Geoffrey Newman | Executive Managing Director | Savills North America | Returning to where it all started

Transcript

DA: Welcome to TEN, the Tenant Experience Network. I’m your host, David Abrams. In this episode, we are connecting with Geoffrey Newman, executive managing director at Savills North America. In this episode, we learn how Geoffrey began his career journey as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C. with a focus on social justice issues. What got him into real estate? The lure of money. Geoffrey took the opportunity to get into the CRE space with Studley, now Savills. And under the watchful eye of industry experts, he was fortunate enough to be able to cut his teeth working on a landmark building in lower Manhattan, where he learned the ins and outs about sales and redevelopment. When the financial crisis hit and many of Geoffrey’s projects went into hibernation, he was presented with an opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream of living in Africa. And so began a fascinating four-year journey in East Africa and the inspiring lessons he carries from that experience. Upon his returned to the US, Geoffrey landed at Newmark, and for the next eight years he worked on many different redevelopments, achieved industry recognition, and developed some expertise in the not-for-profit sector. This work, along with launching a photography museum the same time has led Geoffrey back to where it all started, at Savills. He attributes much of his success and professional acumen to mentorship. Geoffrey acknowledges the magnitude of the challenge in front of the CRE industry as B and C Class buildings strive to remain relevant. We are looking at a 15-year time horizon for the continued evolution of this very large segment of the market to perhaps take on a new purpose or reimagined use. We had an interesting discussion around the connection between buildings and communities. Geoffrey offers a unique perspective on technology and the potential impact of the amount of real estate space needed, both in commercial as well as not-for-profit settings. I absolutely loved hearing about Geoffrey’s journey, and I hope you will too. We’re excited to share this podcast with you, so be sure to subscribe to TEN so you never miss an episode of the Tenant Experience Network. And now I’d like to welcome Geoffrey to the show. I’m really glad you could be with us today. How are you?

GN: Good, David, thank you. Thank you for having me.

DA: Oh, my pleasure. To get started, I’d love to hear about your journey to your current position role. How did you get started?

GN: Sure, so I’ll give you a 60-second version of a very long story. So I was actually working in Washington, D.C. as a lobbyist. And I worked for an organization that was really primarily focused on social justice issues, so we would go to Capitol Hill and lobby on particular bills and what was happening. And I very much enjoyed the work and really never thought about commercial real estate, never thought about what office buildings were, how people ended up in them, never thought about how property was developed. But my family had had some history in the real estate business, and my aunt at the time was running the real estate for Cisco. And they were considering taking 600,000 square feet and being the anchor tenant at the building which was going to be built on top of the Port Authority in New York. And I was out in California and I was visiting her and she said, “Geez, all these guys are doing all this interesting stuff and it might be something that you’re interested in.” I said, “Ah, probably not interested in any of that.” And she said, “Well, they’re making a lot of money,” and it sort of just sort of piqued my interest.

DA: All of a sudden I’m interested.

GN: Right. And she said, “Well, why don’t you go up to New York and meet this guy, Ira Schuman,” who was her broker at Studley at the time who was negotiating the lease on top of the Port Authority, “and see what you think of him.” So I got on a train and I came up to New York and I met Ira, and was completely sort of fascinated and interested in what he had to say. I loved the energy that existed in the office place. I met all the different brokers that were there and they seemed to be sort of a lot like me. And he said, “If you work really hard, you’ll make a million dollars.” And I said, “A million dollars, you mean in a year?” And he said, “Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.” And so it just sort of blew me away because I never, we didn’t grow up with any money and it never really occurred to me that people were doing that. So I went back to Washington and kept doing my job but I couldn’t kind of get that out of my head. And so eventually about three months later, I agreed that I would give it a shot. And so I came up to New York in January of 2001, which was really right as the tech bubble was blowing up and that impact on the office sector, and obviously a number of months before 9/11, and came up and started working for what was at the time Studley and is now Savills. Ira was really focused on the nonprofit world and sales and development, and sort of interesting, strategically difficult, thoughtful transactions. And having him really as my mentor sort of took me down that road as well, down that path. And he at the time had been hired to sell a building in lower Manhattan at 5 Beekman Street, beautiful old, stunning landmark New York building. And he put me on the project and just sort of said, “Run with this and I’ll give you guidance and this is how you’ll learn the business,” which is how you learn the business, it’s an apprenticeship. You can’t go to college and figure out how to do commercial real estate in Manhattan, you have to carry somebody’s bag around for three or four years who is invested in you and your success. So I did that, and would go down every day and show the building to prospective purchasers and learned everything I could about the building, about the engineering, about the MEPs, about the structure, about the architecture, about the nature of zoning, about air rights, about landmarks, about everything that you could sort of conceive of as part of a sale or redevelopment process of commercial real estate in New York. And then, of course, 9/11 hit and really everything went on pause in the city for the next year or so. But then as interest rates started to come down, of course, the commercial property market started to take off again. And then we had a very strong run of about six years where we did a number of sort of the most notable transactions in New York at the time. We did about 300,000 feet for DHL, 250,000 feet for New School, a series of dormitories, represented a bunch of nonprofits, Red Cross, redevelopment projects, ground-up buildings. So we had just, it was a, in general, a great time in the commercial real estate business in New York, and it was really, in many ways, the birth of the modern sort of form of the business. And then we moved into the third crisis of my short tenure in New York, which was the financial crisis in 2008. And during the time period, see, I promised you this would be a one minute version-

DA: No, it’s-

GN: … of the story, but it’s not.

DA: This is actually my favorite question, and I just love hearing about the different ways in which people come to this business, so please continue.

GN: Okay. So when the financial crisis hit, the stuff that we were working on really just went into hibernation. And I had always wanted to live overseas and always wanted to live specifically in Africa. So I took the opportunity to do that, and I resigned from Studley at the time and got on a plane two weeks later to Africa, to Cairo, specifically, took an apartment, and I spent the better part of the next four years in East Africa doing kind of microloans with my own money for people that, really, it’s kind of the bottom rung of the social ladder in African countries. There’s kind of an informal trash collection business in most major African cities, at least in East Africa. And the trash is oftentimes collected by people that live in the trash dumps themselves. And they take the trash and they break it down its component parts and they recycle it and they sell it off. And that’s how they earn a living. And they exist in the most horrible conditions you’ve ever seen, heartbreaking stuff. But they have a tremendous spirit about them and they are the most efficient recyclers in the world, nobody’s even close. They recycle at a rate of about 92%. So 92% of the matter that comes into them, they’re able to break that down and recycle that in some form. In the case of plastic, they break it down, they melt it, they pelletize it, they put it in bags, and then they sell it down the chain where it gets recycled and used in other material. So I was there for, as I said, the better part of four years. And the end of my time in Africa was around the Egyptian Revolution. So I was fortunate enough to be, or unfortunate enough, depending on your perspective, in Tahrir Square during that protest and crackdown period. And a number of, about a month or so after that, I came back to the United States with actually a young kid in tow who wanted to come live in the United States and wanted to study. And his family had sort of begged me to take him out of what was a very unsettled time, to sort of say the least. And so I agreed to do that. My girlfriend at the time who would become my wife agreed to do it as well. So we brought him back with us to, I brought him back with us to New York, and he ended up studying here for about three years and then went back to Africa and is now involved in the recycling business and teaching others to do the same. So a minor success story at a very difficult time.

DA: Wow, that’s incredible. Amazing.

GN: So I came back to New York, again, I told you this was going to be a one minute story.

DA: Yeah, yeah. No, it’s only one minute in some other form of time, maybe, but go ahead.

GN: Right, well, you can edit this all out, right? So I came back to New York, and rather than coming back to work at Studley, which I did consider pretty strongly, I thought it was probably best for me to go and kind of carry my own bag, if you will, and see if I could do this thing on my own. So I knew Barry Gosin over at Newmark, and decided that I would go over there and spend the better part of eight years there really focused on the same kind of stuff that I had learned while carrying Ira’s bag around the city. And the first major project that I ended up doing at that point was a very large land assemblage in the Flatiron District on 22nd Street just west of Park Avenue South for what would become Madison Square Park Tower, which is this sort of 800-foot tall cantilever residential luxury condominium building down there. And that was the result of assembling kind of eight different parcels and moving rent regulated tenants and removing existing tenants and tearing down buildings and purchasing air rights and sort of everything that you could conceivably do as part of a pre-development process. And I spent about two years doing that, at the beginning of which I was about 6′ 1″ and at the end of which I was about 5′ 11″, and ended up winning REBNY’s Most Ingenious Deal of the Year Award for that. And that was really my sort of springboard being kind of out there on my own for that kind of work, that representing nonprofits, the sort of development side of the business. Most nonprofits tend to be kind of land rich and cash poor, and religious institutions as well, both of them sort of tend to sit in the same boat. And there’s typically a way of using the real estate to forward the mission and provide enough cash to kind of ensure their survival and perpetuity. And so I did a bunch of those deals over that eight-year period, took a little pivot and built a photography museum in New York called Fotografiska, actually on the other side of Park Avenue South and 22nd Street in a landmarked building, 281 Park Avenue South, with myself and a couple of different partners, one being Aby Rosen, who owns RFR here in New York, and a German investor. And we spent almost $50 million renovating the building and opening the business. And so it’s such an interesting component of what we do in that you kind of never know where you’re going to end up, and in that case, I ended up as general partner owning a photography museum in New York. Who would’ve thought that would happen? But it was a completely fascinating deal, it’s still open to this day and kind of a very sexy, interesting space. If you ever get the chance, you should go see it.

DA: Yeah, for sure.

GN: And then about two years ago, kind of in the middle of the pandemic, we had, myself and my family had gone away, we had gone to Lake George, and we were sort of staying up there and I was kind of thinking about myself and my career and about who I liked to be around and who I liked to spend my time with. And I had always looked so fondly on my years at Studley and the people that I worked with and the winter trips that we would take, which were these reward trips to these far-off places like China and all kinds of different places as a culture building-exercise, and I just always, it just always sort of stayed close to my heart. And they reached out to me and started recruiting me back, and over a period of eight months or something, we agreed to do that and then I came back here a little over a year ago.

DA: Wow.

GN: So that’s my one minute version.

DA: Okay, that’s a great 60-second story, first of all.

GN: So we’re almost done with the podcast now, right?

DA: That’s right, we’ve run out of time, thanks for joining me.

GN: You’re welcome.

DA: But I, quite honestly, it is my favorite question, and it’s just fascinating to hear all the ways in which people eventually arrive at this business. And it is a crazy business and it’s a fascinating business and I think the fact that people come at it from so many different perspectives and so many different experiences is what I think makes it even that much more interesting. So to you then I would ask, in the end, why do you think you were so uniquely suited to this opportunity? What enabled you then to be successful? ‘Cause not everybody who somebody might say to them, “Hey, come into this business, you might make a million dollars,” not everyone’s going to be successful, ultimately.

GN: That’s true, and in fact, most people aren’t successful.

DA: Well, there you go.

GN: And I’ve sort of spent some time thinking about that through my career and kind of analyzing why that is so, and for me, it comes back to a couple of different issues. The first is mentorship. And as I mentioned before, if you don’t have someone who’s skilled in the business, who’s taking care of you, who’s teaching you, who is telling you how to kind of do this on a day-to-day basis, how to interact with people, how to speak with people, how to get your point across, how to think about real estate transactions in their entirety, how to figure out zoning, how to figure out leases, how to do kind of all of these different things which just takes years to figure out. Especially if you have kind of a comprehensive practice where you can do leasing or you can do sales, or you can do development, or you can open a photography museum, which is probably the only lease in the history of the city of New York which was signed by a broker, 45,000-foot lease. And so it gave me perspective on what it meant to take on those kinds of obligations. And so all of that kind of experience together shapes you and molds you. But if you don’t have that sort of, if the clay isn’t sort of fertile to begin with, it’s hard to kind of do that. And I think that fertility is based on a couple of things. One is being kind of street smart, and in many ways, people of my age were raised to be that because there wasn’t a tremendous amount of parental oversight, we were just sort of let out to kind of figure things out on our own, and it created a lot of sort of street sense in people. And that goes to how you read people, how they read you, how you express yourself, how you express your ideas, whether or not you can do that in sort of a charismatic way that lets people believe in you and expresses your experience and your level of expertise. So it’s that kind of a package that really, I think makes sense for this business. But as you know, it’s a very odd business in that there are no barriers to entry, right? So you have just sort of this flood of people that get into it and what ends up happening is if you are on the right track and if you have the right guidance, most of the business is done by probably 15% of people.

DA: Right, right.

GN: And for the rest, it’s a struggle.

DA: Yeah, for sure, the two key things you mentioned, the mentorship and the street smarts, that totally makes sense to me. I think we can agree that the commercial real estate industry has just gone through one of the most turbulent periods of time we can ever remember, although, as you pointed out in your opening remarks, you’ve been through a couple of them before. Commercial real estate, still the largest asset class in the world, but it’s still rebounding really from this prolonged period of historically low occupancy levels. And it’s really continuing to evolve to meet now these new emerging needs of people. And at the same time, it’s dealing with the disruption of new technology in the industry. Ultimately we think that’s a good thing, helping to deliver new space and new service and new ways. Now, my team at HILO, we really believe that the workplace is now just much part of a much larger workspace ecosystem. And while buildings may be at the core, we’re now fighting with or dealing with the fact that people continue to work from their dining room table, a neighborhood co-working space, a local cafe, a deck at their summer home. So what do you think all that means? What are you seeing right now within the industry as to how perhaps we’re re-imagining the way in which the industry can meet the needs of people in this new world?

GN: Right, well, I might take a little bit of a different viewpoint on that. Sometimes I think when you reimagine businesses kind of in this era where we sort of reimagine businesses every few years, sometimes there’s a fair amount of destruction associated with that. And no better example is the New York City cab business when Uber came in. When the cab business used to, cabs run on what are called medallions, each cab has to have its own medallion, and medallions used to sell for $1.5 million a piece. And then when Uber came in and COVID came in and that demand was sort of destroyed, I think the most recent, around the couple of hundred thousand dollars. And so along with that has been the livelihoods of people that kind of drive these things. So while rebirth is an interesting thing and tends to be ultimately positive, it is not without its victims.

DA: For sure.

GN: And in the commercial business here in New York, we haven’t, so a lot of my focus is on the development side of the business, and we haven’t seen that because the residential market, which is generally the highest and best use for any of these properties, has remained strong and the development business has remained vibrant. But in the office sector, we’ve had kind of a tale of two cities, in a sense. So you have your trophy buildings and your Class A buildings, which probably account for 60% of the marketplace, have tended to do well. Those buildings are well capitalized, they’re owned by big firms that can afford to pour money into those buildings and renovate them in a way that resonates with the new workplace. Vornado is doing that in Penn Plaza. Essentially, they’re taking out floors of buildings and re-imagining them as work environments, as restaurant spaces, as gymnasiums, as yoga rooms, as all of these things that are sort of designed to bring people into that space and allow them to function as if it was, in a sense, their home. And I think that that has been attractive, and I think that that has been reasonably successful thus far, though not without a significant capital investment. And then you have the rest of the buildings in New York which are kind of the B and C buildings, which, depending on the stats you sort of look at, are 40% or 45% of the marketplace, that’s 150 million, 175 million square feet of those buildings. And the demand for those buildings, we’ve watched in real time that demand destruction. And the question is, and I’m not sure I have a good answer to it yet, or anybody has a good answer to it yet, is what are we going to do with those? It’s not a small amount of space, we’re talking about 150 million square feet of space, and how do you reimagine all of that space in such a way that you outrun its debt clock or whatever? All of those buildings tended to take on a pretty significant amount of debt when we were in a low interest rate environment. And there’s been some of the kind of kicking the can down the road, which we’ve seen in, as I said, since 2000, I think this is my fifth crisis, we’ve seen that sort of can get kicked down the road at each time. Everybody you know has set up a distressed fund during each one of those time periods, they’ve never been able to put the money out. And so the question now is, is this different? And it looks to me like it’s different for sure, and I’m not sure that we can reimagine that much office space. So real estate’s like an oil tanker, especially in large cities, you can’t just turn it around. Leases, you can’t just turn around, they are significant commitments for a significant amount of space at significant financial expenditure over a very long period of time. And these Class B buildings and Class C buildings are sort of in the same position. There’s debt that matures for a number of different periods of time over a number of years, and each one is held by a different kind of sponsor. And some of those sponsors are more financially able to manage this transition, some of them are less so, and they’ve gone back to lenders and said, here are the keys, and the lenders say, I don’t want the keys, thank you very much. And so we’re kind of in this period now of how does this get reimagined? And one of the ways it’s getting reimagined is the current mayor of New York City, Eric Adams, who both my wife and I supported very strongly, is starting a rezoning process right now in what was traditionally the garment area of New York to allow for residential development of exactly those Class B and Class C office buildings. Some of that will result in those buildings getting torn down, some of that will result in those buildings getting repurposed. The part of the issue that they have in those buildings is that the valuations and the debt was so high that tearing them down really means that the land itself takes on kind of an extraordinary value. And so it’s very hard to make that work in a development business, especially in New York, and especially now that there’s no 421-a anymore. Now this is another critical issue that we have in the city in that without really the tax incentives associated with rental housing development, it’s almost impossible to build rental housing. And it’s what politicians don’t really understand because they don’t exist in the real world, and they never have had kind of real jobs, right? So they just sort of imagine this social engineering in a way that you can do these things and it doesn’t tend to work in the real world. So I would say we’re talking about a generational viewpoint for those buildings. I view the repurposing of those buildings as something that’s going to happen over the next 15 years, maybe 20 years, not the next two or three years. It’s entirely too large a sector of the marketplace, and it’s entirely too complicated to do that in a short period of time. We can incentivize that and do our best to make it so and hopefully kind of speed that process along but it is a significant issue, don’t let anybody fool you.

DA: Yeah, and it’s also impossible to predict 3, 5, 10 years out exactly what the future of those, the demand for space in those B and C buildings will be. There are some occupiers that simply do not want to be in a 30, 40, 50, 60-story building, that want a more boutique experience, that want to be part of just a small building community, maybe own the entire floor plate. And I also think that this is an opportunity for some of those B and C building owners to really ramp up their delivery of customer experience in a way that maybe some of these large and Class A building operators can’t do in the same way. So maybe they can’t have the rooftop patios and the green spaces and the gymnasiums, but they can ramp up services and experience in a different way that, again, I think some might really value. And that’s certainly from our perspective and what we’re building as a customer experience, tenant experience platform, we see there’s opportunity. To your point, the long-term use cases of that B and C category, which is massive, again, could take years, but in the interim, these building operators still need to function and they are signing leases. We do work with some of these B and C building owners today, and they’re renting space and they’re doing some pretty creative things within their buildings to be more competitive and to be able to compete with the flight to quality. So it’s an interesting time for sure.

GN: It is. And look, that success is not without precedent. So the Flatiron area of Manhattan is a perfect example of how you can do it and how you can do it successfully. Those were all B buildings. There was a tremendous economic investment put into them and they became attractive. But part of, and not to be too much of a downer, but part of the experience of those buildings is that they tended to be larger and they tended to be on larger floor plates which made them make sense for larger tenants. So you could sign a lease for 300,000 square feet in Flatiron if you’re a tech company and it could make sense because you could be across seven or eight floors. But if you’re in a typical B building, which is more like 50 feet of frontage, typically sandwiched between a bunch of other buildings, on a side street, not a block front building, it’s a very, very, very different tenant experience. And it’s very hard to make the kind of tenant experience that you described, which is sort of typical of kind of the Flatiron buildings because there’s not, in a sense, enough space, enough light, enough air in order to make that so. So it’s building specific.

DA: Yeah, interesting. I think a lot about buildings, I think about their places and neighborhoods and cities. Our view really is that buildings are not siloed, they’re not four walls, they really are very much a part of a community. I’m just wondering what your thoughts are on sort of how you think workplaces can play a role in creating larger and more connected communities, and I guess also given some of your specific area of expertise in the not-for-profit world and the religious community aspect of the industry as well. Any thoughts on that?

GN: Well, what specifically do you mean?

DA: Well, again, buildings are not independent, buildings it’s just not a building and everything that you need is within those four walls. They really do depend on what’s in and around the community. You talked about the Flatiron District. So what helps to create a better community for buildings? What aspects of community do you think, we’re working a lot with BIDs, business improvement districts, trying to find ways to collaborate. Just any thoughts in general on that?

GN: So the simple answer is amenities, and to the degree that those exist in a neighborhood, it creates an attractive environment. And so Flatiron, again, is a great example and it’s an area that I know well. I mean, just on that Park Avenue and 22nd Street intersection, I did the Madison Square Park Tower building, I did the photography museum on the other side of the street, I sold the United Charities headquarters for them on the other corner. All of all that area has a tremendous amount of young people, restaurants, cultural experiences, parks, and a diverse group of people, both extremely wealthy and students. And so I think that that is part of it. So when I think of buildings as part of a larger community, as kind of a living, breathing aspect of that larger community, which I agree with you, they are, I think the community in many ways defines what those buildings can be.

DA: Yeah, love it.

GN: Right?

DA: Yeah.

GN: So it’s very hard to shoehorn kind of what you talked about into certain neighborhoods in New York City, but it very much does fit in other neighborhoods.

DA: Yep. No, I think there’s nuance. And I think it’s not a cookie cutter solution but I think it’s the realization, and as you just described, the opportunity to be more customized to the different parts of what that community makeup looks like.

GN: Yeah, I would agree with that, I would agree with that. And I think, look, it’s also, it’s a hopeful perspective, and we need that perspective, especially in New York right now.

DA: Agreed, agreed. Let’s take a short commercial break and we’ll be right back.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

DA: And now I’d like to welcome back to the show, Geoffrey Newman, executive managing director at Savills North America. I’m really enjoying our conversation so let’s dive into our next question. I’ve talked a little bit about technology and how it’s played such a significant role in shaping how building operators deliver great experience to their tenants, and workplace engagement now is really uppermost in everyone’s mind as it presents so many opportunities for doing things differently. I’m just curious from what you’re seeing, your experience, as we continue to work, to evolve, to meet the evolving needs of people and buildings, are you seeing any technologies that are sort of getting your attention, that are contributing to how we’re delivering better experiences in buildings?

GN: Yeah, so there’s kind of all the environmental components that I think everybody has sort of championed since the pandemic started. There’s also kind of the side of it where companies can manage when people are using office space, there are apps where you can make an appointment to use your office during a certain period of time. I view that as interesting and favorable from a worker’s perspective. I view it as less favorable from a macro perspective when I think about the commercial real estate business in general, especially in New York, in that that’s bound to be something that dampens demand when tenants come to sign a lease because they’ve sort of managed a way to do more, in a sense, in less space, just because there’s not that many people there. So those efficiencies from a tenant experience perspective and from a tenant financial perspective, hurt the overall commercial sector. And I think that’s probably worth that new technology, that new way of working is probably a 10% or a 15% drop down in what people will want in terms of commercial office space going forward. Now again, as I said, these are oil tankers, right? So it takes a while to turn them around. But as the leases come up, I mean, I think that’s part of what we’re starting to see. In kind of where I like to spend a lot of my time, which is that nonprofit world and the religious institutions world, they tend to have buildings that are, have long ago past their useful life. And so when they think about their tenant experience going forward, or the experience of their congregation going forward, so they are starting to think about really how does technology play into that? How does technology serve the mission, in a sense? And from a real estate perspective, from a development perspective, we’re doing those kinds of projects right now, and that means very advanced broadcast systems, ways of bringing people in from home especially congregations if you’re a religious institution, most nonprofits, I would say that the work from home environment has hit nonprofits certainly as hard as anyone, if not harder.

DA: Absolutely agree. Correct.

GN: And so part of this experience or the re-imagining of the real estate or the redevelopment or the building of new space, is taking that into account, and that’s happening in real time, that’s happening on projects that I’m working on right now, for sure.

DA: Yeah. I think on both fronts, on the commercial and then in the religious setting and not-for-profits, I mean, I think the fact is that the reality means in some cases people might need less space given the way the world is unfolding. The question is how can technology still maximize the used up space? How can it bring people back to spaces in a comfortable, manageable way? So we can’t ignore the fact that overall demand and the amount of space that companies and/or religious institutions need is going to likely reduce. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t going to be more companies that will take up that space and find more creative ways in which to use that space and still need space to bring their people together.

GN: I would agree with that completely. There’s no end to the opportunities that exist right now. And for people in our business, in many ways, it has never been a more fertile time to plant seeds. You’re like a farmer, in a sense, right?

DA: Yeah.

GN: You go out and you plant seeds in the fall and you kind of harvest them in the spring. These are all very long-term transactions. And this is a great time to be a farmer. It’s a great time for seed planting.

DA: It’s going to require a lot of vision, and commercial real estate has always had visionaries, right? And so today is no different. Our closing speed around is to get an opportunity to get to know you, Geoffrey, a little bit better, on a personal level.

GN: Okay.

DA: So when you are not, and you shared with us actually in some of your opening comments, but when you’re not working, what do you enjoy doing today?

GN: So I have two young kids. I have a daughter who is seven and a son who is five and a half. So my free time is more or less spent with them. For example, yesterday I took them, you’ll get a kick out of this, indoor skydiving.

DA: Oh, wow.

GN: So you can imagine a seven year old and a five year old floating in a tube. It was a lot of fun. I had kids very late so it’s kept me young in a lot of ways. And then when I’m not doing that, I like playing golf.

DA: Well, I know people who’ve had kids later in life, I like to say it’s not late, it’s just what was right for you.

GN: That’s right.

DA: Right? What is your drink of choice? Alcoholic, non-alcoholic.

GN: Belgian beers, my drink of choice.

DA: Okay. All right.

GN: Chimays and Deliriums, and I don’t know if you’ve had them ever but they tend to be much more potent than your kind of average beer, so you can get away with drinking significantly less.

DA: Got it. I’m more of a wine guy, so-

GN: What’s your favorite wine?

DA: Favorite wines? I’d say definitely Italian, California, South American. Yeah, big fan of-

GN: Big wines.

DA: Meaty, robust, earthy, fruit forward, chocolate, vanilla, all those good flavors-

GN: Me too, me too.

DA: Any favorite movie or current TV series that you’re now watching?

GN: Oh, Last of Us.

DA: Okay.

GN: Have you watched this?

DA: I have not.

GN: Oh, it’s based on a video game, it’s fantastic. It’s sort of a zombie apocalypse kind of thing, but really well done. And it’s just fantastic. It’s running right now. I think we had episode six last night or something.

DA: Okay, very cool. Name one way in which technology has improved how you live or work.

GN:I mean, it creates obvious efficiencies, but those efficiencies come with demand, it’s demand on the user. So technology’s a bargain, in a sense. I mean, the bargain is yes, I’m more available, yes, it’s easier for me to work remotely or from other places, but I’m constantly on it. And I don’t view that as a good thing.

DA: Right. Agreed. You’ve got to find the balance, right?

GN: Right.

DA: What is your personal choice for days spent in person, working with your colleagues versus working from anywhere?

GN: So I tend to be kind of an office junkie. I’m sort of here five days a week unless something comes up or I’m on a vacation or I’m out playing golf with a client or something, I’m typically here. I think it’s very hard to replicate the office environment from home, it’s very hard to be efficient. There’s certainly no engagement with your colleagues in development of ideas, which is incredibly important, It’s the most important thing of being in an office together. So yeah, I’m more of an office junkie, I think, than most.

DA: Got it, I get it, and I certainly see the value and benefit myself. Listen, Geoffrey, this has been a fascinating episode. You’ve shared so many amazing insights, going right back to your journey to commercial real estate. I’ve loved hearing your entire story. I hope this is just the first of many conversations that you and I will have talking about this industry that clearly we both have a lot of passion for. And let’s stay connected. And once again, thanks for taking the time, and I’m sure our listeners are going to love the episode. Thank you.

GN: I would love that, David. Thank you so much, I really did enjoy it. Thank you for having me.

DA: All right, take care now.

GN: Bye-bye.

DA: I want to thank Geoffrey Newman for joining me on this episode of TEN, and for contributing to the global conversation around buildings being a part of a robust ecosystem, helping to build great companies, and that they are vital in the effort to cultivate and support great people and teams. The future of the workplace will likely take many forms and we’ll continue to explore what that looks like together. Subscribe to TEN for more conversations with leading CRE industry professionals and experts who all have something to say about tenant experience and the future of the workplace. We love hearing from you so if you enjoyed this episode of TEN, please share, add your rating and review us through your preferred podcast provider. 

If you or someone you know would like to be a guest on a future episode, please reach out to me directly at david@hiloapp.com. And until our next episode, I wish you all continued success in building community where you work and live, thank you.

Celebrating 60 Conversations on TEN

Hard to believe that it’s been over 3 years since we launched the Tenant Experience Network (TEN) podcast as a way to connect with people at a time when we all felt isolated. Host and HILO Co-founder and CEO, David Abrams, has had the opportunity to interview some amazing people from leading CRE and Proptech companies, and in real-time, share what’s really happening in buildings and communities across North America. David wanted the program to provide a true pulse on what was actually going on in the industry, across all asset classes, without being sensational or polarizing, as is often found in the media.

Peter Riguardi | Chairman & President, New York Region | JLL | Lessons in selling CRE in NYC

Season 4 / Episode 15 / 28:35
In this episode, Peter says he seeing an increase in people coming back to the workplace and occupiers using the office to competitively attract talent. He has also noticed a significant push to the best office buildings, regardless of their location. With 460 million square feet of office space in NYC, only time will tell how much space use will have to change.

Celebrating 60 Conversations on TEN

Hard to believe that it’s been over 3 years since we launched the Tenant Experience Network (TEN) podcast as a way to connect with people at a time when we all felt isolated. Host and HILO Co-founder and CEO, David Abrams, has had the opportunity to interview some amazing people from leading CRE and Proptech companies, and in real-time, share what’s really happening in buildings and communities across North America. David wanted the program to provide a true pulse on what was actually going on in the industry, across all asset classes, without being sensational or polarizing, as is often found in the media.

Peter Riguardi | Chairman & President, New York Region | JLL | Lessons in selling CRE in NYC

Season 4 / Episode 15 / 28:35
In this episode, Peter says he seeing an increase in people coming back to the workplace and occupiers using the office to competitively attract talent. He has also noticed a significant push to the best office buildings, regardless of their location. With 460 million square feet of office space in NYC, only time will tell how much space use will have to change.