The father and son duo of Joseph and Benjamin Stavrach, representing the current and future phases of a family enterprise, are generating profits through a mix of the old and the new, from the design of their properties to their method of conducting business.
The origin of the story for the arrangement is simplistic, devoid of plot twists and complications. “When he (Benjamin) graduated from college, we convinced him to work with us. He agreed and that’s it,” said Joseph, himself once an underling to his own father in the company, Triangle Assets.
In an alternate universe, Benjamin would be heading his own firm, spending his days plotting ways to grow his business.
“After graduating college, I was looking at opening up my own firm for real estate management as well as buying properties and renovating them. Today, in the real estate market, there’s a big opportunity. It’s great to jump in early. Right out of college, to jump in right away and get in the action,” he said.
After his education, he positioned himself on another learning curve, one that would conclude when he eventually takes over the company. He and his father are already locked in a long dynastic turnover process.
“My father took me into his office, about three years ago after college, and he told me, ‘One year, you’re going to look into every deal I make, you’re going into every meeting we have, you’re going to review everything that I’m doing and you’re going to learn everything there is to know about our business and about real estate as a whole,” Benjamin said.
A year later, he was making his own deals. Benjamin’s first assignment was 2 West 46th Street, a 150,000 s/f office space near 5th Avenue. He was both the leasing agent and the property manager, and he closed on 16 leases in six weeks, boosting the building’s occupancy rate to 90 percent.
“He’s doing a good job. He’s very dedicated,” Joseph said.
While the elder Stavrach seems to be cementing plans for succession, he’s not looking to retire any time soon. He simply laughed when asked about retirement, prompting his son to chime in, saying: “My father plans to be here for many more years. My father’s still a very young guy.”
Joseph has brought Triangle Assets from their first 8,000 s/f property in 1986, to owning and managing over one million square feet in New York City.
In 1986, he bought a four-story mixed use building at 1878 Lexington Ave in Harlem along with his brothers. When the market turned, purchased a 300,000 s/f property in Herald Square, a 150,000 s/f property in the Diamond District, as well as a 60,000 s/f property in SoHo.
The Stavrachs’ stabilized the 80 percent vacant properties within 18 months and realized over 300 percent profit on their investment.
Joseph’s vision continued over the Brooklyn Bridge into Dumbo where he purchased a 178,000 s/f vacant building at the foot of Jay Street, one of a series of high-profile projects that has made Triangle Assets something of a fixture in the New York City real estate news cycle.
10 Jay Street, an old sugar refinery warehouse on the Dumbo waterfront, in now being converted into a condominium building. Joseph bought the property in 1994, when the once-rugged neighborhood was still filled with warehouses.
“My father had a vision in 1994 when he purchased it, that Dumbo will one day become a beautiful and expensive area, as it has become today,” Benjamin said.
The warehouse, which was built in the late-1800s, was abandoned for 20 years before the elder Stavrach bought it. Triangle Assets vacated all tenants six months ago, with plans to convert the space into a condo with retail space on the ground floor.
The infancy of the project was rough. The Landmarks Preservation Commission turned down the initial plan for the building last February. The project was eventually approved with plans from ODA Architecture, which included a façade that aimed to “tell a story” about the building’s history.
“We should tell a story with this building. When somebody looks at this building, they should be able to understand the story of what the building was,” Benjamin said.
“It gives you the look of a sugar crystal the way the glass is laid out. So when you look at the building, you have the old and the new and you see what the story of the building was. And Landmarks saw that and they went crazy. They loved it. They couldn’t get enough of it.”
Another one of the company’s big projects is 303 East 44th Street, a 41-story condominium building that is about a block away from the headquarters of the United Nations.
The project, which will begin construction in early 2016, gained attention because of its integration of floating gardens in its design. “No one else has that in New York,” the younger Stavrach said.
Benjamin, who describes business as “booming,” attributes his company’s success, not to something he learned in college, but to the tenets of his family’s background.
“People like us because we’re a family-run business. In Lebanese culture, you have to be straightforward and your word is your word. In real estate, people like that. People like honesty.”