PROFILEnyc had the exclusive opportunity to sit down with Joe McMillan, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of DDG, to discuss bringing green building […]
PROFILEnyc had the exclusive opportunity to sit down with Joe McMillan, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of DDG, to discuss bringing green building and sustainable practices to New York City real estate. Joe and DDG have been behind major projects such as 12 Warren, 180 East 88th, and 41 Bond, amongst others, where they use innovative design solutions to improve the built environment, creating value for both stakeholders and the community at large. DDG is fully integrated to optimize value via both designing and building their developments. Learn what it takes to design and build sustainably in the fast paced streets of Manhattan:
PROFILEnyc Magazine: So few real estate developers are as fully-integrated as DDG when it comes to designing and developing your own projects, why do you think this is so rare? Why did DDG take it upon itself to be involved in both the architectural design and development?
Joe McMillan: It is really a multi-faceted answer. If you look at design, development, construction and the other business we are in, asset management and property management, and overall investment, they are all very separate and distinct skill sets. What most typical firms do is they focus on one of the aspects of development and one of the skill sets. We felt that it would be an incredible competitive advantage to be able to integrate various of those under one corporate umbrella. That is why we chose to do the development, the design, the construction and the asset management all in-house. Having those capabilities and the integration enables us to be more nimble. We can move faster. We can control more of the process and we can control more of the quality. In the end that falls out to the bottom line, so as investors we obtain a better margin and better quality product as a result.
PM: What is your background and how has it enabled you to build a fully-integrated real estate company?
JM: My background is private equity and I am an institutional investor. I spent a number of years as an investor who had a tremendous passion for real estate and the arts. When DDG was started, we built out a team that has very extensive depth along the investment side, from Wall Street firms like Morgan Stanley, Barclays, etc. We have institutional capabilities from development firms and have hired from Hines for one, and on the design side we have a very robust team of designers who are incredibly talented and design a lot of our projects. On the construction side we have hired out of Tishman, Turner, and others; on the hospitality side some members of our concierge team have been trained by the Four Seasons and other five star hotels, so we have the best in class in all the businesses that we operate in. This gives us a very deep set of capabilities in each aspect of our business. We go out, try to find the best and the brightest, bring them together as one team and try to push that as a platform.
PM: Let’s jump to 12 Warren where you chose to use a unique bluestone for the facade. Why did you make this choice? How has the reception been?
JM: The bluestone has been incredibly well-received. We first worked with bluestone as a company at 41 Bond, which was the inaugural project that we completed in 2012. It was the first project that we did as a company. There we used a much more rationalized contemplation of the stone. If you look at the brickwork it was very linear, it was in very regular patterns. The articulation is incredibly beautiful, but it was done differently than 12 Warren. If you look at Warren Street, we wanted to do something that was rough-hewn. The reason we went back to the bluestone is it was a very traditional material used in New York City construction in the late 1800s early 1900s. It was used less over time as concrete, steel and glass became much more prevalent. We wanted something that went back to the roots of New York City. If you look at the Tribeca neighborhood, it is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city. We thought the rough, organic texture was completely different. If you look just a couple of blocks away you have the World Trade Center towers and various other developments that have a lot of glass. We wanted to do something that was really an opposite reflection of what was going up. We wanted to show something that was much more traditional, although the final contemplation brought it into a slightly different light as well.
PM: What differentiates the design and style both from an architectural perspective and development perspective between the different neighborhoods of Manhattan? Where is DDG’s favorite neighborhood to build in?
JM: Every project is different and every neighborhood is different. I would say that every neighborhood has its opportunities and every neighborhood has its challenges. I think that you really need to respect the individual neighborhoods and look at them in their context. Every building needs to be contextual. There are certain neighborhoods that lend themselves towards high-rise, and certain neighborhoods that lend themselves to low-rise and mid-rise; some are more traditional and some are more contemporary. We send our design and development team into a neighborhood and they will walk block by block and take a myriad of photos so we have samples. We will come back to the office and we will sit and go through a reflective line: