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Cushman & Wakefield celebrates 75 years.

In 1917, when brothers-in-law Bernard Wakefield and J. Clysdale Cushman opened up a small management company at 42nd Street and Madison Avenue, they probably didn't envision that their firm would evolve into a leading force in commercial real estate.

Today, Cushman & Wakefield, celebrating its 75th anniversary, is the largest non-owner manager of real estate in America boasting 45 offices nationwide and approximately 900 brokers in its ranks. The firm offers commercial sales and leasing, financial services, management, appraisal, asset recovery and project consulting. In recent years, the company has made an international brokerage affiliation.

Despite the firm's evolution, however, the firm is still bound by its traditional values, said Cushman & Wakefield, president and CEO Arthur J. Mirante. Among them are: being ethical, working hard, putting the client first and maintaining an entrepreneurial spirit.

"It's an opportunity to look back on what makes our company successful," said Arthur Mirante, CEO of Cushman & Wakefield. "It's a fantastic jumping-off point for the future."

Managers First

Property management was the principal focus of the business until 1946 or |47, said Matthew J. Stacom, vice chairman, who has been a broker with Cushman & Wakefield since 1946.

At that time, the firm listed among its management assignments the Heckscher Building, a loft property at 730 Fifth Avenue that is now known as the Crown Building, and a number of Metropolitan Life Properties including 521 Fifth Avenue.

Cushman & Wakefield had eight brokers then and they were all industrial or sales brokers, Stacom said. "In those days there was absolutely no office space," Stacom said. "Nothing was built."

Each building had a broker stationed in the building and the broker had a secretary. It was not acceptable, he said, for brokers to canvass as they do today.

"That was sort of bad manners," Stacom said. "If you came into my building and tried to take my tenants, you would be expunged from the industry."

Then came the post-war building boom. Cushman & Wakefield took their giant step into leasing, Stacom said, when they became the management and the leasing agent for 100 Park Avenue, at 40th Street, one of the first new airconditioned buildings to be erected in Midtown. Stacom said they got the assignment, in part, because they had a store-front office close to the building and they could show off floor plans and renderings in the windows.

"The big transition was getting the leasing agency for 100 Park Avenue," Stacom said.

The firm went on to get the assignments for such leading-edge properties as the Pan Am Building, Union Carbide, the Seagrams Building, the Chrysler Building, 575 Lexington Avenue, the Manufacturers Hanover Trust Building, and the Corning Glass Tower.

According to Stacom, a man who is given much credit for the firm's expansion is Leone Peters. In his 59-year career with Cushman & Wakefield, Peters rose from bookkeeper to chairman. He was "discovered" during the Great Depression, according to Stacom, while working as a soda jerk in a store next to C&W's early offices. The powers that be took a liking to him and offered him a job. He is considered by some to be the "father" of the company.

Downtown Fixture

While Cushman & Wakefield was leasing up much of the new Midtown space, they were also instrumental in deals that kept Downtown Manhattan alive as a viable office market.

From 1933 to 1950, there were no new buildings built in the financial center. In the beginnings of the post-war building boom, there was a shared opinion that Downtown would die as a business district.

"Everybody was afraid Downtown was going to become a dessert," Stacom said, "because everyone wanted to be Midtown."

"After the war, in the 40's and 50's, buildings were being developed in Midtown and no new buildings Downtown," said Bertram French, vice chairman, who has been a part of the Downtown office since 1947.

Around 1956, Tony Peters, Leone's brother, convinced the New York Stock Exchange to sell the building that they owned to the south of them on Broad Street, and persuaded General Realty & Utilities to purchase the property and erect 20 Broad Street. The 27-story office building was completely leased by Cushman & Wakefield before the steel work was completed, French said.

Shortly after, in 1960, Chase Manhattan Bank purchased land to build the 60-story, $100 million office building known today as One Chase Manhattan Plaza. Cushman & Wakefield is currently the leasing agent for that building.

These two projects, French said, "really triggered the building renaissance of Downtown."

Later the Uris' built 2 Broadway, a 1.3 million-square-foot building that was leased before the doors opened, and 60 Broad Street. The Rudins built the 900,000-square-foot 80 Pine Street; 110 Wall Street and 1 Whitehall Street.

"There was just such a pent-up demand here for modern and efficient space for financial companies," French said. "And, as a result, all these tenants we might have lost to Midtown, or any other place, stayed Downtown."

Investment Sales

Cushman & Wakefield, over the years, was also involved in some of the most pivotal acquisitions and assemblages in New York and the nation. In a deal that garnered the Real Estate Board's Most Ingenious Deal of the Year distinction in 1946, Cushman & Wakefield brokers Jack Dunbar and Harry Martin represented William Zeckendorf of Webb & Knapp in a series of acquisitions that enabled Webb & Knapp to buy the water-front property from 42nd Street to 48th Street. Formerly the site of tenements and stock yards for cattle, the majority of the property belonged to Swift & Co. and Wilson & Co. and the remainder was acquired through a series of smaller sales. The assemblage encompassed 639,000 square feet. The total land area, including streets the city would hopefully close, was 783,000 square feet and or about 18 acres.

In a later deal that was not included in the award entry, Zeckendorf sold the large parcel Webb & Knapp had gathered to John D. Rockefeller who would then donate it to the United Nations, which was looking for places outside of Manhattan to locate. The property, bounded by 42nd Street, 48th Street, First Avenue and Franklin Delano Roosevelt Drive, sold for $8.5 million. In December of 1946, John D. Rockefeller offered the property to the United Nations provided the city donate the streets valued at $2 million. The city did so thus firmly establishing New York as a world capital.

In another major land sale, Cushman & Wakefield negotiated the sale of two square blocks of land in Chicago in 1962 for what today is the 4 million-square-foot Sears Tower.

Project Consulting

In the mid-50's the firm developed a project consulting department for both development and rehabilitation. The first assignment, according to French, was in downtown Manhattan with Citicorp. The bank was offered $12 million to sell 20 Exchange Plaza. Cushman & Wakefield did an analysis and recommended they rehab the building instead to bring it up to current standards. Citicorp took Cushman & Wakefield's advice and used their project consulting services in the renovation. When the task was completed Cushman & Wakefield leased the building to three tenants including Kidder Peabody and Morgan Bank.

"That started our experience of project consulting services on a national basis," French said.

In 1969, they were commissioned as consultant in San Francisco for Bank of America on the development of their new headquarters. They were also appointed managing and rental agent, thus permanently establishing themselves on the West Coast.

They also consulted on the new headquarters for ARCO in Los Angeles. In addition to arranging the land sale, Cushman & Wakefield was also property consultant for Sears in the building of the Sears Tower in Chicago. As a result of the project, the firm established a Chicago office.

"One deal led to another deal and we spread our wings out and we truly became a national full-service real estate firms," said French.

The firm also were property consultants for Continental Insurance in the mid-70's for the assemblage and development of their building at 180 Maiden Lane. They were also the leasing agents. They also served as project consultant and managing agent for the World Bank's world headquarters in Washington, D.C. in the 80's

The firm established a southern region presence when Cushman & Wakefield relocated Georgia Pacific to Atlanta from Portland in 1977.

The firm manages more than 100 million square feet of property nationwide. In New York their portfolio includes: The Chrysler Building, the IBM Building, and Citicorp Center.

New Markets and Ventures

Cushman & Wakefield is the also the largest appraisal firm in the country and has the most members of the appraisal institute (MAI) of any firm.

The firm recently set its sights on the international scene when they established a joint initiative with Healey & Baker, a London-based European commercial real estate firm. Healey & Baker lends assistance to American companies that have real estate in Europe and Cushman & Wakefield advises European clients. With the advent of the European Economic Community, the two firms have been involved together with hundreds of transactions. According to Mirante, they are on the verge of announcing a joint initiative with a Japanese firm. And in the future they would like to form similar relationships with Mexican and Canadian firms.

Mirante said the firm stresses developing long-term relationships and serving clients for more than just their transaction needs. In addition to management, appraisal and financial services, the firm has recently added more real estate functions for their clients such as a work-out advisory for institutions.

"In times like this when there's less transactions in the entire country, that's been helpful to us in succeeding," he said.

PHOTO : In 1919, Cushman & Wakefield moved to its second office at 307 Madison Avenue at 41st Street. When this photo was taken the company was marketing The French Building (L) and the General Motors Building (R).

PHOTO : The company's display windows, says Vice Chairman Matthew J. Stacom, helped them land the leasing assignment for 100 Park Avenue in the late 40's.
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Article Details
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Author:Fitzgerald, Therese
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Article Type:Company Profile
Date:Feb 26, 1992
Words:1655
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