Friday, December 24, 2010

Photo:  Cottage in the English Countryside.  Thanks Stephen.

Some things are happening in the real estate cosmos that give me a cautious but renewed sense of better times on the way.  What are they, you ask?  Well, for one thing, there are some RFP/RFQ/RFI starting to surface.  Another thing is just the way people are talking and behaving; it just seems like we’re tired of what’s been happening and need to, well, be the change we wish to see in the real estate world (sorry Mahatma); and we’re just the people to do it.  Of course, valuations are still not something that people agree on as is the price of debt.  But when I read that CMBS’ are being talked about, well, that means something too, doesn’t it?  Of course, this is pure speculation on my part and my crystal ball is not any clearer than yours but don’t you feel a change coming?

I’ve spoken about how important client/customer service is and we’ve all heard and read how much more it costs to acquire a new customer than to keep an old one.  Well, this past Monday night I was the customer and I experienced what may have been the worst customer service (except for that waiter in Paris one time) that I’ve ever had.  I will not bore you with the details but suffice it to say that I will never, ever go back to this place where I had brought a lot of people over the years. The name of the place that I will never return to is Pera Brasserie on Madison Avenue between 41 and 42nd Streets in New York.  Even if you were thinking of going and asking me for a referral I couldn’t provide you with any:  the two managers I had gotten to know (who knew what customer service was all about), the bartender, the servers, the coat check person, even the chef have all been let go over the past few months.  Watching this place self-destruct is just another bad example to keep alongside the good examples of things we want to remember.

So, this drink thing on Monday night:  there were about 42 people who showed up.  A few of my highlights involved some people reconnecting after many, many years of not seeing each other; of people meeting each other for the first time and chatting up a storm; of my being able to introduce my wife to a number of folks who were formerly a name only and of celebrating the holiday and the upcoming start of a new year.   The demographics:  commercial/institutional real estate people from various walks of life; one artist/chef/branding expert; executive recruiters; private equity real estate managers; real estate data gurus; a retired real estate exec who is now a published author; an exec from a well-known real estate family office; someone who works for Mike Bloomberg and is helping form the Chinatown BID (Business Improvement District) and real estate owners, brokers, developers and service people.  Truly eclectic. 100% real estate. Thanks to everyone who was there.  It was fun to see you all together.

On Wednesday the stretch of Abbey Road where the Beatles were photographed for the cover of the album of the same title was designated a site of national importance by the British Department for Culture, Media and Sport, meaning that it cannot be altered without the approval of the local authorities.  In the mid 2000’s, IREI’s Geof Dohrmann and I got to cross this street and have our picture taken doing it.  It’s rock and roll history.  Hell, it's history! 

Photo:  Snow in Holland.  Thanks Marinus.

Congratulations to my good friend, Jim Hime who has just been named Chief Financial Officer of Global Real Estate at ADIA (Abu Dabhi Investment Authority) and has moved from one humid climate to another.  BTW, Jim is an award-winning author of three mystery novels which I have totally enjoyed reading (

There's something nice about the fact that the holiday display windows at Macy's flagship store in Herald Square in New York still draws lines of people. In a world of virtual extreme technology, video games that are more than real, music videos that look like you are in outer space and inner space at the same time, these window displays, featuring barely animated figures telling holiday stories, are a throwback to a simpler time.  Congrats to Macy’s for keeping up a tradition that allows younger generations a chance to see a kinder and gentler approach to Christmas. (

My parting thought on this holiday weekend is: Happy Christmas to all my friends around the world who celebrate this holiday. I hope you are where you want to be and sharing it with those who are most special to you.  Seasons change.  But the feeling of togetherness and belonging is constant.  Even if you don’t celebrate the holiday (which I believe has transcended religion in many ways), celebrate the spirit of giving.  Celebrate life.  Celebrate the closeness of all of us, wherever we are.   And celebrate the spirit of peace that, regardless of what is going on, is strong inside us all. 

 Photo:  Sunset over Manhattan and New Jersey; Monday evening; from my office.

These are my views and not that of my employer.

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