In praise of the developers


Did I mention I love real estate developers? Not like I love my wife or my kids or even my dog, but Real Estate Developers are definitely among my favorite people.

Think about it.

Real estate developers are like gods. [Well, miniature gods, at least.] They create much of the physical world we inhabit. The houses and condominiums we live in. Grocery store and pharmacy down the street. Settlements and casinos, and golf courses we enjoy in our free time. Restaurants. Shopping malls. Office buildings. China. Truck terminals. Medical and surgical centers. Spas. Factories. Warehouses. Halls. Garage parking. Hotels.

You name it; if its “artificial,” tied to dirt, and we can get into it, a real estate developer was probably involved.

Real estate developers are visionaries. They have a vision to recognize trends and the need for change. They recognize the imbalance between what exists and what is needed. They see neighborhoods and cities and regions underway as opportunities for reconstruction and improvement. Not only do real estate developers see an opportunity, but they take advantage of it. They envision change and commitment to it. Then work on it; massage it; to shape; squeeze it; stir; shake; mix; juggle; and do it.

How could no one like that?

Real estate developers are visionaries with a purpose. Visionaries who know how to turn their vision into reality. They are optimistic. They are dreamers and workers wrapped in one. And for me, they are fun. It’s not funny, it’s necessary, but it’s fun to be around. It’s fun to work. Fun to dream.

I remember in 1992 when John L. Marks of the Mark IV Realty Group walked into my office and said he wanted to buy and remodel the Marina City shopping center in downtown Chicago. At the time, the Marina City shopping complex was a rat. Mostly empty. In execution. Language in bankruptcy. Burdened with nearly $ 10,000,000 in unpaid and delinquent property taxes. He is physically failing and needs tens of millions of dollars in repairs. The owners of the residential condominiums occupying the first 40 floors of the two towers with corn cobs in the shape of corn were understandably hostile and did not cooperate.

Yet in all this mess, John saw an opportunity. He had a vision of how this decaying, decaying behemoth eye could turn into an economically viable and advanced gem.

We spent most of the next four years working on that project. The transformation was extraordinary. There was an explosion.

Today, the Marina City shopping complex is home to the Bluza House, the House Blues Hotel, the Smith and Wollensky Steak Hotel, the Bine 36 Wine Café, Crunch Fitness, the 10 pin pin bowling salon, the Marina Marina, the Marina Skipper Bud’s and many other successful businesses. Pie-shaped condominiums that start above a 20-story parking garage in each of the residential towers have grown significantly and offer some of the most dramatic views of the sky in Chicago. The entire Marina City complex has been re-established as an advanced mecca of mixed entertainment and entertainment in the heart of Chicago.

Why? Because Chicago Real Estate builder John John Marks had a vision and a commitment to accomplishment.

Did I mention I love real estate developers?

Recently, in the spring of 2005, I received an invitation to join the Madkatstep Entertainment LLC development team.

Madkatstep Entertainment is a combined company of Sears, Roebuck and Co., a retail giant, and Ryan Companies US, Inc., a remarkably creative and entrepreneurial real estate developer based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. [Yes, I love Ryan Companies too.]

It started with an idea.

The Ryan companies had the idea to build and own a sports and entertainment place in a affluent community that needed practical and unique entertainment opportunities.

Sears moved its headquarters to Hoffman Estates, Illinois, in the early 1990s. As part of that move, Sears gained a large footprint of a neighboring country that was ready and available for development.

The Hoffman Estates community is ahead in a growing and affluent area northwest of Chicago in search of quality living amenities for its residents.

It was a match made in the sky.

By the time they invited me as lead development advisor, Sears and Ryan had already negotiated a Memorandum of Understanding with the village of Hoffman Estates, which set the basic framework for the new Sears Center Arena, including general terms for municipal funding.

The main tenant of the new Sears Center Arena is a professional hockey team. The key development goal was to build an arena of 11,000, 240,000 square feet and ready to move in on time for the fall 2006 hockey season. It was already in April 2005, just 18 months from the target opening date. Even the fastest construction plan required at least 14 months from penetration to opening. Time is running out.

In the 100-day rush that followed, the entire development team entered the zone and worked with the village of Hoffman Estates for most of the day.

The real estate development engineer, Ryan Companies US, Inc., worked closely with the real estate departments in Sears, Roebuck and Co. and ownership contracts, and to host dissidents of projects that have threatened a lawsuit to delay or stop the construction of the arena.

In the end, creativity, perseverance and intense focus led to the official revolutionary development for Sears Center Arena on July 21, 2005. It is a unique sports and entertainment facility that will serve the village of Hoffman Estates and neighboring cities for decades to come. It already serves as an economic engine for complementary development that will provide new jobs, new opportunities and an expanded tax base.

These two examples of the creative development of visionary real estate builders are not unique. Between these two notable examples, and beyond, the scenario is repeated over and over again in large and small development projects.

Restoration of functionally obsolete or decaying shopping centers, warehouses and other structures into modern and advanced enterprises.

The resurrection of crumbling and crumbling areas in cities and houses into homes and apartment buildings with retail and service activities to support new neighborhoods.

Recycling polluted brown fields into safe and productive environments for consumers and businesses.

Greenfield development that provides new opportunities, new jobs and new services for emerging communities and families.

Real estate developers see the need, keep up with the challenge, and improve the world we live in.

I’m blessed to work with incredibly creative and dedicated real estate developers, big and small, who make a difference – and make money – while having fun in the process.

Did I say fun? Maybe not at all times, while they face all the challenges, but mostly real estate developers are people who truly enjoy what they do. As a commercial real estate lawyer, for me, the job has always been exciting.

Why do I love real estate developers? Ask yourself: How many times do you have the opportunity to work with people who make their job “exciting”? What’s not to love about it?

So, the next time you meet a real estate developer, take his hand, look him straight in the eye, and say with deep gratitude and sincerity:

“Thank you! My friend Kymn Harp thinks you’re the most beautiful person in the world. He loves you and thinks you’re great.” [Then slip him my business card and ask him to call me.]

Thanks for listening.

R. Kymn Harp

P.S. For those of you with “normal” names – or at least conventional spellings of names, you might appreciate this help:

My name “Kymn” is a family name and is pronounced “Kim”. Think of “Kymn” as “church hymn,” with “K” instead of “H”. To remember that, connect my last name “Harf” with “Angels”. Then, if that helps, think of me as “Kymn Harp, the dirty angel of real estate developers” (with a law degree).

Thanks again,