Saturday, November 23, 2013

November 22, 1963 / The "D" Word

November 22, 1963

There were long-standing plans to move from Forest Hills, NY to Livingston, NJ on November 22, 1963.  It was going to be a huge event – my Dad just closed on his very first home and the family was leaving the city and moving to the suburbs.  Little did anyone know what would transpire that day and how truly huge the events would be for the world - let alone the Felix family. 

President John Kennedy and my Dad were both born in 1917.  My dad, Manney Felix, died four years ago this week at 92.  John Kennedy - assassinated on that day in 1963 - was 46. 

Everyone of a certain age remembers exactly where he or she was when they heard JFK was shot.  We had stopped at my grandparents’ apartment in Rego Park to say ‘goodbye’ before we moved exactly 30.7 miles west.  Someone came out of the elevator and exclaimed, “The President is dead!”  What?? The youthful and charismatic president, dead??  Impossible.  But it was true. 

We were on a tight schedule that day and had to get into the car and meet the moving van at our new home. Had things been different, we probably would have camped out at my grandparents’ apartment and watched the news.

The movers finished delivering the furniture from our small apartment (not nearly enough to fill the new split-level).  We unpacked only one thing - the black and white TV.  We didn’t stop watching it the entire weekend as the craziness unfolded and magnified.

This is the 50th anniversary of JFK’s death.  My generation lost our innocence that day.   Other generations have lost theirs on other dates....December 7, 1941; September 11, 2001.  The relative safety a generation had grown up with disappeared in the blink of an eye. 
There are significant days in all our lives; those that are etched into our memories forever.  Some are recorded in public history - others in personal or family legend.

I would have loved if my Dad had documented some stories about his life although I do have a few cassette tapes of ‘interviews’ I conducted with him and his sister Phyllis.  From their different recollections you would have thought they had grown up in different families!  My Mom, who died relatively quickly after being diagnosed with brain cancer, simply never had the chance after getting sick. 

I have been documenting my own stories, on and off, for a number of years as a project called, “Driving With Your Knees.”  It’s not easy for me to be disciplined about it – I do it in fits and starts.  Perhaps you may want to consider beginning this type of project.  And this work continues, for as long as you live….whenever you feel like it…  You don’t even need to be sick to start a project like this…How nice to begin when you’re feeling your best. It doesn’t have to be in writing, you can speak into a recording device (like your phone). You don’t have to self-edit…just let it flow. The stories will accumulate and paint a picture of a life…yours! It’s fun to reread some of your own highlights. And this may simply be another way to share yourself with others who care about you.

The "D" Word

The ‘D’ word is in vogue.  In real estate I’m talking about ‘development.’  This week it came up in two different university Masters of Real Estate programs; we heard it directly from the students at Johns Hopkins and read it in student bios from the University of Wisconsin.

Some of the international students at Johns Hopkins Real Estate and Infrastructure program at the Carey Business School plan to bring acquired knowledge, gained through education and internships, back to their home country and develop various types of properties.  Some of the US students mentioned they may be more likely to seek positions with existing development companies - and some hope to strike out on their own immediately.  

Having worked for three developers in my career I can confirm that development is exciting.  At times however it is also excruciating, frustrating, exasperating, and perplexing. It is certainly always challenging and, ultimately, rewarding.  

At the Global Real Estate Markets Conference in New York - hosted by the James A. Graaskamp Center for Real Estate, Wisconsin School of Business - the discussion was around global development.
David Simon, Chairman and CEO of Simon Property Group, (global retail real estate developer) said, “At some point too much building will occur and the guy that has the capital will be able to buy things cheaply and clean things up.” 

Doing business in emerging markets requires partnering up with the right development company.  While there are certain challenges in the US, for example, when a New York City developer decides to build a shopping center in Glendive, Montana, they pale in comparison to the lack of transparency issues that are known to exist in China.   
The enthusiasm for real estate exhibited by student groups this week was undeniable.  And, the competitiveness for jobs in commercial real estate is very real.  Some of the students with development in mind may not find that opportunity right away. But as Bob Lieb, Chairman of New Jersey-based Mountain Development (and a former neighbor) once told me, “The best way to learn the real estate business is from the ground up.”  Of course, that’s the way buildings are constructed. But it also holds true for a career.  I salute those emerging commercial real estate professionals with the courage and conviction to enter the ranks of development.  The passion for the industry that I know and love - shown by all students I’ve interacted with - is a joy to be around. 

On The Road…

Dec. 4:  Tishman Speyer and RCPI Landmark Properties, 81stRockefeller Center Tree Lighting, New York, NY

Jan. 22 - 24, 2014:  IMN (Information Management Network) Winter Forum on Opportunity and Private Fund Investing, Laguna Beach, CA

Mar. 11 - 14: MIPIM, Cannes, France

Enjoy the Thanksgiving Holiday!!  OTR will return the first week in December.

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