Michael Stern: Real Estate Development at the Highest Level
In the creation of landmark buildings, JDS Development Group has staked its claim in two of the world’s most difficult markets.
Interview by Victoria Scott
Commercial real estate design and development have long been regarded as some of the toughest businesses in the world, and in the ultra-competitive markets of New York City and Miami, only the most seasoned and respected companies can survive. JDS Development Group is one such company, not merely surviving but thriving in two of the world’s hottest markets.
Some say that real estate is in the blood. Michael Stern, founder and managing partner of JDS Development Group, is the personification of someone born to the business.
“I was into design and architecture, and was absolutely fascinated by building great buildings,” says Stern. “There are multiple points of entry into real estate. I entered from the construction side, as I worked for a developer in Florida right out of high school, learning the nuts and bolts of how to put a complex building together. I always wanted to do something impactful … I always wanted to build great buildings with design integrity and to leave a positive impact on the skyline.”
JDS Development Group has indeed made its mark on the famous New York skyline with such projects as 111 West 57th St., the third- tallest building in New York and one of the tallest residential buildings in the world, which it co-developed with Property Markets Group, set to open next year, with commanding views from the south end of Central Park. Unit prices average US$6,000 per square foot, and the 72nd-floor penthouse, at 7,128 square feet, is available at US$56 million.
Other notable JDS projects in Manhattan include the Walker Tower; the Stella Tower; and the distinctive American Copper Buildings, dual towers that are the tallest copper-clad buildings in the world and that redefine the East River skyline. All of these are landmark buildings featuring quintessential design in superior locations.
The JDS Development Group’s trademark is its unwavering commitment to quality and innovation. JDS is known as an industry leader that has reinvented the process by which major architectural projects are designed and built. This commitment has created a multidisciplinary firm — involved in development, design, construction and acquisition — which currently has more than nine million square feet of property in various stages of development.
Uniquely, JDS performs all of the construction on its own projects, allowing it the freedom to work with world-class architects in a collaborative approach that results in visionary projects and luxury developments.
Stern’s approach to helming such a highly respected firm in the fast-paced, competitive industry is grounded, measured, thoughtful and perhaps a key to the firm’s success. “Being the CEO of a development company is like being a jack of all trades,” he says. “You don’t necessarily have to be the master of everything, but you have to be good at a number of different disciplines, such as marketing, architecture, engineering, design, legal, insurance and HR. My job is to quarterback professionals who are at the top of their game and who are the experts in their fields, to create a co-ordinated orchestra to create a great result.”
Stern believes that to be a success in the industry, one must be even-tempered, patient, persistent and have an incredible work ethic. “To run a company, you have to curate a culture which is conducive to success,” he says. “Resumés are not as important as hiring people with integrity who want to do the right thing and believe like you do to always do great work. I am very proud to work with the team we have in place.”
JDS Development Group’s strength is not in its bricks, mortar, rebar or concrete, but in its people. The company takes pride in its experienced professionals who specialize in residential and hospitality projects, with a new focus on mixed-use projects, its exceptional standards in design, quality and ingenuity, and the positive impact it makes on neighbourhoods.
These qualities are evident in the diversity of JDS’s portfolio, which includes The Fitzroy, a boutique condo building designed by Roman and Williams on West 24th Street in the West Chelsea section of Manhattan, and its new luxury condominium development in South Beach, Monad Terrace, Miami, designed by famed French architect Jean Nouvel.
JDS is also developing Echo Brickell, a contemporary 60-storey residential tower offering stunning vistas from the centre of Miami’s fastest-growing neighbourhood. In this rarified air high above South Florida, units start at US$6.5 million for just under 3,000 square feet, a testament to the luxury and exclusivity of JDS Development Group residences.
Boldness, dynamism and innovation: these are attributes JDS Development Group has in abundance. It’s been the company’s recipe for success in one of the toughest industries in the world.
Founder and managing partner of JDS Development Group
Michael Stern is the founder and managing partner of JDS Development Group, an innovative real estate development, construction and acquisition firm responsible for the creation of numerous residential, hospitality and mixed-use projects in New York City and Miami. Stern’s philosophy is to push the boundaries of design and construction to deliver the most dynamic projects to the market.