Posts tagged "development"

JC 103: Infill Development with Jason Javer

November 25th, 2020 | no comments

Getting in the Zone.

Jason Javer is a native New Yorker and graduate of the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan with a degree in finance. Jason began his career at a private equity company that invested in Chicago real estate. This experience provided Jason with the foundation required for success in the real estate investment and development game as a real estate entrepreneur.

Jason targets infill development sites in Charlotte, NC and applies his experience as a financial analyst to source and underwrite his development opportunities. As a member of the thriving Charlotte community, Jason enjoys his time at the office and out on the golf course with friends.

Jason Javer joins John Carney today in The Real Estate Locker Room to talk about the competitive real estate game.

Key Points:

  1. Infill development: development near an urban core.
  2. Understanding local zoning is key.
  3. You are going to get knocked down. Get up and keep improving.
  4. Be a leader. You’re managing the people around you and they are looking to you.
  5. Find something to specialize in, “your edge”, where you add value in the process.

Favorite Sports:

  • Basketball

Favorite Athlete:

  • Michael Jordan

Favorite Books:

Pro tips:

  • Consume information, find your niche / something you enjoy/where you can add value and take action.
  • Lean on your strengths & attack your weaknesses.

Reach Out to Jason Javer

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Thank you, Jason Javer for taking the time to share infill development with the audience.

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JC 020: Having a good reputation matters in real estate with Peter Nintcheff

August 9th, 2017 | no comments

Being fair and honest in business leads to results

Peter Nintcheff is the in-house legal counsel for The Goldberg Companies, a national multifamily real estate developer headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio. GCI specializes in developing, owning and managing high-end apartment projects in Northeast Ohio, the Carolinas, Florida and Texas.

As general counsel, Peter is responsible for handling all legal matters for The Goldberg Companies.  His primary duties are preparing and negotiating all legal documents for the acquisition, development, financing and disposition of real property.  Peter also advises the company on leasing, zoning, tax and litigation matters and works closely with the executive team on all business aspects of property due diligence, financing and management of the company’s real estate assets.

As in house counsel, Peter is involved in every step in the development, construction and management of each project. He’s a transaction attorney who writes fair and neutral contracts to get deals done.

Peter believes that in order to have a highly successful business, you must maintain a good reputation in the market and always be fair and honest in dealing with buyers and sellers.

Operating with integrity allows Peter to build teams in multiple markets to accomplish the mission. Working with a strong team that includes complementary skills sets and different approaches makes accomplishing the job fun.

Five key points:

  1. You don’t have to be the best or strongest, or smartest in your field. You just have to utilize your natural skill set to the best of you ability to excel.
  2. Think of attorneys as guides who are able to help real estate professionals navigate the variety of issues that arise during due diligence and property transactions.
  3. Ensure that your purchase contract allows for an appropriate due diligence period. Give yourself plenty of time to do your due diligence on each property and the option to get your money back if your criteria are not met in that time period.
  4. Include a seller default provision in a purchase contract to ensure that the seller cannot negotiate / search for a better offer from a third party during the due diligence period.
  5. The buyer with the most money is not always the best buyer for a deal. Do your due diligence on buyers and on sellers to ensure that you are dealing with reliable, fair and honest people.

Favorite athletes: John McEnroe and Wayne Gretzky.

Favorite book: Running with the Kenyans by Adharanand Finn

Peter trains for success by planning ahead and being prepared.

Check out The Goldberg Companies online, and connect with Peter on LinkedIn or send him and email,

Thank you Peter for taking time out of your busy schedule to share your insights with us today.

Listen to all the episodes of The Real Estate Locker Room Show and sign up for my FREE monthly newsletter at


POST GAME REPORT: Episode Transcript

JC 020: Having a good reputation matters in real estate with Peter Nintcheff

Being fair and honest in business leads to results

 Announcer: Welcome to the, “Real Estate Locker Room Show” with John Carney. Did you know investing in real estate is a team sport? Join John and his guests as they explore the business of real estate and athletic competition. The goal for this show is to grant you direct access to the real estate pros that are closing profitable deals and growing their businesses. On the “Real Estate Locker Room Show” we are getting in the ring with successful investors, developers, operators, and all of the industry professionals to learn what it takes to achieve on-going success. Now it’s time to kick-off and level up with new ways to grow your real estate business.


John Carney: Welcome back to The Real Estate Locker Room Show everybody. I’m your host John Carney, coming at you again today from the sunny west side of Cleveland, Ohio. Joining me in the locker room today to talk about commercial real estate development and multifamily ownership development and operations, is the in-house legal counsel for The Goldberg Companies, and my cousin, Peter Nintcheff. Pete is the general counsel for The Goldberg Companies, which is a national real estate developer headquartered in Beachwood, Ohio, which is an eastside suburb of Cleveland, for those of you who are not from the northeast Ohio area.

GCI is a developer, owner and manager of high-end apartment projects in Northeast Ohio, North and South Carolina, Florida and Texas. GCI also owns and manages approximately 500 square feet of office, retail and flex space.


Prior to joining The Goldberg Companies, Peter was in private practice for six years. Now, as general counsel, he is responsible for handling all legal matters of the company. His primary duties are: preparing and negotiating all legal documents for the acquisition, development, financing and disposition of real property. Peter also advises the company on leasing, zoning, tax and litigation matters and works closely with the executive team on all business aspects of property due diligence, financing and management of the company’s real estate assets.


In recent years, The Goldberg Company’s focus has been on the development of Class A apartment projects in high-end suburban markets, primarily in the southeast. GCI is the developer, general contractor and manager of all new projects and Peter is involved in every step of the process. The goal is to own the property long term. So GCI pays particular attention to detail in order to produce the highest quality product in their respective markets. Sounds like The Goldberg Companies keep you pretty busy Peter!


Peter Nintcheff: Yes, we’ve been very active in the past few years. As you know, multifamily has been a very strong sector. We’ve developed several projects and currently have about 1000 units under construction. So yes, it’s been very busy and it’s been an exciting time.


John Carney: Yea cool. Can’t wait to dive into that. But before we kick off your day-to-day expertise and knowledge of what you do for The Goldberg Companies, I like to just get the show rolling with a stretching question, sports related of course. Who is your favorite athlete and what, if anything, have you learned by being a fan of that athlete and applied to your career?


Peter Nintcheff: My two favorite athletes of all time are Wayne Gretzky and John McEnroe. I admire them the most, I think, because if you look at both those guys, neither of them were the biggest, strongest, fastest athlete in their respective sport. Wayne Gretzky had a vision like nobody else. but there were people who were bigger, stronger and faster than him. I don’t know what he’d be like in today’s game—today’s hockey is a lot different. But he used his vision and his intelligence and his incredible skill to overcome any speed or strength deficiencies he may have had. And the same with John McEnroe. He was just a wily guy on the court and really knew the game and understood his opponent.


Those two guys were at the top of their sport, and again, not given probably the best physical tools. So I think if you step back, what you can learn from them is they had a very strong skill set, and they used that skillset to become the best. Maybe they weren’t the best or had the strongest skillset in everything, but they used their smarts and what they did have to be the best at their respective sport.


John Carney: That’s interesting too. Wayne Gretzky, at the end of the day, had a team of people supporting him. He had a great cast in his younger years with Edmonton. And then when you’re playing tennis, that’s a gladiator sport. There can only be one winner. You have your coaches, your trainers and your nutritionists and a whole cast these days. But probably back in John McEnroe’s’ day it was a thinner team. That’s pretty cool and interesting.


Peter Nintcheff: Yea, two different sports, like you said. One’s team and one’s individual, and they are actually two sports I played growing up and really enjoyed. So, I think you can learn from sports; both doing a team sport and working with your team mates, and an individual sport and really learning from yourself and relying on yourself out there. Like you said, you’re on an island and you’ve got to be the one.


John Carney: So, let’s jump into the exciting world of developing, owning, and operating a multifamily/commercial real estate business and being a critical player. I always stress with people who are starting out in real estate (the seasoned people playing at the high level know this very well) that your accountants and your lawyers, are important team players for any size real estate business. Even if that business only owns one rental property or an Airbnb. Because they’re part of the initial structure and the protection. So, from the legal side of it, can you just talk a little bit about how you use the law to protect your client and to work towards the best outcome?


Peter Nintcheff: Sure. So, as an in-house counsel, my role is a little bit different than an outside attorney that somebody would engage. You take a development process and if there’s ten steps, I’m involved in step one through ten. Whereas, if you’re engaging an outside attorney, you may bring them in in step seven, and have them guide you kind of towards the end.


So when I say I’m involved in step one with our company, what we do is we try to go out and find land, do our due diligence, purchase the land, then we’re going to obtain a construction loan, build it, own it, manage it. So it’s a long process and I’m involved in every step. So that keeps me involved in the due diligence (i.e. is the zoning in place?) and possibly meeting with municipalities and meeting with even local attorneys to understand the zoning and the due diligence on the property, and going through all those steps.


Like you said, I do agree that relying on an attorney is, even in a small transaction or a big transaction, very important. Because there can be certain issues in any real estate transaction that can arise, where they can kind of guide you through the process, whether it be a title or a survey issue, a zoning issue, or a tax issue. I was a real estate attorney before (in private practice). So I view myself as a very good real estate attorney and know the legal aspect well, but I don’t know other things. So I have to go out and rely on outside counsel for tax advice, which plays a very big role in our business. Because we’ve been in business for about 50 years, we have smaller assets that we have sold off in recent years, and we’ve had to go out and 1031 those assets (1031 exchange). And then we use the proceeds from those assets to acquire new assets. Because it’s a very tax-driven method of doing it, I’m going to rely on my outside tax attorney to guide me through that process. So there’s a lot of different issues that could come up, and there are different people and different types of attorneys that can help guide you through those issues.


John Carney: Alright, just to further that, you do a lot of contract work. I would imagine reviewing contracts and drafting contracts. What would be, if you’re, say, going to purchase a property, like The Goldberg Company is going to purchase a company, and you’re given a purchase agreement by the seller, what are the things that you look out for or that you could advise our listeners to look out for if they’ve never seen one of these before, or if they’re reviewing it? What are the highlights: good points, bad points, that you might want to look for in a purchase agreement?


Peter Nintcheff: Sure. Number one, it depends on what you’re buying. I’d like to say that I’m a transactional attorney. I have form contracts that I start off with that I think are very of neutral. Both the buyer and the seller theoretically want to do the deal. So I want to do something that’s fair, something that’s pretty straight forward. But it really depends on what type of property you’re buying.


So right now, we’re doing more land purchases. We’re not going out and buying existing apartment communities. So those are two very different purchase agreements. So for a land purchase agreement, I’ll talk more about concepts. What I’m really looking for is an opportunity to have a due diligence period. I think for our group that’s probably the most important thing. Initially I’m going to ask for about 90 days to do my due diligence and have that be a free look. We’ll put money up in an escrow account, say $50,000 to $100,000. But in that 90 days I get to do my due diligence, and if I’m not satisfied with the property, I want to have the ability to get my money back.


And during that due diligence period, we’re going to be doing our soils testing, our environmental, our title, our survey, all of our due diligence, to really get our arms around the property. So that, number one, is one of the first provisions that I’m going to ask for, is a due diligence period.

Other than that, I think what the contract really has to do is just kind of spell out what’s going to happen: who is responsible for payment of the transfer taxes; how real estate taxes are going to be pro-rated; what’s going to happen at closing; when that closing is going to be. Another real big issue for us, is when that closing is going to be. So, I’m going to have a 90-day free look. If the zoning is in place and everything is in place, I’m willing to close within 15 days after that.


I’ll give you an example. We’re looking at a property in Michigan which has significant environmental issues, so my due diligence period is longer. And we’re looking to get tax increment financing money, so we’re meeting with the city. All that takes a lot of time, so I’m going to look for a long closing period.


Sometimes if my due diligence period expires in 90 days, I may not close on the property for a year after contract execution, because it takes a long time to get through the process to where we’re comfortable with the environmental and getting all the city and state approvals that we’re going to need. So, you really want to build those time periods in from the get go.


Because I’m doing my due diligence, I’ll ask the seller for certain representations. But oftentimes they’re not willing to give me too much. They’re going to say, “Hey buyer, you go rely on your own due diligence.” But I’m going to ask them to say, “Hey, yes, they’re not aware of any environmental issues, they have the authority to sell it, they own clear title”, provisions like that. You’re going to ask them if they know if there’s anything wrong with the property. But again, they’re going to try to limit that.

And with land, I’m not too worried about that. In purchase agreements, oftentimes you’ll see a condemnation provision or a damage and destruction provision. Meaning, if something happens to the property, if it catches fire during the contract period or if a municipality initiates a taking during the contract period, that they have the ability to get out. Usually those aren’t big issues, and I’m not going to negotiate those too heavily, but that’s something you’ll see in a contract.


And I guess the last thing that has been a hot button for us of late, especially on a deal that’s going to be under contract for a long time, is the seller default provision. Usually we’re in markets where there’s a lot of demand, so there’s a fear that the seller goes and tries to get a better offer, and tries to go to a different buyer. So, usually in a default provision you’ll see a specific performance; meaning that the seller has to perform, and that you can sue them if they haven’t. Or what we really want is: we’re spending a lot of money during our due diligence process, up to $100,000. If they default for some reason, if they don’t step up to the closing table, I want the ability to get out of my agreement and then come after them for the money that I’ve spent on my due diligence.


So, those are some of the provisions that I’m looking for in our contracts. And again, like I said, if you’re doing a built project, it’s a little bit different. You’re buying a property where there’s tenant leases in place, and you want to make sure you get to rent rolls. There’s different types of due diligence that you’re doing, and some different things that you’re going to be concerned about because there’s a physical structure in place.


John Carney: Right, so that’s all really good advice and a great summary of some of the things you want to be aware of when you’re making any offer. I suppose on a single-family home purchase it would be called an inspection period. But that’s — I’m not going to say it’s interesting — it’s a great explanation on the seller default. I would imagine that is something that you see included, or something that you add in your contract language. Just knowing that you’re trying to protect against something that could potentially happen? I’m sure it’s happened in the past. I’m sure there’s a lot of stories out there; people who have lost a deal because they didn’t have that provision, right?


Peter Nintcheff: Well, I think you’ll pretty much see both a seller and buyer default provision in every contract. And with the buyer default provision, you’re going to see that the seller will be entitled to the earnest money they put up. And again, for a piece of land, we’re trying to put up a small earnest money deposit because what’s the seller really losing?


In a built project, you’re going to see a much more significant deposit. And, maybe one contract execution and then another one after the inspection period ends (in between closing). So you’ll see both of those in pretty much every contract.


In a seller default, usually what you see is, the buyer has the right to either terminate or sue for specific requirements. But like I said, we try to add in a little bit more and just say, “Hey listen seller, you’re also going to reimburse us for our costs.” And we’re trying to hold their feet to the fire to bring them to the closing table.


Because if we have a property under contract for a year, not only have we spent a lot of money, but we’re getting ready to get our development team into place and we’re looking at this as a way to increase our capital for our company in a future ownership deal. And obviously, if we’ve invested that much time in it, we’re very excited about it and we want to close. So it’s just a little something extra to make sure the seller performs. But I think you’ll see both the buyer and seller default provision in every contract. We’ve never had an issue, knock on wood, and hopefully that continues, but certainly you want to protect yourself. There are times when a party doesn’t perform.


John Carney: Well you haven’t had an issue because The Goldberg Companies has such good in-house counsel, right?


Peter Nintcheff: That’s right. I’d like to say that, but we also have a good reputation and a proven closing track record. We’ve sold a few things—we’re usually not sellers of properties. But when we sold some smaller assets we are very selective in our buyers too, and I think that’s important. Sometimes the best offer isn’t really the best offer. If you have a known buyer who has a proven track record of closing, they may be your best buyer, even though they’re not offering the most money.

Sometimes, what we’ve seen is: you get a buyer who offers the most money, you get your due diligence period and they’re going to come back to you and try to re-trade on you and lower their purchase price. They’ll say, “Well, we found this, this, and this wrong with the property. We want the purchase price lowered by x.” So you’re kind of back to where you started. And maybe an offer that was lower initially would have been a better offer because it was a better buyer.


So you want to make sure you do your due diligence on your buyer and your due diligence on your seller. So it’s good to know who you’re dealing with. I think we’re known as having a good track record as owners and buyers and sellers. So I think that’s important.


John Carney: That’s a great point, and something that I believe in. And if you listen to Warren Buffet or anyone who’s running a highly successful business (Richard Branson) you want to have a good reputation in your business, whether you’re in the real estate business or retail business, right? Because it does matter.

What you’ve just said, I think is worth reiterating: it matters if you have that reputation for being somebody that closes. You’ll probably inevitably do more deals, grow your business, and be more profitable. As opposed to earning the reputation (reputations are earned), o trying to hammer in lower pricing at the end, maybe illegitimate concerns at the end of a due diligence period, or just not being able to get your financing in order and close a deal. Those are good points that you brought up.


It matters when you want to play at the highest level, to be entering the arena with a good reputation as a seller who’s fair and honest, and as a buyer that says what they are going to do. Is that a good way to look at it?


Peter Nintcheff: Absolutely. I agree, and I thank you; you hit the nail right on the head when you said fair and honest. And I think that’s the approach that I try to take from the get go when I’m negotiating a contract with a buyer or a seller’s attorney, or even just dealing with the buyer or seller themselves. If you’re fair and honest with them and you expect the same from them, I think you’re ultimately going to have a good result. And even when we’re looking at a piece of property where there are some issues, and we’re not sure if we’re going to be able to get through those issues, say from a due diligence standpoint, we always keep our seller informed of what we’re doing, where we’re at, and say “Hey listen, we have some environmental issues, and we really have to get our arms around them, and if we can’t, we can’t purchase the property.” And they’re saying, “Listen, we’re ok, because you’re being honest with us. We understand that there are issues, we understand that you have to get through them.”


So I think if you’re fair and honest throughout the process — like I say, we try to keep our sellers informed of what we’re doing and where we’re at — I think that goes a long way. Good communications, and so that there’s no surprises down the road and they know that we’re doing our homework and if we can’t get comfortable with it, they understand. And I think that helps our reputation out.


John Carney: Perfect. Well one question I wanted to ask based on, sort of, the John McEnroe conversation from earlier is: when you left private practice and you started out at The Goldberg Companies, which puts a lot of responsibility on your shoulders, was that like that championship tennis match? What was that experience like? And maybe you can talk just a little bit about the team you have around you internally, because we believe it’s a team sport at the end of the day, real estate.


Peter Nintcheff: So that’s a good analogy. When I left private practice — because I was at a medium sized law firm, I believe there were about eight real estate lawyers in our department. We had tax attorneys, other business attorneys, litigation attorneys. So if I had any questions — because I don’t know everything and I don’t pretend to know everything — it was easy to go down the hall and ask colleagues questions or for some help. Maybe they changed something that would help me out on something I was working on. And then when I came in-house, I’m still the only attorney here, so I was kind of on an island, so I kind of had to do everything by myself. But I didn’t do everything myself, let’s be honest.


So we set up kind of a team, I have a team of outside attorneys that I use. I have tax attorneys, I have local attorneys in the states that we are in that I use for guidance. So it took me a few years to kind of develop that network of people who I really rely on. I have a title company that closes all of our deals in North Carolina and they’re fantastic. I give them business and they pick up the phone anytime there’s an issue. So you build these relationships and you build these networks and you get a group of people that you rely on and trust, and it makes your life and job a lot easier. And it makes these deals that we do go a lot smoother, and that’s really what you’re looking for.


And since I’ve been here, we really have developed an in-house team as well. Like I said, I’m the only, I guess, practicing attorney. There are other people here with law degrees, but we have a due diligence team. We have a director of acquisitions who goes out and finds our property. We have an investment officer. We have a construction manager. The four of us meet every week, and we go through deals. We have very different ideas, and we’re looking at deals in very different ways, but we complement each other very well. The development manager, wants to close a deal, and I sometimes have to put the brakes on things and say, “Hey listen, we need to look at these issues.” Our construction manager can read the due diligence reports and understand what kind of soils we’re looking at. Are these right for development? Can we build here? He can read the environmental reports. And the investment officer, obviously, is looking at if will the pro forma work, will it pencil, are we going to be able to get the return that we desire?


So when you put the four of us together, we have very different skill sets and different personalities. But I think in a real estate transaction it kind of covers almost everything that you need, at least in house, to get us to analyze these deals well. And then we use our outside folks as well to help us. Whether it be with a zoning issue, or if you’ll use local counsel for that.


So when you develop these networks and you develop these teams, it really helps. Especially when you have people who have complementing skillsets and personalities and work together well. It makes the deal a lot smoother and a lot more enjoyable. It makes for good constructive discussion and it makes an exciting process.


John Carney: That’s good to hear, because it sounds like you guys are having fun. You’re finding great deals and you’re getting a lot done. We’re kind of at the point where we wind this down with a few final questions, Pete. I’m putting together a pretty extensive reading list now by asking all of our guests a few questions that we call our two-minute drill. Do you have a favorite book that you’ve read recently along the business lines, that you could recommend or a nonfiction book that you think is something that you turn back to once in a while? Maybe it inspired you or taught you something that you apply every day?


Peter Nintcheff: I’ll be perfectly honest, I don’t read a lot of books. I spend most of my day reading, and so then when I’m not in the office, I haven’t been reading a whole lot, so I’ll have to get back to you on that one. I don’t have a whole lot of advice. I’ve read a few running books lately, which I’ve enjoyed. There was one, “Running with the Kenyans,” that I thought that was very, very interesting, about an Englishman who lived with Kenyan runners for a period of time to try to figure out why they’re so far superior. That’s the only non-fiction book I’ve read recently. But you get good lessons from those as well. Good life lessons. No business books, sorry.


John Carney: Well look, it didn’t have to be a business book. Maybe I didn’t phrase that properly on my own list of questions. It could also be a sports book, so you ticked that off. But I mean, you are a runner, you’ve run multiple marathons, and we know you’re a Spartan.


Peter Nintcheff: Now I’m a Spartan. Thanks to you John. I enjoyed that experience as well.


John Carney: Alright. You’ve talked extensively about what you do day-to-day. Is there anything that comes to mind, like a come from behind victory where everything falls in line right at the zero hour to get documents signed and wires sent, that you can think of? And maybe an obstacle that you overcame to help bring a deal to the forefront? Or do you get everything ironed out smooth ahead of time.


Peter Nintcheff: Well everything has to come together at the last minute, and we’ve had quite a few of those. I guess I try to over-prepare. I try to really, really plan ahead and make sure, if I’m using local counsel, if I’m using a title company out of state, if the seller has attorneys out of state, that everything is going to come together without issue. And to do that, I think you really need to plan ahead. So I’m trying to plan weeks ahead.


I’ll just give you a recent example: my parents, my brother, my siblings, we were all in Wyoming a couple weeks ago at a ranch. We had no cell service and there was a dialup internet on the ranch and that was it. And during that time I was closing a transaction in Florida that we had been working on for about a year. So of course, it comes up, well, while you’re gone.


So the week before I was gone, I had everything that we could get done, done. And everything, using my team here to send things into escrow, to get all the documents signed that I didn’t have signed. But everything that I did have in my possession was signed. Everything was ready to go, gave detailed instructions, and it all came together on the Thursday that we were on the ranch. I was probably horseback riding or fly fishing at the time, but it’s nice — that felt really good to me, that I had a team here, that I was prepared, and I got our seller’s attorney on board and our seller on board, because they knew I was going to be gone, but we had to close. We had a tax deadline while I was gone, because of a 1031 exchange (your period ends 180 days after you sell, and you have to use your proceeds). And we were right at that period. So we had to get that done and with a lot of preparation, a lot of planning ahead, we got it done while I was without cell service and only had a dialup internet. I did check my emails a couple times on the dial up, which is certainly different than what we’re normally used to, but it was a good feeling.


John Carney: That’s a great way to exit this interview, Pete. I mean, always prepare. A good plan is better than a wish and a prayer, I suppose. Well, thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to join me in the locker room today, Pete. Is there any where the audience can find you if they have any questions? Is there a way to contact you? Is sending people to The Goldberg Company’s website the best place, or do you used LinkedIn or any social media?


Peter Nintcheff: I am on LinkedIn. That is really the only social media that I’m on. You can search my name, but it either comes out with me or my Dad, we’re the only Peter Nintcheffs out there.

Go on our website, check out our properties at Goldberg, just do a google search for Goldberg Companies. You’ll see some of the stuff that we’ve done, especially some of the stuff that we’ve done recently. I think is really spectacular.

I don’t think there’s any link to my information on the site, but email is my first initial and my last name and I’m happy to shed further light on what I’ve discussed today, or certainly provide any insight that I can to you and your audience. And John, thanks for having me, I appreciate the opportunity to talk a little bit about what I do.


John Carney: Yea thanks. It was a great interview, and we will make sure that we have all the appropriate links in the show notes and the post-game report on my website. So there you have it folks. I truly hope that you picked up some actionable advice today from Peter Nintcheff, who is in-house counsel for the Goldberg companies.

Make sure to check out the Real Estate Locker Room Show on iTunes, Stitcher or Google Play, and hit that subscribe button to ensure that you never miss out on the pro tips from our great guests. The mission here is to help you elevate your real estate game by learning from the experiences of the people who are out there doing it every day.

If you like what this show’s all about I’d be grateful if you would leave us a five-star review on iTunes or whatever your preferred podcast platform is so that other like-minded real estate investors just like you are able to find this show online.

The post-game report show notes that I just mentioned, with links to this show and Peter Nintcheff will be available on my website: and while you’re visiting the website you can look through the catalogue of past shows, or drop your email address into the newsletter sign up form to receive the occasional update from myself.

Remember to stay focused on your goals, have fun and stay in the game. I’m your host John Carney and until next week: work hard play hard and profit hard.

Thanks Pete. Have a great day and look forward to catching up with you and the family soon.


(Music Out)

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Connect with John Carney
Twitter: @John_M_Carney
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© John Carney 2017

JC 012: Grassroots neighborhood development with Graham Veysey

May 24th, 2017 | no comments

Connecting Neighborhoods and Walkability

EP 012 : The Real Estate Locker Room Show

Urban developer Graham Veysey joins us in the Locker Room today. He’s the visionary who took the “no man’s land” between neighborhoods on Cleveland’s near west side and transformed it into a thriving community and business hub.

Graham Veysey is an entrepreneur, investor and a grassroots neighborhood developer who lives and works in the Hingetown Neighborhood of Ohio City. His first major urban development project was the 6 acres Ohio City Farm – one of the largest urban farms in United States. Graham fell in love with the neighborhood and dug in with the purchase of the old Ohio City Firehouse. He and his wife Marika Clark converted the firehouse into a vibrant mixed-use building and their new home.

They began fixing up their immediate surroundings one building at a time which attracted new businesses and new residents to their pocket of Ohio City. Graham continues to develop the walkable area around the firehouse based on what the neighborhood and community needs. He combines passion, vision and creativity to deliver a unique product that will further the growth and success of his neighborhood.

Key Points

  1. You shouldn’t just put your money in development of vacant space. As Graham says: “The root of development is how do you look at a space and re-imagine it to fit another need or enhancing existing need.”
  2. Make a habit of walking and biking instead of driving
  3. Anybody who is interested in getting into development must have passion and vision.
  4. For a neighborhood developer it is important to emotionally and personally attach to your project.
  5. If someone is critiquing your project, you should take it personal. And that’s a difference between commercial developer and neighborhood developer.

Favorite Athletes: Michael Jordan – NBL Player & Steve Prefontaine – Runner

Favorite quotes:

“Just do it “– Nike’s slogan

“An idea without action is a mere hallucination” – Edison

Favorite book: Walkable City: Downtown Save America by Jeff Speck

Thank you Graham for taking the time to share you story with us today.

You can connect with Graham by visiting his website,

Twitter – @grahamveysey

Instagram – @gveysey

Tune into all the episodes of The Real Estate Locker Room Show and sign up for my FREE monthly newsletter at

POST GAME REPORT: Episode Transcript

The Real Estate Locker Room Show with John Carney

JC 012:  Grassroots neighborhood development with Graham Veysey

Welcome to the Real Estate Locker Room Show with John Carney.

Did you know that investing in real estate is a team sport? And John and his guest say they explore the intersection of the business of real estate an athletic competition. The goal for the show is to grant you direct access to the real estate pros that are closing profitable deals and grow their businesses. On the Real Estate Locker Room show, we are getting in the ring with successful investors, developers, operators, and all of the industry professionals to learn what it takes to achieve ongoing success.

Now, it is time to kick off and level up with new ways to grow your real estate business.

John Carney: Welcome back to another episode of the Real Estate Locker Room Show. I am your host John Carney coming at you today from Cleveland, Ohio. And joining me on the line in the locker room is a real estate developer and entrepreneur who is also from Cleveland. His name is Graham Veysey. Correct, Graham?

Graham: You have got it. It’s good to be with you John. Thanks for having me.

John Carney: All right. Welcome to the Locker Room Graham. Graham is a grass roots neighborhood developer living and working in a Hingetown Neighborhood of Ohio City in Cleveland, Ohio. He began this type of work in 2010 as the project director for the 6-acre Ohio City farm, one of the largest urban farms in the United States. The following year, he bought the vacant Ohio City Firehouse and converted that into a vibrant mixed use building. Since then he spearheaded the redevelopment a Hingetown with his wife, Marika Clark. Their developments are part of this group project that works to connect Cleveland Neighborhoods, which is promoting more walking and biking and less driving.

With that in mind, I am going to welcome Graham to the show, and we are going to kick this off today with a question to kind of stretch out to get the conversation going about sports and real estate.

Graham: This is by the way the best known Locker Room I have ever been in.

John Carney: Perfect. That’s good to know. So growing up did you play sports and have a favorite athlete that you looked up to?

Graham: Well, I was a Chicago Bulls fan during the Michael Jordan hay-day. So, the 6’6” man was the guy that I always look to. I think Jordan at that point was my sports icon.

And then as I got a little bit older, I started running a lot. And you have got to just love Prefontaine. But as a guy who is necessarily the most coordinated with his hands, I was always better on my feet and could run long distances. So I did across country and then ran marathons throughout college and even up until few years ago.

John Carney: All right. Cool. So you are still staying active. So Graham we find that like most people who are real estate professionals, especially when you are getting to the development side, you have a very entrepreneurial and business background. Can you let our audience know how you have got into a real estate from urban farming and how you put your team together to get the firehouse deal done?

Graham: Yeah, I think the biggest component is collaboration, and I think that Ohio City Farm was my first development project, which really came out of necessity. There is a giant 6-acre vacant parcel and a group of us got together and said, “How do we re-imagine this space?” And that is the root of development. How do you look at a space and re-imagine it to fit another need or enhance an existing need. So, we took this 6-acre piece of property and brought together all of these stakeholders from the Refugee Response, Great Lake Brewery Company, Ohio City Inc., which is a neighborhood development corporation, and Councilman Joe Cimperman. These were all people who got behind the vision of creating this vibrant urban farm, and it was different than urban garden because we had an economic development component with it. We negotiated the land lease with CMHA which is Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, which is the oldest housing authority in America right here in Cleveland Ohio and Cuyahoga County.

That was 7 years ago. It is awesome to walk by there and see the crops and the farm stand open. The majority was farmed by refugees who found Cleveland as their new home.

So, getting that collaborative group of people (and you have mentioned it is “team”) where one guy might be the marketing guru, one guy might be the number cruncher, one guy might even have the balance sheet. You have always got to be focusing on the collaboration because you can’t do it without that.

John Carney: For the listeners who are outside of Cleveland, could you expand a little bit about Ohio City, which has had a massive transformation there over the last decade. And just to put some context to it, you and I have met before. I grew up in Cleveland but I was away for 19 years. You are now ticking over to 20, and there has been a massive change. I know that neighborhood back from my high school days (my high school was in that neighborhood). But you would be a better person to really give the audience the story about the transformation of this urban demographic and then move into the Hingetown aspect, because that’s a component of Ohio City and it is a really neat story.

Graham: Yeah. I think the coolest part about Ohio City is it actually predates the city of Cleveland. It used to be its own municipality and this goes back to the 1800s. So the whole east and west divides Cleveland. You talk to somebody who is from Cleveland and they talk about east side and west side. It goes back to when you had the city of Cleveland and the city of Ohio.

And you have got the great mix of historic housing stock. You have some beautiful brick structures. We have got the institutions like Saint Ignatius High School, copper rust towers and then you have the oldest public market in the city called the West Side Market which is just for foodies. So you have all these different ingredients that when you have the flight in the 70’s, 80’s and even the 90’s from urban centers, you had a lot of vacancy. You had a lot of that historic housing stock plus historic building to take off. Luckily you had a core of these institutions stay like Saint Ignatius and the West Side Market. You also had CMHA and Lutheran Hospital which is one the Cleveland community hospitals. So you still had these places that were rooting the neighborhood. So when people started looking in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s at viable urban spaces to live and to raise a family (because of Ohio City’s proximity to the downtown business core) you had this revitalization take place.

Now, that’s not saying there weren’t people who stuck with it throughout. There were people who stuck with it through the toughest time. But really over the last 10 years, Ohio City impartially because of the work that was done in the Warehouse District and re-imagining of those spaces, you then had revitalization cross the river and into Ohio City and the main drag which is West 25th. In the last 7 to 10 years you have had businesses moving, like Great Lakes Brewery, which is one of those institutions that in last 25 years were in a rough part town now. You have got people who were total micro brew-heads checking them out in over dozens of states. Lebron actually grabbed a Dortmunder Gold the other day in the play offs and pretended on the sideline to take a drink. So you had all this energy around the West Side Market. When I bought the firehouse, which had been vacant for about 5 years, everybody thought of Ohio City as that intersection of 25h in Lorain so right there by the West Side Market. And my wife and I our goal in serendipitously this great couple from Akron, Fred and Laura Bidwell and announced that they were doing this cool contemporary art space called the Transformer Station which they forced to partnership with Cleveland Museum art which is a 100 year old world class art museum.

So how do we create an identity in this part of Ohio City? You have the market district that’s based around the West Side Market. How do you put a label for when somebody says, “I am going to hangout in Ohio City” And so Hingetown really falls at the intersection of Ohio City’s market district, Gordon Square Art District, and the Warehouse District. All of them within a mile (within a 10 minute walk and within a 5 minute bike ride). And we have been working for, in reality, 5 years attracting businesses, attracting other developments, different building or cells, and we have created a great little node of vibrancy, but we know that the city and success of our work is really going to be judged by those missing teeth as Jeff Speck would call them. So that you have a great walk from Gordon Square to Hingetown and from Hingetown to the Warehouse District. And it feels safe, it feels clean and there is activity.

John Carney: And it is great. And it was really interesting to see because those, especially Gordon Square, were something I didn’t even know about. I grew up on the West Side of Cleveland and I went to high school not far away. So when you went from putting together this initiative in really a large collaboration with many different parts of the government and the community for the farm, somewhere there you decided to buy the Firehouse. Was that pretty much your baptism into real estate and development?

Graham: It was. And for me it was out of necessity. I was renting apartment. I have got a production company. We were growing. So, I was renting the studio and I wanted to live above the shop, if you will, and have a place where I both lived and yet could, in the same building, have a studio space. I was at a Christmas party and a real estate broker saw my license plate which was OHCITY (Ohio City) and said, “I have got a great property in Ohio City for you – the old firehouse.” I said, “That’s too far off the beaten path.”

So I wanted to be right in the hub of the activity. Until that point, the hub was really restricted to just West 25th. So I toured and I fell in love with the building. It was originally constructed in 1854 as the city of the Ohio Volunteer Fire Department. I said, “All right. This is great.” My wife, who was at an architecture school at that time, said she put a wall here and wall here. These could be different offices. This could a couple of different retail spaces. So we moved in, we updated the front of the building because it had been basically fortressed because in this part of the neighborhood being a place where activity wasn’t so great anything could happen.

We started to attract everybody from the first third wave of coffee shops to come to Cleveland to the best floral designer in Urban Orchid, and then office tenants. And when Fred and Laura announced the Transformer Station, which is just a really neat spot that any of your listeners who come to Cleveland should check out, we said, “How do we think beyond the four walls of the Firehouse?” And we bought the Striebinger Block which is catty-corner which was a 1919 original construction. We put in 7 retail spaces and 7 apartments. As we continue to grow, there has been added residential. And if you look at Cleveland, you have got the downtown business core. You have got University Circle which is where Case Western Reserve University and the hospital are but besides those two spots there was no other place with as much concentrated development as Hingetown other than the downtown business core and University Circle.

John Carney: That’s a great a great story about reviving a section of a city. Correct me if I am wrong but to kind of summarize, when you fell in love with Firehouse, you had architectural expertise on your side but regardless you were talking a risk. I am sure, at the time, you felt like you were taking a risk but confident it was going to work out. And then all of sudden you just said, “Hey this isn’t so bad. We should try and own that building there “and plant our flag” so to speak.

Graham: Yes and we approached the owner. The building was in pretty bad shape. Once we started peel away some of the initial grime, we found out that the building was not structurally sound. The guy was behind on his mortgage. But I think this building both because structurally it wasn’t looking great and because it did not the best lender, who was out of state, if went to forclosure, they would have demolished it. So we went in there, and again when we think about the keys to that vibrancy we found folks that had the same sort yearning for urbanity and got an awesome indoor cycling studio with 31 bikes… It literally just packed from [5:30] AM until their last class at 7PM. A guy who is moving back from Chicago, who grow up in Cleveland, so another boomeranger opening up the neighborhood tavern, Jukebox and juice bar, get a juice from the first cold press juice to come into town. And Molly and Joseph have this awesome sandwich called the bravocado that again it is one of those that you put it on culinary checklist when you come or visit Cleveland. And then a great tea shop by another young couple. So you had all these different folks who I call the Poster People of the Cleveland Renaissance opening up their own small businesses taking giant risks.

We didn’t have the requirement that you have to have a balance sheet that will guarantee the lease that you are doing. We never would have been to sign with these folks. And now they are all doing kick ass. They are doing high quality stuff. And that allowed us to continue to grow our portfolio. We just finished up print shop which the 1865 historic conversation. And for us we are neighborhood developers. We are very grass root. So being able to take the Firehouse and bring it into a couple of retail tenants, half a dozen office tenants, to look at Striebinger Block,14 different tenants with a split of residential and retail.

The print shop has one ground floor tenant and 6 apartments. We are now starting to get into a different class and we are right now in the design approval process for 161 units. There are two buildings, actually. It is called Church and State because the historic names for West 29th in Hingetown were called State Street and then Church Avenue is the divide. 161 units, its 20,000 square of retail, and 10,000 square foot public space that we want to be in amenity not just for those 161 units and those retail tenants but for the whole neighborhood.

John Carney: That sounds like you have found a way to stay busy expanding around the Firehouse, so to speak. When you tell the story like that and you bring in the other young entrepreneurs who were taking risks with their ideas and their capital and joining you and so to speak, planting their flags do you see this trend happening around the United States? Have you met other people in the region that were pioneers and revitalizing an area? For people who don’t live in Cleveland but might get the opportunity to listen to the show and checkout Hingetown on the West Side, we will put links in the show notes so that you can find it. It really is, this a great story to go along with it. Can you talk a little bit more about the real estate side when you got the Firehouse. You have some tenants there. And then you have gone through a historic rehab foreclosure type building across the street and then it is a continued expansion build out of improving the neighborhood where you plan on staying with your colleagues. Do you see just more and more opportunity to build up around Hingetown?

Graham: Yeah, and we see it from traditional developers. What’s been great is we are working on these grass roots projects, if you will. You have got more seasoned developers. You are talking a collection of buildings, which is an amazing our story because they stayed in blocks through the great recession. And then you have got 6 story new construction that’s going up. That’s another 7 units. And then you have got a 4 story, 70 residential units going up. So all of the stuff is happening. That’s the density that will then continue to support in the small businesses that are going up. So, it is capturing that momentum.

And as we have looked across the United States to different things that give us inspiration, it is both the grass root and the grass top type of developers. So from Tim in an Oakland – which is one of the coolest retail experiences that my wife has visited to Wynnewood Walls and Panther Coffee. A lot of these examples of developments that really have soles and/or unique places where they have got their personality showing through. You are part of that because of the programmatic approach and you are not just the design and brick and motor, but it is designed in how are you programming industry? How you are making sure that you are being inclusive? How are you making sure that you are being robust in terms of community process? How are you responding to some of the feedback that you are getting? So yes there are passionate folks that are doing amazing projects that we really look at for examples of stuff that we should be doing.

We are seeing different pockets of the city of Cleveland. It is not just limited to outside of Cleveland. You look at what’s happening on St Clair Superior, and Glen Willow with this really cool art project, and Fred Bidwell or Bidwell doing the front project in collaboration with Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative. I think that there is a momentum of urbanity happening right now and people are really collaborative. And I think with that collaborative spirit will help keep the momentum going and will add positive density to our urban areas that we need. It is great for sustainability. And selfishly it is just a great place to live.

So, at the end of the day, my wife and I talk about we are partially selfish in everything that we are doing. We want the amenities around us that we want to be able to support. And we want the bar that we want to be able to go and see friends. And we want the public spaces that you bump into a neighborhood and strike up a conversation and hear about a cool story or movie that we should check out. So there is a livability that is very personal to us and that’s what we are really excited to try and continue to perpetuate.

John Carney: For people that want to be a real estate development, there can be both positive and negative connotations to the general public. Have you found a lot of openness and willingness to help from the city government because of the improvements you are going in and the tangible and the visual impact your developments are having, or do you find the same resistance that any developer may encounter proposing change in the new area?

Graham: I think it is two-fold. Sometimes you have a negative connotation because it is somebody from the outside. I think that there is an inability for people to develop in and around them. And in that instance, they are just your neighbor that’s trying to do something that’s improving the area around them. So, I think putting that name and not the label is a really key component especially with the community development side of it. And then as far as you navigate in the bureaucratic red tape, again it is a bit of a mix bag that you are trying to push, especially with a city like Cleveland that’s got a very dated zoning code. How do you create a project that’s going to raise a bar while making sure that you are doing to the community process? And yet because of certain elements like very rigorous block club approval even though they are an offical body, you sometime get frustrated. I can’t believe how many different hurdles we are trying to jump over to take what’s been a surface parking lot that sat vacant for probably 20 years with the exception of the 4 or 5 cars to park there for the print shop. Why is this so hard?

The other element of it is, as for a city like Cleveland, we are working to catch up to a lot of the urban development that’s been happening. So, one of the two buildings that we are putting on the side is an 11-story building. An 11-story building is not a huge deal when you zoom out and when your city is like Toronto or Portland or Chicago. And for a zip code that shares the same zip code as all of downtown, again that is not a huge deal. Yet people will get really fixed on that number.

And then the other component that I think from a frustration stand point goes back to the day of zoning code is this obsession and it is a very Robert Moses, like the obsession with the automobile. And the first question is “What about the parking?” Again, for a city like Cleveland that hasn’t seen the rapid urban development of some of our competing cities, you shouldn’t really be able, if you are within a mile from the downtown business core, to consistently pull up and have a parking space right in front of your home. And because for the last 3-4 decades, you haven’t had the dense population, they have taken that as a given. And so you need to try to re-tool some of these folks. God love them because they made it through the bad times and yet they see these good times that are coming as a threat to that ease of just pulling up right in front of your driveway or even if you don’t have a driveway right in front of your house.

So those are the balances that I think that anybody who is interested in getting into development should have a passion, needs to have a vision. But there is also give and take. And sometimes it gives really hard because you are not just giving up on certain elements but you are putting yourself out there in a very personal way if you are very passionate about the project that you are doing. And when someone is critiquing the project, they are critiquing you. You are going to take it personal. If you don’t, then maybe you are not personal and emotionally invested enough. But that is the kind of the difference, I would say, between a commercial developer or neighborhood developer. But if you are looking purely at the matrix, yeah you are not going to be as emotionally investment. But for us, when we are looking at all the different strands of the urban fabric, it is a give and take. And the point of a really great urban setting is being cognizant, not just of how many units or how many square feet but really the personality that you are trying to help cultivate.

John Carney: Again, I think it is a great story and you know the whole mission of this podcast is for someone to hear your story and say, “You know I had that idea. I want to transform this area of my city.” And it is inspirational because it wasn’t an overnight success, right? I mean it took a decade and I am assuming that your life’s work is improving this area and being on that neighborhood development side. So thank you for sharing that story about Hingetown.

We are kind of getting ready to wrap this up. We have a question that we would like to close this out with before we say goodbye and sign off. You talked a lot about your motivation and the drive and the passion behind your projects and that obviously keeps you going when you have obstacles and frustrations come up. But is there any one quote that keeps you motivated or is the passion to improve your surroundings for the community?

Graham: Well, there are two really. This is a great because we are in the Locker Room, the wonderful Nike slogan of “Just do it”. If you see something, you got to just do it if you really feel that passion and calling.

The other one is the great Edison quote that “An idea without action is a mere hallucination”. And so if you have got an idea, you have got to take action or you are just going to be stuck. An idea without action is a mere hallucination. So, “Just do it” is great Edison quote.

John Carney: Two great quotes to live by. Is there a favorite book that you keep handy as a reference whether it is business book or biography that you recommend our listeners pick up next time here on Amazon?

Graham: Well, if somebody hasn’t read it and they are doing urban development, you’ve got to order right now Jeff Speck’s “Walkable City”. We are big fans of Jeff Speck. He pulls from some of the greatest urbanists in history but he looks at the behavior of folks on a pedestrian level and on a bikeablity level. He also pulls a ton of great pieces of research from a real data side to what works from walkability and bikeability standpoints. So, Jeff Speck’s Walkable City.

John Carney: Let me ask you this: how often do you and your wife share a car or do you even own a car or need a car?

Graham: I don’t think we need a car. We have got a Prius because it is easy. And then we have got the Hingetown public works truck, which is a 1975 dodge pickup truck. So, we have got both the pickup truck and Prius. We have both ends of the spectrum.

John Carney: When do you think cars in urban environments, like you actually having the own one, addressing the neighbors that are concerned about parking are just going to go away?

Graham: I think it is starting to. When you look at cities like Buffalo they are doing away with the automobile ratio requirements in the zoning code. But I think that as we continue to see the shared economy with Uber or Lyft, you are going to find that it is even less expensive to just take a ride like than pay for a parking space or pay a lease on a car and maintenance. Our orbit is pretty small. And it will be a week that we will go by where we won’t touch our car or our truck. It’s been number of days since we have been in it. But I think that we are moving to that direction and I think that when you see the investment of these ride sharing companies are making in the driver less cars, you are going to have even more ability to just go on your iPhone to click where you are at and cars are going to pull up and to take you where you need if you can’t walk or bike there or take a bus or rap into there. So I think we are getting there. I think it is going to be quicker than we think. And I think that obsession with parking spaces will fall by the way side and it will be more efficient but also more sustainable for the planet.

John Carney: All right Graham, thank you for sharing your story today. And once again, I find it inspirational. I am sure our listeners will as well. Where can our audience find you to carry on the conversation online or on social media?

Graham: They can find Hingetown on either Instagram or Twitter or go to and then my name at Twitter or on Instagram. My name on either Instagram or Twitter I jump into some of these urban conversations online but those are the best spots to find me.

John Carney: Perfect. We will make sure that those are listed in the show notes. All right. There you have it folks. I truly hope that you picked up some actionable advice today from Mr. Graham Veysey. Make sure to check out the Real Estate Locker Room show on iTunes, Stitcher, or Google Play and hit that subscribe button to ensure that you miss out on the pro tips from our guest. The mission here is to help you elevate your real estate game.

If you like what this show is all about, I would grateful if you would leave us a five-star review. Just click right on iTunes or your preferred podcast platform so that other likeminded real estate investors like yourself can find us.

The post-game report show notes links and additional content related to today’s episode will be available on my website And while you are there feel free to drop your email into the newsletter sign up form to receive more real estate investing tricks, hacks and other good stuff.

Remember to stay focused on your goals, have fun, and stay in the game. I am your host, John Carney, and until next week work hard, play hard, and profit hard. Thank you for taking the time to share your story with us in the Locker Room Graham.

Graham: Thanks for having me.

(Music Out)

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Connect with John Carney
Twitter: @John_M_Carney
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© John Carney 2017