Harry Macklowe is a self-taught entrepreneur and designer whose natural affinity for art and architecture has been key to his becoming one of the most successful real estate executives in New York City.
While he took a stab at an advertising career after college, real estate is where he scratched his creative itch, starting in 1960 – initially as a commercial leasing broker and then as a property developer and builder – teaching himself how to do it all as he went along.
From these early efforts, he forged what became Macklowe Properties, which combines design, planning, construction and management with executive-level ownership and operation to provide for absolute responsibility and control over the company’s assets.
With real estate investments in apartment housing and office buildings in prime locations in and around midtown Manhattan, Macklowe Properties maintains over 13 million square feet of real estate, with approximately 4.5 million square feet of office space and well over 3,000 apartment and hotel units.
Harry’s most notable contributions to Manhattan’s streetscape range from the Metropolitan Tower on West 57th Street to the redevelopment of 340 Madison Avenue to the iconic Apple glass cube in front of the GM Building. The company has recently redeveloped two pre-war luxury apartment buildings on Manhat-tan’s Upper East Side and has completed construction of the landmark tower at 432 Park Avenue, the tallest residential building in New York City at 1,400 feet, or a quarter of a mile, high. It’s the tallest building on the east side of Manhattan and an addition to the NYC skyline.
“I love them, They have a personal and supportive approach; they’re a nurturing bank, which is different than the others.”
Common themes that contribute to the company’s success include: identifying, redeveloping and repositioning underperforming or mismanaged assets through capital improvements and architectural enhancements; creating value by changing a property’s use, increasing its building size, and improving public spaces and infrastructure; and designing and constructing architecturally distinct and prominent buildings with highly innovative design standards.
“My understanding of interior design and architecture and my appreciation of graphics and even furniture all coalesce into a strong vision for a particular property,” Harry explains. “These passions have helped me see what I can do with a building, especially when we repurpose an older property and bring it to new life. I’m proud of this capability and believe that the last 10 years have been the most creative in my life.”
Harry says his love of the building arts transcends economics. “Do a great job, build a great building and a great environment – this is what guides me before the financial success.” And, he adds, “maintain the highest moral and ethical standards in your business. Do what you can to make people happy – tenants, buyers, partners, etc. In the long run, tolerance and kindness is the best measure, and it is your reputation, which is all you really have.”
A key challenge early on, he says, is having a vision that no one else has and sticking to it. “You have to fortify yourself to maintain confidence that your vision is correct and you can realize it, even if you have to make some adjustments along the way. Stick to your guns. The only opinion that really counts is yours.”
The company’s diverse capabilities and proven success in closing transactions and completing projects has made it a favored partner with financial institutions, tenants, brokers and other property owners in the Manhattan real estate community. These long-standing relationships have yielded access to acquisition and development opportunities before they are widely marketed, resulting in lower acquisition and start-up costs than those that would likely be incurred under a competitive bidding process. One of the relationships Harry cherishes is with IDB. “I love them,” he says. “They have a personal and supportive approach; they’re a nurturing bank, which is different than the others. They’re curious; they ask the right questions and offer good guidance. I’m a happy customer.”
With their shared flexibility and creative, entrepreneurial instincts, it sounds like Macklowe Properties and IDB are made for each other to keep refreshing the Manhattan landscape for years to come.