Latest posts by Joseph McFalls (see all)
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On September 27, 2018, the Cornell Baker Program in Real Estate welcomed Barry DiRaimondo, Chief Executive Officer of SteelWave LLC, to campus as part of the program’s Distinguished Speaker Series. SteelWave is a full-service real estate manager, operator and investor headquartered outside of San Francisco, California. SteelWave’s portfolio consists of approximately 12 million square feet of office, industrial and multi-family properties. Barry described for the audience how SteelWave specializes in properties that require a “heavy touch”, with SteelWave’s projects typically consisting of ground-up construction or significant remodels of existing buildings that allow the company to leverage its design-build expertise.
Barry has been with SteelWave and its predecessor companies for almost his entire career, joining after graduating with an MBA from Cornell’s SC Johnson College of Business. SteelWave currently has approximately 170 employees and focuses on 6 core markets: Northern California, Southern California, Denver, Seattle, Portland and Texas. As Barry explained, SteelWave was previously spread in many western markets before deciding to focus on these key markets for three (3) specific reasons. First, these markets are generally desirable places to live. Second, these markets feature a high concentration of technology companies. And third, the demographics of these markets are favorable with populations that are getting younger.
Barry’s presentation included significant discussion of the types of office spaces that SteelWave is creating for its tenants, which include many technology and life science companies. According to Barry, SteelWave is incorporating many elements from the hospitality and multi-family residential industry into its office products, including significant indoor and outdoor communal spaces. When it comes to office space, Barry believes that what worked ten years ago will no longer work now, demonstrating this point by contrasting the architecture and amenities of office buildings that SteelWave constructed a decade ago with new neighboring office buildings that it recently completed. Highlights of the new buildings include significant outdoor communal gathering spaces as well as the use of dynamic glass for the building’s exterior that allows tenants to adjust the amount of sunlight passing through each individual pane of glass in their space, resulting in lower utility bills and higher tenant satisfaction levels.
In addition, Barry’s presentation touched on many of the company’s past and future projects, including two (2) notable projects in Costa Mesa, California. The first is a creative office campus known as the Hive that was recently constructed by the company and that now serves as the headquarters and practice facility for the Los Angeles Chargers. The second is a former Los Angeles Times printing facility that SteelWave is in the process of redeveloping into unique creative office space. Further, Barry took some time to describe a few projects in which the company faced unexpected development challenges, highlighting for the audience that there are some risks that cannot be easily discovered or underwritten.
While SteelWave’s primary focus has long been on commercial and mixed-use projects, the company has expanded its platform to include multifamily. In the span of just a few years, SteelWave has created a pipeline of approximately 2,000 multi-family units. Barry discussed the company’s focus on providing top-quality tenant amenities, including large common areas with attractions like golf simulators, to differentiate its projects. Barry expressed excitement about the promise of this new platform for SteelWave.
Like many others, Barry believes that the real estate industry is closer to the end of this cycle than it is to the beginning. According to Barry, SteelWave’s focus on great products in great locations provides the company with some protection against a downturn. In his view, it is worth paying more for these kinds of assets because they will maintain more of their value during a downturn and regain their value more quickly as compared to assets of lesser quality in lesser locations.
The Cornell real estate community thanks Barry for sharing his time and insights. It was a pleasure to have him back on campus, and we wish him and SteelWave continued success.