July 27, 2020
Commercial Observer

MaryAnne Gilmartin Appointed Interim CEO of Mack-Cali

Real estate titan MaryAnne Gilmartin, who cut her teeth at Forest City Ratner and went on to form a partnership with David Levinson and Rob Lapidus before leaving to start MAG Partners last year, has been appointed interim Chief Executive Officer at Mack-Cali, according to a release from the real estate investment trust.

In addition, Tammy K. Jones, Co-Founder and CEO of Basis Investment Group, was named Lead Independent Director of the REIT.

Prior to today’s announcement, both Gilmartin and Jones had been serving on Mack-Cali’s board. The release said that Gilmartin will continue to also operate MAG Partners. There was little said about where the previous CEO, Michael DeMarco, is going, other than a statement of thanks from Gilmartin.

“On behalf of the Board, I would like to thank Michael for his service to Mack-Cali,” Gilmartin said in a statement. “I look forward to working with the talented Mack-Cali team and all of our stakeholders to ensure that the Company operates at the highest level.”

However, there had been a concerted push for DeMarco’s removal from Bow Street LLC, a New York-based investment firm that owned 4.5 percent of Mack-Cali’s stock. Bow Street called for just such action in an open letter published in March. “It is now clear that the rot at Mack-Cali goes far deeper than any of us knew,” the letter said, “and that more comprehensive action is required to protect shareholders’ investment.”

July 27, 2020
Commercial Observer

#72 MaryAnne Gilmartin Founder and CEO at MAG Partners

“Resiliency” is a word that gets thrown around a lot right now, but for some executives, the belief in a rebound is deeply rooted in experience. “Right after 9/11, when we were building The New York Times building,” recalled MaryAnne Gilmartin, who was then at developer Forest City Ratner, “people were like, ‘No one is going to want to be in a skyscraper ever again.’”

Her point is that you don’t bet against New York, the city that she has loved fiercely ever since growing up in Far Rockaway, Queens. Yes, today there’s a pandemic, but “developers,” Gilmartin said, “are hopeless optimists.”

Certainly her Happy Warrior buoyancy has played out well for the City in the past. In a career spanning more than two decades at FCR—the last six as CEO—Gilmartin added not just the Times Building, but also the Barclays Center, Frank Gehry’s downtown Spruce Street tower, and the Tata Center at Cornell Tech to the skyline.

In March 2020, she took her optimism to its logical extension by forming her own firm, MAG Partners. “For me to own 100 percent of the company is a big move for me,” noted Gilmartin. “As much as I love risk, I also knew that I was taking on a team of people whose livelihood depended on me.”

For two years she had been at L&L MAG, a partnership with Robert Lapidus and David Levinson, but, “after the first couple of deals with L&L, I realized that people would back me with my track record.”

Umm, yeah!

Now on the drawing board are three projects. She is part of a four-developer team in Long Island City (“we call it Amazon Redux: It will be a veritable job engine for Queens, and we’re doing it with the community at the table,” noted Gilmartin). Downtown, her firm is working on 122 Varick, an office building on land leased from Trinity Church. She explained her vision, “I could have the first office building in that submarket, which is Google and Disney all day long.” On the residential front, she is building a 480-unit rental at 241 West 28th Street, 30 percent of which will be affordable.

“We are really nimble,” she said of MAG Partners, “because we have sites, not buildings, so a lot of my thinking is ‘how is this building going to perform in a post-COVID world?’ Now I’m focused on things like ‘what are we going to care out about forever?’”

To her full plate, last month she added the chairmanship of Mack-Cali. Gilmartin, who is also on the board of NY Public Radio and BAM, had been a director of the Jersey City-based REIT for a year after being elected as part of an activist slate. New York City might be a little jealous about sharing her, but if Gilmartin’s history is any indication, there’s plenty of her positive energy to go around.—A.R.

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December 15, 2019
The Real Deal

“Conviction and appetite to do it myself”: MaryAnne Gilmartin talks spinoff from L&L

When L&L MAG was formed nearly two years ago, there was a carveout option: MaryAnne Gilmartin could eventually strike out on her own. Now, she’s going that route.

“I have the conviction and appetite to do it myself,” she told The Real Deal on Sunday.

She will spin off from the company she started with L&L Holding’s David Levinson and Robert Lapidus and form what she described as a “truly woman-owned” firm, MAG Partners.
Crain’s first reported the split, under which the two companies could still work together.

When Gilmartin left Forest City to launch L&L MAG in 2018, she said she felt her “finest work is yet to come.” She wanted to focus on ground-up development — an area the real estate investment trust had been moving away from. Forest City was purchased that same year by Brookfield Asset Management for $6.8 billion.

The partnership with L&L served as a bridge for Gilmartin as she transitioned from a public company with an enormous balance sheet to a private one where she’d need to build relationships with investors to finance development. Not only did Gilmartin benefit from L&L’s existing connections, but the two forged new ones as part of L&L MAG. She pointed to Atalaya Capital Management, which didn’t have prior relationships with either L&L or Gilmartin. The firm invested in L&L MAG’s 460-unit residential project at 241 West 28th Street in Chelsea. Another firm that is investing in the project, Australian firm Qualitas, had met Gilmartin during her Forest City days.

But not all relationships will transfer to MAG Partners. For instance, Gilmartin said her new firm will not work with the $500 million joint venture which L&L and California pension fund CalSTRS launched prior to the creation of L&L MAG.

Since the firm’s launch, L&L MAG started the West 28th Street project and became a development partner at 44-02 Vernon Boulevard in Long Island City. The Queens site could be included in a potential rezoning, though it’s also embroiled in a long-standing foreclosure fight. The Durst Organization, which owns the debt on the property, has been trying to foreclose on the six-acre site for more than a decade. It’s unclear whether L&L will work on the Long Island City project.

Crain’s also previously reported that L&L MAG is competing against Silverstein Properties and Brookfield to develop 5 World Trade Center. Representatives for L&L didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment.

Gilmartin declined to discuss other projects that her new firm is considering. But she reiterated her desire to lead a development where a woman is responsible for every facet.

“There are women in every aspect of the real estate cycle that are rock stars and best in class,” she said. “One would not have to compromise in any way, shape or form to do that.”

She added that, of course, men can live and work at the project, joking, “It’s not that we’re going to keep the men out.”

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December 14, 2019
Crain's New York Business

Developer spins off from partners to launch her own real estate firm

The prominent real estate executive MaryAnne Gilmartin is splitting with developers she partnered with two years ago to launch a new real estate firm. 

Gilmartin said she had exercised an option to exit from the venture with David Levinson and Robert Lapidus, the chief executives of the real estate investment and development firm L&L Holding Company. 

Gilmartin’s new company will be called MAG Partners and will continue to focus on ground-up real estate projects in the city. 

“Two years ago, we put together a vision for a new development firm and that partnership has been super successful,” Gilmartin said. “But we had always planned to get to a point where I could spin off and achieve my goal of leading a new company.”

Gilmartin and Levinson both described the split as amicable and suggested they may still work together with one another on future investments. 

“It’s a reconstitution of our relationship,” Gilmartin said. “It’s fundamentally strong and positive.” 

Known as L&L MAG, the partnership between Gilmartin and L&L Holding Co. produced only one development deal during its lifespan, a project to raise a 22-story, 460-unit rental apartment building on West 28th Street. Gilmartin said that the venture would break ground on that tower early next year and would complete it together, but left open whether the two will continue to work together on other projects it had recently contemplated. 

Gilmartin, for instance, had been recently arranging to build a large residential property on a development site along the waterfront in Long Island City. She said MAG Partners would take over that deal at 44-02 Vernon Blvd., leaving it uncertain whether L&L Holding Co. would participate. 

“The answer is, we’ll take a good look at it,” Levinson said when asked whether he would continue to be involved in that development. “It’s an exciting project and we’d like to invest.”

Gilmartin had been a long-time executive at the prominent New York City real estate development firm Forest City Ratner, rising to the position of president and CEO before departing in early 2018 to launch L&L MAG. Much of Forest City’s portfolio was sold off subsequent to her exit. 

Part of the allure of joining with L&L Holding Co. was tapping Levinson’s and Lapidus’s network of connections to investment dollars, Gilmartin said. The pair have developed relationships with major institutional money backers, including the large California pension fund CalSTRS. 

“I have been a beneficiary of L&L’s relationships,” Gilmartin said. “I’m in a position now to go forward and have the capital partners I need. That has proved to be one of the great successes over the last two years together.”

Gilmartin declined to say who MAG Partners’ financial backers would be. Real estate developers such as L&L Holding Co. generally undertake real estate deals with a small amount of their own equity, securing the bulk of the cash needed to buy and build property from larger financial partners.

Gilmartin also declined to describe the financial terms of the split with L&L Holding Co. and whether she is required to pay any kind of breakup fee to the firm. 

Nearly a dozen employees from L&L MAG will join Gilmartin in her new venture. 

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November 12, 2019
The New York

‘She Build’: Creating an All-Women Real Estate Development Team

Taya Cook of Urban Capital, left, and Sherry Larjani of Spotlight Development are leading an all-women team to develop a 200-unit condominium building in Toronto.

Taya Cook of Urban Capital, left, and Sherry Larjani of Spotlight Development are leading an all-women team to develop a 200-unit condominium building in Toronto. Credit…Aaron Vincent Elkaim for The New York Times

As a highly successful woman in New York’s male-dominated development arena, MaryAnne Gilmartin has a “mini-obsession”: She wants to oversee a commercial real estate project in which every part of the process is headed by a woman.

Ms. Gilmartin, the founder of L&L MAG, a real estate development company, knows from experience how to run a real estate project. As the chief executive of Forest City Ratner Companies, she oversaw such prominent projects as the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and the Renzo Piano-designed New York Times building in Manhattan.

Now, she has set her sights on doing the same with an all-women team. Ms. Gilmartin calls it a “she build,” and she knows “exactly where to go to find the right woman for every single part of the deal,” she said.

Her biggest challenge is securing the capital — the idea does not get a lot of traction in a room full of male investors, she said. But she is working at it, believing that if she can make such a project happen in New York, it will serve as a beacon to other aspiring developers who are women.

“We outliers have to keep at it,” Ms. Gilmartin, 55, said.

That’s because, despite progress in many other professional realms, women remain severely underrepresented in real estate development and investment, particularly in senior roles

Women held just 4 percent of senior investment roles at major real estate firms, according to a widely circulated 2011 study, and their numbers have improved only “marginally” since, said the study’s author, Nori Gerardo Lietz, who is a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School and a longtime real estate investor.

Ms. Lietz reviewed the senior ranks of 82 major real estate investment firms for the study, as well as many more private equity and venture capital firms, and found that women were noticeably absent from the most highly paid, “touch the money” jobs.

Her study attributed the gap to a combination of factors, including institutional sexism and more mentoring attention being paid to men than to women.

Eight years later, “the larger firms are trying to open up the funnel and get women in,” she said. “But they’ve not done a good job at retaining them.”

Firms should try harder to keep female employees on track, Ms. Lietz said, perhaps with policies for new mothers that allow them to balance the 80-hour workweeks required during transactions with time off.

Ms. Larjani and Ms. Cook in a design meeting at Spotlight Development in Toronto.
Ms. Larjani and Ms. Cook in a design meeting at Spotlight Development in Toronto.Credit…Aaron Vincent Elkaim for The New York Times

One of the firms in Ms. Lietz’s study was Stockbridge, a real estate investment management firm in San Francisco with nearly $15 billion in assets. At the time, women held 17 percent of the firm’s senior finance positions. Today, the percentage is closer to 30 across all of Stockbridge’s senior positions, including finance, according to Kristin Renaudin, the firm’s chief financial officer.

Ms. Renaudin, 42, said she saw a growing number of women involved in real estate investment — all of the main players working with her on a major real estate portfolio purchase earlier this year were women. But the pipeline of candidates for the deal-making jobs is still heavily male, she said.THE MORNING: Make sense of the day’s news and ideas. David Leonhardt and Times journalists guide you through what’s happening — and why it matters.Sign Up

“The transactional, investment side is the last to come around,” Ms. Renaudin said. That was partly because many women did not pursue those jobs, she said, either because they are put off by a difficult-to-shake stigma that deal-making is a male-oriented culture or, if they have families, because they are discouraged by the significant travel and often-unpredictable work schedule.

Family life is definitely a factor, said Melissa Burch, 43, the executive general manager for New York development at Lendlease, a multinational property and infrastructure firm.

“These roles are all consuming when the deal is hot,” she said. “You have to be ready to sprint when the opening is there, and that unpredictability can be unappealing.”

Ms. Renaudin said she had been fortunate to have had “no shortage of opportunities” at Stockbridge, but recognized that she was a rarity in the industry. In fact, throughout her 21-year career, she has not had one female mentor or role model, she said.

That lack of role models could also hinder women’s rise up the ladder, said Taya Cook, the director of development at Urban Capital, a condominium development firm in Toronto.

“There are women I look up to in the industry, but they haven’t acted as mentors or role models,” she said. “I’d like to provide that for the younger generation.”

Ms. Cook hopes to do that with her own version of a “she build.” She and Sherry Larjani, the managing partner at Spotlight Development, also in Toronto, are leading a handpicked, all-women team to develop a 200-unit condominium building called Reina (the Spanish word for queen) in the Etobicoke district of Toronto.

The Reina project has garnered considerable publicity, said Ms. Larjani, who hopes it will draw more young women into development.
The Reina project has garnered considerable publicity, said Ms. Larjani, who hopes it will draw more young women into development.Credit…Aaron Vincent Elkaim for The New York Times

The idea came last year after Ms. Cook, 38, read a Toronto Life magazine article that highlighted the city’s leading condo developers. All 20 were men.

“Honestly, it’s insane,” she said. “When you step back and have a look, it’s probably one of the last industries that’s really just so unbalanced.”

Ms. Cook noted that the backing of Urban Capital, which is run by two men, had eased the path to financing. Without their successful history behind her, “I would expect the experience to be much more difficult,” she said. “Finance is definitely on par with construction and development as a boys’ club.”

The Reina project has garnered considerable publicity in the Toronto area, said Ms. Larjani, also 38. Like Ms. Cook, she hopes the publicity will draw more young women into development.

“The point is to show that these women are working in all these roles, and they are roles you can take on,” Ms. Larjani said.

Ms. Gilmartin said that she never felt intimidated or thwarted at the table by men, but that young women coming out of top business schools “looking at a landscape of males” could have trouble seeing a way to break through.

“There are just not enough examples for these women,” she said.

Ms. Burch said that women should feel confident that if they can just “get into the room,” even if it is filled with men, they will figure out how to use their talents to rise.

She spent the first 13 years of her career at Forest City Ratner, where, she said, she started out as a “human clicker,” running the digital portion of presentations that the company co-founder Bruce Ratner made to investors. Just sitting in on dozens of those presentations was instructive.

“I soaked in every one of those conversations,” Ms. Burch said. “How do you convince investors? How do you lay forth a vision and bring others along?”

Eventually, she jumped in and made some of those presentations herself, and later worked closely with Ms. Gilmartin. Now, she’s hiring women for her own team at Lendlease, including one who’s in charge of acquisitions.

“She’d been in development for 10 years and never had a female boss,” Ms. Burch said of the woman she hired. “She told me one of the big reasons she came here was to have that. It was important to her.”

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October 4, 2019

Guests Partied in the Park at Last Night’s Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy Gala

Last night a throng of Brooklynites and Manhattanites gathered along the East River in black-tie. The occasion? Twenty years of free public activities at Brooklyn Bridge Park, which not too long ago was a neglected plot of waterfront land. The refurbished and transformed green space is now one of the most beloved (and photographed) spots in the city, so there was much to celebrate last night at the Brooklyn Black Tie Ball.

The evening started with a boisterous cocktail party, complete with tasty canapés and beverages ranging from glasses of Gadais Muscadet to cans of (what else) Brooklyn Lager. Guests could hardly stop the chatter as hosts encouraged all to take their seats, which offered primo views of lower Manhattan. From start (a salad of chicories with brie fondue) to finish (sunflower-butter jelly doughnuts), the three-course meal satiated the crowd as the Conservancy reflected on two decades of progress.

Special honorees of the evening were two-megawatt women whose work throughout Brooklyn and the Greater New York City Area has transformed the city into a safer and more prosperous place for all. Mayor Bill de Blasio honored Alicia Glen, former deputy mayor for Housing and Economic Development in New York, and MaryAnne Gilmartin, former CEO of Forest City Ratner and famed developer of the Barclays Center.

“It’s so New York to have a place that is open late at night; a place where you can go and play basketball, or do whatever activity you like, right along the Manhattan skyline,” shared Girls star and Red Hook resident Jemima Kirke. “It’s so beautiful. It’s a real part of the city; it’s that idea of having a place that’s our hub.”

Keri Russell shared a similar sentiment: “I have to say, this is the only gala I always come to because it’s the most true to my life. I use this park multiple times a day, my kids use it multiple times a day—it’s an amazing park, it’s an amazing use of space, and it’s a part of everyday life.”

Image may contain Keri Russell Sylvana Ward Durrett Human Person Clothing Apparel Fashion Evening Dress and Gown

Photo: Alexa Hoyer/Sylvana Durrett in a Caroline Constas dress and Stella McCartney blazer; Keri Russell in Saint Laurent

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Photo: Alexa Hoyer/Honoree Alicia Glen, Senator Chuck Schumer, and honoree MaryAnne Gilmartin

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Photo: Alexa Hoyer/Henry Hager and Jenna Bush Hager

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Photo: Alexa Hoyer/The interior ambiance as guests took their seats

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Photo: Alexa Hoyer/Jennifer Connelly and Paul Bettany

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Photo: Alexa Hoyer/New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio

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Photo: Alexa Hoyer/Jemima Kirke

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Photo: Alexa Hoyer/Like any great gala, the evening ended with dancing.

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May 16, 2019
Madame Architect

You Are What You Build: MaryAnne Gilmartin on Knowing Your Wheelhouse and Seeing What Others Don’t


By Julia Gamolina

MaryAnne Gilmartin is Chief Executive Officer of L&L MAG, a New York-based real estate development company she founded with David Levinson and Robert Lapidus. Prior to founding L&L MAG, MaryAnne served as President & CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies, where she oversaw a period of game-changing ground-up development, including Barclays Center, New York by Gehry, and the Tata Innovation Center at Cornell Tech. MaryAnne has made multiple appearances on Crain’s New York Business’s annual list of New York’s 50 Most Powerful Women.

MaryAnne started her career as a New York City Urban Fellow and at the Public Development Corporation (now the NYCEDC). She speaks to Julia Gamolina about taking risks and excelling in a meritocracy, advising those who are just starting their career to be confident that their voice and their place at the table matters.

JG: How did your interest in real estate first develop?

MAG: Through pure serendipity. I had no inkling of what I wanted to be when I “grew up”, but coming out of university, I was first to be an Urban Fellow in a program for young people to try out public service. I ended up at the Public Development Agency, which is now the Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC). It was quasi-public and had nothing to do with real estate, but I was attracted to the idea of what they were about. My plan was to spend a summer with them, and then go off to law school in September and fight for the rights of juveniles in the justice system.

I’m guessing that’s not quite how it went.

[Laughs] No, it did not. At the Public Development Agency, I discovered that I had real estate development in my veins – it just seemed more interesting, exciting, and somehow comfortable. At the time, Public Development was the agency where if you said you wanted to go into real estate, they would say to you, “Alright, let’s look at the West Side, what should we do with it?” It was an incredible place to start a career and I spent seven years there.

What were your main takeaways from working in the public sector?

My time there helped me understand the role that public policy and government play in the built environment for things of a certain scale. I learned to think big and to not be intimidated by complexity. You also think in different metrics on the public side, like job creation and tax dollars – not profit and bottom line, so as a private developer, my take-aways from that time allow me to now effectively partner with the government and marry the goals of public and private to make it a win-win all the way around.

When and why did you transition into the private sector, into real estate?

At some point I realized that I could be on the private side, and still be partners to the government, helping to solve those issues. I segued into a private development with Bruce Ratner, meeting him when he was building the Bear Stearns building in Brooklyn. I was representing the city, negotiating tax incentives and the job retention program. The public side was all about public purpose, and I saw that I could parlay all that into a really meaningful job in ground up development while also paying back some college loans and having some fun.

“I never had my eye on the corner office, but it turns out, in a meritocracy, if you work hard, you eat what you kill – meaning you are what you build.”

Tell me about your start at Forest City Ratner.

I started with building new buildings in Brooklyn, Metro Tech being one of them. These were the days in the 90s when banks would take bullet proof limousines to look at potential office space Brooklyn [laughs]. A very different time.

Developing in Brooklyn was high risk, but the economics were very compelling. Brooklyn was a place to sharpen your tools because nothing was easy there – that’s always good though because when you work harder, you have a leg up on your competition and you know how to be more convincing. The work in Brooklyn ended up being super gratifying and we were eventually able to put a ground up building there every 12-18 months.

How were you able to break through like that there?

This is something that’s not possible without pervasive commitment. Mary Ann Tighe and I have a very deep connection and it started with my responsibility on Forest City’s Brooklyn leasing portfolio. We had all these buildings we were building and all this space that we needed to lease, and yet nobody wanted to come to Brooklyn. I said, “We need to know all the major brokers,” and I cold-called five of them, including Mary Ann Tighe. Cold-calling doesn’t usually work, but within 24 hours, Mary Ann called me back! She became my hero and my mentor.

What grew out of that mentorship, other than your success in Brooklyn?

When the New York Times was looking for developers, she put us on the list. We were very much an outlier – we were very qualified to do the work, as we had just built Madame Tussauds in Times Square and knew everything about the 42nd street project development area, but we were not in the milieu with the New York Times.

Mary Ann Tighe put us on that list though, and with a lot of determination, we put together a proposal to be their developer. In 2000 we were selected. That was a career defining moment for me – there is never one person within an organization that does a project, but there is often one person that is identified with the project as being the champion, the deal maker, the one behind the whole idea, and that was what it was for me. I met extraordinary people and I learned how to build beautiful user buildings with great architects.

MaryAnne as a mentor herself.
MaryAnne as a mentor herself.

Why did this moment and this building define your career?

All of it really started with the architecture. The NYT was dedicated to building a beautiful building, and then 9/11 happened.

The day after 9/11, we stood up and proclaimed that nobody would want to work in a building that was a fortress to withstand those kinds of attacks. The Times was committed to transparency and exceptional architecture, so other than changing the type of glass and reinforcing the core, we did not change this object of beauty that Renzo Piano designed. I remember thinking, “Wow, what a fellowship we have created.” We had a world-class architect and an amazing partner and user in the New York Times, and they both vowed to follow through with the extraordinary building – they wanted to show the world that we needed to continue to be who we were before 9/11.

This project was clearly your beginning to an amazing tenure at Forest City. How and when did you become CEO?

I felt like I kept growing and learning and rising, and one day, Bruce came and said, “You’re going to run this company.” I remember panicking, thinking, “Everything is going so well, why would we screw it up!” I did what a lot of women do – I overthought and overmanaged the transition [laughs]. I wanted to show that I could really run this – I felt like it would be a terrible disservice to women in the industry if I was a proxy for a male-dominated industry and just a vessel for Bruce’s voice.

Becoming CEO of Forest City might have been the hardest thing I’ve ever done – to stand in the shoes of a man who was known as Bruce C. Ratner. If you’ve ever read anything about our company, the article would start by saying “Bruce C. Ratner” and then only somewhere in the body would it say Forest City. Imagine taking a job from somebody who had never shared that job with anybody before. Intellectually, he was ready for it, but emotionally, it’s a different thing. We got through it though, and we’re as thick as thieves.

What did it take to achieve such tenure at Forest City?

When it comes to careers, people think, “If there’s a magic elixir, give it to me.” We all want to know what the secret is. I think what might have gone my way is that I was raised in a meritocracy in the professional world. Bruce always chose the best man or the best woman for the job – he has two daughters. I never had my eye on the corner office, but it turns out, in a meritocracy, if you work hard, you eat what you kill – meaning you are what you build. Also, luck! The truth is, real estate is a business of cycles, and the cycles went my way. I was able to get a great selection of projects.

I’m glad you mentioned luck – when people say that luck doesn’t play a part in where they are today, I am always in disbelief. Yes, you need talent, and drive, and a work ethic, but timing and factors beyond our control also play into it, for better or worse.

I read an article recently that said that luck finds people. I think you first need a lot of positivity, creativity, and seeing things that others may not, and then luck comes your way. I was at a company that was willing to let me grow and take risks and bet on things. If you could dream it, believe in it, and defend it, you had a great shot at building it and that was an amazing reality inside that organization.

Tell me about starting L&L MAG after such a tenure.

At some point, Forest City became a REIT, a real-estate investment trust. I am first and foremost a hopeless developer, and I knew that building complex ground-up projects wasn’t going to be easy in a REIT. I didn’t want to be an operator with development as a twist; I wanted to develop, and I saw that Forest City would never do a New York Times building in the foreseeable future.

That reckoning for me was a moment of truth. I spent a fair amount of time thinking about what the next step would look like, and it became clear to me that it needed to be in the private markets – that’s where the ingenuity, the entrepreneurial spirit, and the creativity that goes into building ground up in places like New York lives. With a lot of thought, and the support of the company, I told them that I was planning on moving on and that we could possibly do something together, where I stuck with some of the things that they needed me for, but would build this new platform. I ended up forming L&L MAG with David Levinson and Robert Lapidus for all the right reasons, and I was able to handpick a group of people to bring with me to build an incredible organization. That was almost a year and a half ago.

How has the past year-and-a-half been?

It’s been amazing to be nimble, hunting for new projects again. We’re essentially a twenty-five year old start up because of our relationship with Forest City, but we’re also exploring a lot of new types of projects. We’re committed to building beautiful buildings and building them with people who look like the city we live in.Let’s be honest – in our industry, it’s been a long overdue mandate, and I’m super proud of my team and the fact that the organization itself looks like the people we build for.

The founders of L&L MAG - David Levinson, MaryAnne Gilmartin, and Robert Lapidus.
The founders of L&L MAG – David Levinson, MaryAnne Gilmartin, and Robert Lapidus.

What advice do you have for those who’d like to start something of their own?

When you’re running something, as CEO you’re really the Chief Talent Officer – you have to resist the temptation to do, and instead, build the great people that will build and design the great buildings. Running a firm is all about the talent you find, and cultivating a culture of excellence and possibilities for the people around you.

How does motherhood play into your career?

It’s very important to me. I have three children and I was lucky to be working for a man that was willing to accept that if I wasn’t the kind of mother I wanted to be, I’d be no use as an executive. One lesson learned is that for a long time, I didn’t live close to where I worked while raising my kids – now they’re in Brooklyn and real little city slickers, but when they were little I commuted to and from Westchester and worked from home on Fridays. I read that Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s secret was that she never lived more than two miles from where she worked, and now I know why.

If moving to Brooklyn was a liberating aspect of motherhood, technology was another one – I did my best work after 11pm, though that probably wasn’t great for my marriage. I haven’t spoken too much about this publicly, but I should say that I’m now divorced – it happened gradually and then suddenly. My ex-husband stayed home with the kids, and that probably wasn’t the best model for us. If we’re really honest, as a woman who is the primary in the office and also tends to have primary tendencies as a mother, it’s hard to create equity and balance in the relationship. It’s been two years, and it’s taken us some time to recover, but I would say that everyone needs to do whatever works for them to make the best for their family. The moral of the story on motherhood is we have to do what works for us.  

One thing I will say is that I was able to truly bring my children into my work. In a society where we push a lot of paper and buttons, if you’re working in the built environment, you have a physical manifestation of what you do every day. When your kids want to know where you are and what you do, you can bring them in a hoist and walk them around floors, or roll out blueprints and walk them through a plan of an arena. There’s nothing more magical. My children know that I love my work, and that it’s important to love what you do, and the more it can become part of the family’s fabric, the more life-giving it is.

MaryAnne with her children.
MaryAnne with her children.
MaryAnne and Olive.
MaryAnne and Olive.

Jumping off of your approaches to motherhood, what has been your general approach to your career?

I have a lot of gratitude for the people that steered me – having Mary Ann Tighe as a mentor is like winning the career lottery – so staying connected to the human element of what we do, valuing relationships, and investing in those relationships in a really meaningful and authentic way, is important.

Valuing the rookie factor is important too! Some of the best things come from the people that are not in the box – the reason that I love internships and having young people in the room, is that we don’t often see things that they do. Creating an environment where everyone’s voice matters is really important.

“Let’s be honest – in our industry, [equal representation] has been a long overdue mandate, and I’m super proud of my team and the fact that the organization itself looks like the people we build for.”

Finally, how do you develop the courage to use that voice?

You know, I never got the memo about feeling intimidated – I always had the feeling that if I knew what I was doing, and I had a job to do, I had a place at the table. If I didn’t have a place at the table, I shouldn’t even be in the rom. I was by age and by gender, a minority for many many years, but I was never intimidated. In general, my view of the workplace and of women is that these conversations have to happen together with men. I will no longer do a panel that’s all women – men need to be involved in the conversation and need to be participating, if we want to see change.

One of my hopes is the “she-building” – I want to put together a building in New York where every part of the process is done with a woman in command. Just like the New York Times project did for me, who knows what that kind of building and process will launch for women starting their tenures today.

MaryAnne Gilmartin - completely in her element.
MaryAnne Gilmartin – completely in her element.

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December 10, 2018

L&L MAG’s First Project Will Be An Apartment Building In Chelsea

MaryAnne Gilmartin kicked off 2018 by leaving Forest City to found her own firm, backed by the owners of L&L Holding Co. To close it out, the company has announced its first project, a large apartment building in Chelsea, which it plans to start constructing next year.

The project will be a 460-unit rental building at 241 West 28th St. in Chelsea, L&L MAG announced Monday. The building will be developed under the Affordable New York program, with 30% of the apartments set aside for low- and middle-income renters. COOKFOX will design the building.

“We founded L&L MAG to pursue projects that provide value to the community we are building in, to enhance the fabric of our city architecturally and to deliver value to our partners, and I am thrilled that our first development delivers on all of those principles,” L&L MAG CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin said in a statement.

The site of the new building, a block-through parking lot, is owned by Edison Properties. L&L MAG has signed a 99-year ground lease with Edison and will build a public parking garage with the building as part of the arrangement.

Atalaya Capital Management and Qualitas, an Australian asset manager, are partnering with L&L MAG on the project. It is Qualitas’ first investment in the U.S.

“We brought together the perfect team for this project — Atalaya and Qualitas — and have shown we can advance the most complex deals in a very short period of time. We are going to pursue a diverse set of projects across sectors and expect this will be the first of many,” Gilmartin said.

Qualitas will use the deal to launch future investment in the U.S., establishing a New York office, co-founder Mark Fischer said. The firm sought gateway city investments in multifamily, and found it needed to partner with a local like Gilmartin to accomplish that goal.

An Edison executive told The Real Deal that L&L MAG’s offer on the site was not the highest the New Jersey-based team received, but they were convinced by the team Gilmartin had assembled and her reputation.

“You can get away with a lot in this town,” Gilmartin said at Bisnow’s New York State of the Market event last month. “You can build forgettable buildings that deliver tremendous returns, and you can make a shit ton of money. I don’t want to do that.”

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December 10, 2018
The Real Deal

L&L MAG’s first development will be a 460-unit resi building in Chelsea

MaryAnne Gilmartin’s L&L MAG has inked a 99-year ground lease for Edison Properties’ 241 West 28th Street for about $7 million per year with gradual increases, according to sources familiar with the deal. This puts the total value of the deal in the range of $150 to $170 million, depending on the cap rate.

L&L is planning to build a 22-story, 460-unit residential project on the lot that will span roughly 372,000 square feet, Gilmartin said. The building will be split between 70 percent market-rate units and 30 percent affordable units and be developed through the Affordable New York program. It will include retail space on the ground floor and parking on the lower level, and COOKFOX will design it.

Gilmartin expects to have the building designed within a year and have the site ready for construction by the end of next year. Aaron Weaver of Level Investments brokered the deal for the developer.

This marks the first major deal for L&L MAG, which Gilmartin launched earlier this year with L&L partners David Levinson and Robert Lapidus after spending 23 years at Forest City. She has brought on Atalaya Capital Management and the Australian firm Qualitas as investment partners.

“For me, it became an opportunity to convince Edison that we were the best team, that we would produce a building of beauty and value,” Gilmartin said.

Young Kwon, managing director of Atalaya, said his company was interested in this project because of the location, the business partners and the chance to develop a multifamily building, noting that the deal “checked all our boxes.”

A Cushman & Wakefield team of Steve Kohn, Alex Hernandez and Alex Lapidus represented L&L MAG in bringing Atalaya and Qualitas on board.

Edison Properties had previously filed plans in 2014 to develop a 15-story residential building with 323 units on the site. The firm had purchased four properties on West 28th Street to create a 30,000-square-foot lot between 28th and 29th streets and Seventh and Eighth avenues.

Robert Scharf, executive vice president of real estate at Edison Properties, said in a statement that while L&L MAG wasn’t the highest bidder, the company’s project was still the best fit for the site.

“Although we received several higher offers, we chose to ground lease the property to L&L MAG because of the wonderful team that they have put together,” he said. “They have extensive experience developing some of the most outstanding and transformative projects in NYC.”

Edison Properties is based in New Jersey and is betting big on Newark with its Ironside project near the city’s Penn Station. The mixed-use building will have 290,000 square feet of workspaces and grabbed its first big tenant in the spring: Mars Wrigley Confectionery, which will relocate its headquarters from Chicago and take 150,000 square feet in the property.

L&L Holding made its own massive purchase in Chelsea recently with Normandy Real Estate, paying about $900 million for the neighborhood’s Terminal Stores warehouse in October. They are planning to turn the building into a property worth $1.8 billion, and are reportedly in talks to bring Allianz Real Estate of America into their partnership.

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