By Berdon LLP November 16, 2022 4:59 pm
Berdon Accountants and Advisors LLP just released the fourth installment of their Breakfast with Berdon video series, where, along with the Commercial Observer, they interview commercial real estate’s top thought leaders.
Hosted by Meyer Mintz, Tax Partner and Co-Chair of the real estate group at Berdon, the new episode features an interview with Jeff Gural, Chairman of GFP Real Estate.
Gural, whose firm holds ownership interests in over 11 million square feet of real estate over more than 50 properties, began the conversation by telling Mintz that the secret to his decades of success was always being hands-on with his properties.
“We get to know our tenants personally to give them the feeling that the landlord is their friend. It’s not an adversarial relationship,” said Gural. Mintz then asked him how the fact that his firm is a family firm – son Eric Gural and nephew Brian R. Steinwurtzel both hold the title co-CEO and Principal – affects the business.
“A lot of people like the idea that it’s a family business, because they know that the landlord they’re dealing with is probably going to be the same landlord when the lease ends 10 years from now,” said Gural. “Whereas if you were dealing with a REIT or some of the others that buy and sell, you can end up with a landlord that is notoriously terrible, and there’s not much you can do about it.”
Gural then discussed why much of his company’s office product consists of converted manufacturing facilities.
“We’ve never owned the big box shiny buildings. We never could afford them when we first started out, so we bought manufacturing buildings that had to be converted to offices,” said Gural. “But the good news is that those buildings are in areas of the city that startups, tech guys, and smaller companies want to be in, like SoHo, Tribeca, Chelsea, and the Village. They’re funky buildings. Concrete floors, concrete ceilings, cool lobbies. That’s good for us. We’re not competing with Hudson Yards or any of these newer buildings, because most of our tenants are small. A big tenant for us might be 30,000 square feet, but the vast majority are 5,000.”
Mintz then asked Gural to discuss programs he is running to help attract people back to the office, especially since his older, smaller buildings don’t offer benefits like amenity floors. In addition to free coffee and donuts once a week, Gural used his advantage as the owner of the Meadowlands Racetrack to provide one very special treat for tenants.
“We have two luxury suites we use for football,” said Gural. “So I took all the excess tickets and bought them for GFP, and we came up with a contest where you put your phone up against a QR code in the lobby and you get one entry per day. We had 18,000 entries over two months, and we ended up giving about 300 people two tickets. People who were not coming into the office had no chance to win, and people who came in five days a week had a better chance than anybody else.”