BF Saul, Monument, Property Group Partners.

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Mar 7, 2019

JBG-S, Bozzuto, Quadrangle, are some others as well. JBG being one of the local BSD's in town.

Mar 8, 2019

mind if I PM?

Dec 27, 2018

Optima's stuff in Arizona is really cool

Jan 2, 2019

agree, their Kierland Commons deal is absolutely baller

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Jan 5, 2019

Did anyone mention ddg in nyc? Some stunning condo projects

Jan 5, 2019

Did anyone mention ddg in nyc? Some stunning condo projects

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Dec 28, 2018

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 11, 2019

Anyone have any Houston/Austin/Dallas suggestions? Would love to put some more developers on my list to keep an eye out for, especially if they're based in Houston.

Two Houston based firms with some interesting properties:

Radom Capital

Lovett Commercial

Jan 11, 2019

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).

Array

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Jan 11, 2019

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.

Dec 30, 2018
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

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Dec 27, 2018

I can't tell if this is a joke lol

Mar 7, 2019

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.

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Mar 7, 2019

Anyone know any in the DFW area?

Mar 9, 2019

Todd Interests does really cool work. Check out 400 North Ervay St. They are also redeveloping the Masonic Temple building.