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Real estate development is a field ripe with innovation and potential for impact. On Thursday, February 8, 2018, the Baker Program of Real Estate hosted two guests for the Distinguished Speakers Series that exemplify both of these qualities: Nick Lembo, Founder and Chairman of Monadnock Construction, Inc. and Kirk Goodrich, Vice President and Director of Real Estate Development for Monadnock Development. Both of these gentlemen are industry veterans with illustrious careers.
Nick Lembo grew up in the construction industry with his father, uncles and paternal grandfather who were all tradesmen. After earning his Bachelor of Architecture degree from Cornell in 1975, he founded Monadnock Construction. Ever the entrepreneur, Nick went on to found three other companies over the next three decades: The Hudson Companies, a real estate development firm; Capsys Corp., a modular building manufacturer; and Monadnock Development, a development company formed once he exited Hudson. During his presentation to Baker students, Nick described his professional ascent and the success of his business ventures noting that much of it resulted from a willingness to take risks and embracing continuous learning.
Giving an example of his proclivity to take calculated risks, Nick discussed how a project with East Brooklyn Congregations (EBC) led him to found Capsys in 1995. He was approached by EBC to develop 700, single family modular units for an affordable housing project. Though he had no prior experience with modular building, Nick relied on his ingenuity and background in architecture to develop a system that would work. Boldness and ingenuity were consistent themes throughout the presentation that evening, reinforcing to Baker students the idea that taking bets on your own competence and ability can pay huge dividends.
Kirk Goodrich presented with Nick during the DSS event. With over 20 years of experience in development and affordable housing finance, Kirk is an industry phenom in his own right. He drew from the depths of his knowledge and experience to impart wisdom to the Baker students. During his portion of the presentation, Kirk discussed the litmus test for new projects undertaken by Monadnock. In short, during a time where opportunities are ample, projects must be transformative in nature to garner the firm’s attention. Kirk discussed the following attributes and developments as examples of the project types that Monadnock prioritizes:
- Scale – Hunters Point South – encompasses 925 affordable units in two buildings along the Queens waterfront.
- Policy – Carmel Place – comprised of 55 micro units ranging from 265 to 360 square feet in size. Plans for this development resulted in modifications to New York City’s zoning rules to allow construction of units smaller than 400 square feet.
- Strategic/Meaningful – S. 186 – an elementary school that had been abandoned for over 30 years, renovated into a vibrant multi-family community in the Hamilton Heights neighborhood.
- Visibility – 1 John Street – with its prime location along the Dumbo waterfront, is in full view of commuters coming across the Brooklyn Bridge, this building has become part of the city’s fabric for many New Yorkers.
- Economically – One Flushing – a mixed-use development located in one of the most heavily foot-trafficked areas in New York City. The development includes senior housing, affordable housing and “nearly 25,000 square feet of ground floor commercial space, offering affordable storefronts for Queens-based small business entrepreneurs”.
Each of these uniquely significant projects was a great reminder to Baker students of the broad and lasting impact that real estate has on communities.
Kirk concluded his presentation with 10 Lessons of Monadnock, sage career advice for students based on principles that have led to Monadnock’s longevity and success. This advice included:
- Be transparent and honest with your partners.
- Say no to deals we may not be able to execute.
- Conduct due diligence on new partners and walk away from prospective partners we can’t trust.
- Analyze deals based on our ability to achieve the break-even point.
- Focus on whether our compensation is fair and don’t obsess over what others are making.
- Live with the deal we agreed to, even if it hurts sometimes.
- Pay our bills on time and if we cannot, let people know that.
- Don’t let anyone rush us into a deal. If they need to know now, the answer is no.
- Hire good people when you find them, don’t wait until you need them.
- Under promise and over deliver.
The evening concluded with a reception where students had an opportunity to interact with Nick and Kirk one-on-one. The Baker Program in Real Estate is incredibly grateful to Nick and Kirk for the time and valuable insight they shared with students.