In memoriam: Dick Steinberg
Dick Steinberg of Mall Properties / now Olshan Properties, died the other day.
I got the news from a long-time friend, and former colleague at Mall Properties.
Dick was one of the most respected people in the shopping mall / shopping center industry. He was Executive Vice President of the ‘vertically-integrated’ (although I don’t think that term was used much in the 1980’s when I worked there) firm that built several well - known regional malls: Cortana Mall, Baton Rouge, LA; Coliseum Mall, Hampton, VA; Northway Mall, Colonie (Albany), NY.
Dick was both my boss and mentor. He taught me many things that were extremely valuable, not only to the work I did but also in my life. Dick taught me the subtlities of negotiating real estate leases so that it resulted in a win-win.
He showed a sincere interest in me from the day I went to interview with he and Mort Olshan, CEO of Mall.
Thinking back now I remember sitting with them in Dick’s office on the 11th floor of an office building on Madison & 60th Street. I had been introduced to them by an industry friend, who worked at Mall Properties. I was in between jobs.
As I sat there, answering questions, I saw they had interest in me. As the conversation progressed, I asked them for a ‘signing bonus.’ I remember both with big smiles on their faces and Mort said, ‘What, do you think this is the New York Yankees?’ Side note: Mort became (and I believe still is) a significant shareholder in the Yankees!
Prior to joining Mall I had worked on some distressed retail property assignments.
Mall Properties had bought a large community shopping center in West Babylon, Long Island, NY with plans to renovate it and redevelop it with higher rents. Shortly after that purchase closed, the one department store informed Mall that they would be moving to an enclosed regional mall in a town not that far away.
That left a three-story, 160,000 square foot (if my memory serves me correctly) department store sitting in Great South Bay Shopping Center - not the highest priority location for another department store. My first project was to turn that property around and Dick Steinberg and I worked closely together on that and ended up putting a Caldor Discount Department store on the first floor and worked at leasing the top two floors to office space - which was not a huge success.
I’d meet with Dick every day to report progress. His door was always open and some days I’d walk in multiple times - discussing a lease I was negotiating and sometimes moaning about the leasing how difficult things were. He said, "You can do this...that's why we hired you!).
Dick was always supportive and understanding of the challenges I was facing in this project (and others I inherited). He always had some good suggestions of things I could try – and I did.
Dick and I also worked together on the redevelopment of class-B enclosed mall in Colonie (Albany), New York called Northway Mall. The timing was right, and we converted it to a successful outlet and off-price center.
Dick Steinberg was always respectful of the team at Mall. We all worked together well – even with challenging situations.
In 1985 when I had a heart scare (that turned out to be a misdiagnosis), when I was allowed to come back into the office for a half-day (which I was itching to do), Dick allowed me to use a car service to drive me to and from my house which was about a 40-minute drive in New Jersey.
Dick was a Boston native and, as you would expect, had a typical Boston dry sense of humor – although he didn’t have that Boston accent.
Dick and I stayed in touch over the years; I’d go into the office when I was in the city and then, after he retired, we’d meet for lunch about once a year and catch up on things (mostly him asking me questions of how things were – in business and with me personally). I always looked forward to seeing him. I will miss him. Dick Steinberg was a class act.
My condolences to his wife and family.
RIP my mentor and friend….