We are proud to welcome Alan Rudikoff, Partner, GDS Development to our Board of Advisors. His industry insight and experience will be a valuable addition to the Graaskamp Center for Real Estate as we work to maintain our position as the global leaders in real estate education.
Describe your current position and what an average work day is like for you.
I am a partner and co-founder of GDS Development (GDSNY.com), based in New York City. My business partner, Michael Kirchmann, and I have been working together in various capacities since the mid-1990s when we first met while working on projects for Howard Ronson and the HRO Group. I was the Head of Finance at HRO and Michael was the Design Director at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill handling the HRO Account.
Today, GDS has five active development projects: four office buildings that we are working on with a publicly traded Swedish real estate company, and a nine-unit condominium project that we just completed on the Highline.
The interesting thing about my average work day is that there is no such thing. As I say to Wisconsin Alumni when asked about real estate development: “you spend half of your day putting out a fire that you did not know was burning when you went to bed the night before.” Fire-fighting aside, the average day is spent focused on leasing and management of the portfolio under construction, and the rest is taking care of special projects underway – new acquisitions, financing, budget reviews, etc.
What does the world need from real estate professionals today?
It is clear that the greatest threat to humanity is the environment. This is really now an existential threat. We know that roughly 40% of the world’s energy consumption and carbon emissions are real-estate related. The average real estate professional does not necessarily possess the intellectual tools to fix the problem. But, collectively we have the power to enable solutions. As owners, we are the ‘gate-keepers’ to these buildings, and it is incumbent on ALL real estate professionals to employ the latest technologies to promote environmental efficiency, and also to engage the right consultants to make their properties as environmentally sustainable as possible.
What do you enjoy most about being in the real estate profession?
There are two main aspects that I really love about the real estate profession. First, the fact that our industry is so dependent on personal relationships. Getting things done involves building consensus and having all parties involved in a deal being equally happy (or unhappy). It is also true that the best source of your next deal is someone that you have done business with before, whether it be an investor, lender, broker representing a tenant or a property for sale, or even a municipality or consultant; if you have successfully gotten a deal over the line with someone in the past, it reinforces the penchant for doing a deal with them again in the future. It goes without saying but people like doing business with people they like and trust.
The other aspect I love about our industry is its unpredictability and the need to constantly solve problems. This goes hand-in-glove with my view on the average work day – although not all problems and situations are ‘enjoyable.’ At least it is never, ever boring.
In your view, what is the biggest opportunity in commercial real estate today?
I have a multitude of calls every week on this exact subject – what should we be looking at today preparing for tomorrow? I am hearing a lot about opportunities in the life sciences; a few years ago, everyone was talking about logistics and distribution (i.e. Amazon Fulfillment Centers).
I think the most important thing to do is to keep fully up to date with your core competencies; people usually get burned when they veer too far out of their lane. The majority of my development career has been spent with office buildings, and it is what I am best at and what I enjoy the most. As such, the best thing that I can do is understand what potential tenants are thinking about for their next properties and how they see their usage of their space changing. There have been many shifts and trends during my career – including open plan, cell office, changes to amenities, and many more. If we do this well, we can be sure that our buildings are what tenants will be looking for when it is time to move.
Interestingly enough, we undertook a holistic A to Z review of our standard office specification with our best-in-class consultants (SOM, Cosentini, Shen Milsom, CCI, etc) during April/May of this year to be the basis of our ‘Spec 2025,’ with the objective to create buildings that are COVID-proof.
Our plan was to take our Spec 2025 and implement it into the two office buildings currently under construction, and also to add what we could into the two buildings currently in planning. The interesting point is that there were only a few upgrades that we made to our existing specifications because we were already on the cutting edge by already having touchless technology and ionization-compatible HVAC systems to name a few items. It shows that we were already ahead of this change.
What advice would you give to young professionals starting a career in real estate?
It is important to remember that what you do today will most likely affect you tomorrow – that your reputation will either propel you forward or catch-up with you – whatever it may be. There are plenty of smart, capable people in real estate, as in almost every industry. The main differentiator is ensuring that people, colleagues, competitors, and counterparts realize that they can count on you and that you are good for your word. If you can be one of the ‘smart’ ones, and also be one that people trust and rely upon, then you can build yourself an amazing career.
What are you looking forward to as a new member of the Graaskamp Center Advisory Board?
I am looking forward to working with the program to help prepare students for meeting industry challenges, as well as working with other members; whether young alum starting out in the industry or other alums looking to transition.