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Douglas Durst: signs of recovery evident.

Douglas Durst, vice president of The Durst Organization, stood before the October meeting of Young Men's/Women's Real Estate Association and announced, somewhat jokingly: "The recession is finally over."

Acknowledging his doubting audience, Durst said that his organization has leases out on all their vacant retail space.

"Retail activity is always a key sign of economic activity," he said.

Durst said he believes "something is happening" as leases are signed and some tenants are expanding.

"I don't see it returning to the 80's but I do see rents and occupancy starting to move up," he said.

The first rule for a broker, especially today, Durst said, is to have the courage to "heed his first instinct." Now, he said, a broker has so many choices, but he must bring the tenant to a building where he knows a deal can be made and there will be a positive chemistry between the broker, owner and tenant.

Third Generation

Since the 1960's, Durst has been involved in his family's real estate business, a major owner and developer of primarily commercial real estate. The Durst Organization was founded in 1915 by Durst's grandfather, Joseph Durst, for the purpose of buying and selling commercial and residential real estate. He was later joined by sons Roy, David and Seymour, Douglas' father.

Two events, Durst said, significantly shaped the direction of the family business -- the enactment of rent control and the purchase of 205 East 42nd Street.

When rent control took effect, Durst said, the company owned several prime residential properties that were beginning to be profitable. The company, as a result, decided "to cut its losses" and sold many of their residential holdings. This, Durst said, exemplified the firm's deep aversion to government involvement in the real estate industry, a conviction that also led to their adamant opposition of West Way, the World Trade Center and 42nd Street Development Project.

205 East 42nd Street was located at Third Avenue, which Durst said, was "prime." The street was lined with small office buildings that usually contained a bar of store at ground level and all were overshadowed by "the el." The only way to grow the investment, Seymour Durst decided in the late 50's, was to acquire a number of sites and buildings and do an assemblage. What followed were such major Durst office structures as: 655 Third Avenue; 675 Third Avenue, 733 Third Avenue, and 825 Third Avenue.

In the mid 60's, they moved to Sixth Avenue and 42nd Street and set about effecting the same success. Seymour Durst's original goal, according to his son, was to try to assemble 42nd to 47th Street from 6th Avenue to Broadway. At one time, Durst said, his father had 40 different acquisitions and swaps underway at one time. Among the properties, they unveiled from this work were 1133 Avenue of the Americas, in 1970, and 1155 Avenue of the Americas in the early 80's.

Durst said the "cornerstone" of his family's success has been personal involvement, even now that their portfolio has grown to 4 million square feet.

"We're still aware that our ability to keep buildings leased depends on our personal involvement and successful management of our buildings," he said.

The company today still includes Seymour Durst, Douglas Durst, his brother, Robert, and cousins Jody and Josh. y
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Title Annotation:vice president of Durst Organization addresses Young Men's/Women's Real Estate Association
Author:Fitzgerald, Therese
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Dec 2, 1992
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