Summit Notebook

Exclusive outtakes from industry leaders

Living wages at Xanadu Meadowlands? Think again, New Jersey

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dollarDo not expect the developer that’s working on the massive Meadowlands shopping and entertainment complex in northern New Jersey to compel its tenants to pay their workers a living wage. Related Companies, the New York-based real estate developer behind the project, said on Tuesday that it would be a deal breaker.

We talked to Stephen Ross, Related’s founder, chairman and CEO at our Global Real Estate and Infrastructure Summit, and after a while, talk turned to the stalled project, slated to open in 2011, four years after the 2007 planned opening date. Among other things, we learned that the name “Xanadu” isn’t happening anymore. Related, which took over the project after a bunch of lenders dropped out, has a list of other names, but wouldn’t share them with us.

The most interesting thing that I heard is that Related would not force stores at the complex, located in East Rutherford, N.J., by Giants Stadium, to pay living wages to their employees. While a minimum wage is the lowest hourly, daily or monthly wage that employers must pay, a living wage is what is considered the lowest amount of money that someone requires to pay for shelter, clothing and other basic needs. Here’s what Ross (incidentally, the 95 percent owner of the Miami Dolphins football team) said about that:

That would be a deal breaker for any retail development. … People earn tips. The large retail tenants have a different wage scale that they pay. I think the most important thing today is creating jobs.

LeFrak: We’ve been bunting for years

LeFrakWatch out for Richard LeFrak when he’s at bat and you’re in the outfield. He has a tendency to bunt.

This is a funny baseball technique to use when most executives spend their time trying their best to hit home runs, but LeFrak Organization‘s chairman, president and CEO says it’s worked for his real estate empire, so there’s no need to stop now. When we asked him at our Reuters Global Real Estate Summit why his company didn’t borrow a ton of money during the real estate boom, he said:

Q+A: Maria Fiorini Ramirez

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I sat down with Maria Fiorini Ramirez today after she joined us at the Reuters Investment Outlook Summit and asked her about starting her own company — the global economic consulting firm Maria Fiorini Ramirez, Inc — her advice for young entrepreneurs, and if women can balance a successful work and home life.

Where you were you born?
Naples, Italy

When did you come to the U.S?
1960. To East New York.

Did you go to high school there?
Yes, St. Michael’s. An all girl’s Catholic school.

AUDIO – Real estate’s ugly confluence

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All week, we have been meeting real estate executives at Reuters Global Real Estate Summit who have discussed the many different areas of concern that have spread throughout the sector.

Some have spoken about deleveraging. Some have told us about the shrinking of values. Others have said it’s a confidence game — as in, there isn’t any.

Smaller cities’ real estate to stall- what are your town’s prospects?

New York and a handful of other major U.S. cities are down, but will never be out as far as their commercial real estate goes, a leading New York real estate private equity investor said Monday at the Reuters Global Real Estate Summit.

“New York’s not going away- it’s THE global city.”

Second tier cities are another matter entirely, said Thomas Shapiro, president of GoldenTree InSite Partners. “We are a big believer in the big city theory which is that the bigger cities will continue do better, to the detriment of secondary cities.”

AUDIO – A new emerging market for real estate

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Remember the good old days where — if you lived in the United States anyway — people would talk about “emerging markets”?

We’d nod our heads knowingly, wishing these poor folks the best as they tried to accumulate the swell things we had bought for ourselves. We knew that residents of Mumbai or Caracas or somewhere would never attain the great things we had in such abundance here in the good old USA (Hummers; his and hers monogrammed dishtowels; zero down, 110% mortgages on houses we couldn’t afford … that kind of stuff), but we still wished them well.

AUDIO – ‘Off to the Outlets’ — A new real estate mantra

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When it comes to shopping for bargains these days, retailers are expanding their window of possibilities the same way as increasingly price-conscious consumers.

While the concept of outlet malls and shopping centers was once considered a last-ditch way to unload excess inventory, Steven Tanger, chief executive at Tanger Outlet Centers, says the model is changing…and fast!

AUDIO – A record-setting blog!

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Everyone likes to set records. Think about those two giant twins who felt the need to ride motorcycles for their Guinness Book of World Records picture. What were those guys thinking?

Well, after many Reuters Summits, it seemed we set a record on Monday for the use of the word “crap” in one session.

AUDIO – Pulte Homes and the Cycle

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It’s not a motorcycle or a unicycle – we’re talking the overall real estate business cycle.

While the bulk of the focus at this year’s Reuters Real Estate Summit is on the commercial real estate side of the business, Richard Dugas, chief executive of Pulte Homes, spoke to us about how things look on the residential side of the aisle.

iSkyscraper? If you were Apple, why not?

If you had paid $3.5 billion for a skyscraper named after bankrupt automaker General Motors, wouldn’t you want a tenant to come in and pay you another few million to rename the building, with the added bonus of giving it a name not associated with a failed recipient of government largesse?

Boston Properties, which bought the building last year, located at the southeast corner of Central Park in Manhattan, is not known to be shopping around the naming rights to the building, but a top real estate broker in Manhattan, known as the “Queen of the Skyscraper” has one suggestion if ever it is : Apple.

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