An insider’s look at Manhattan

One World Trade Center was the classroom. How to increase real estate value in Manhattan was the lesson. Students in the Integrated Real Estate at Lehigh (ire@l) program absorbed it all as industry experts Tara Stacom ’80, executive vice chairman of Cushman & Wakefield, and Rob Lapidus ’13P, president and chief information officer of L&L Holding Company, imparted invaluable trade knowledge on a beautiful New York City day on April 15.

Sponsored by the Stacom Family Executive Speaker Series, 25 students traveled from South Mountain to Lower Manhattan and met with Stacom, who led them on a morning walking tour of the World Trade Center site, including the memorial park and the Santiago Calatrava Transportation Hub.

Stacom shared details regarding the tenants that have leased space in the various towers, infrastructure and underground network of transportation and retail before directing the group into the One World Trade Center for an insider’s view and a lunch presentation by Lapidus.

In the afternoon, she arranged for the students to tour the 9/11 Memorial Museum and view the Manhattan skyline from the One World Observatory on the 102nd floor of One World Trade Center, which is the tallest building in the western hemisphere.

Stacom, the co-leasing agent along with the Durst Organization of all of the commercial space available in One World Trade Center—floors 20 through 90—is dedicated to helping Lehigh students interested in entering the multidimensional field of real estate. Annually, she arranges keynote presentations by experts who share professional insight from minute details to big picture perspectives.

“I can’t give enough back to Lehigh,” she said. “What Lehigh did for me is why I have been able to accomplish what I have and share it with others. So, if I can help Lehigh in any way set itself apart from other institutions, I will, and I think the ire@l program does just that.”

Lapidus, whose company manages a portfolio of more than 6 million square feet of Class A commercial office properties in New York City, described during the luncheon how his team is transforming two iconic buildings on Park Avenue and Madison Avenue into space “vibrant for the community.” The finished buildings will attract clients who want more visionary space and less commodity space. Lapidus said that data has shown that building redesigns will pay off in rents that support such investments.

Lapidus said the best Manhattan buildings in prime real estate locations are considered trophy buildings from the 1940s and ’50s. Renovating these skyscrapers with modern, hip features such as meditation and yoga lounges, floor-to-ceiling windows with great views, and open floor plans are amenities that appeal to young, talented professionals who companies want to hire.

“Your generation works a lot different than my generation,” he told the students. “Even law firms are renovating and creating more collaborative and open spaces.”

Lehigh graduate student Amanda Jacinto ’15 ’16G, who earned her undergraduate degree in accounting and minored in real estate, said, “Lehigh has so many opportunities for us to meet these really powerful people. They have a lot of information and wisdom to give to us. Especially, because they are all very interested in helping us out with our careers and showing us the right path.”

Lapidus answered questions and provided the students with professional advice. He stressed that in the real estate business, people build relationships based on trust, respect, and listening to others. He told students to “follow their gut, instinct, and value system and to never compromise on their internal moral compass.”

He added, “Work hard, give a good first impression, and stay true to your values, and doors will open for you.”

Special guests from the One World Trade Center’s building developer concluded the presentation. Tom Bow, Karen Kuznick and Eric Engelhardt of the Durst Organization discussed the history and successes of the fourth-generation real estate family and their impact on the New York City skyline, which now includes One World Trade Center.

Story and photos by Dawn Thren

Click here to view more photos from the day’s events.


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