Larry Feldman’s dream of revisioning skylines

Larry Feldman, CEO of Feldman Equities, was born in New York City and was brought up in the real estate world. While most kids were taking in baseball games on the weekend, Feldman would be going to on-site visits to shopping centers under construction.

“I was brought up in the real estate business from an early age and joined the family business in the early 1980s. My dad, and grandfather, were both in the real estate business before me. Now my son is a fourth-generation,” Feldman says.

He officially started in the family business doing cold calls, and leasing, going door to door soliciting tenants.

“It was a very humbling experience,” he says. “But it also got me to stand on my own two feet and prove myself.”

Larry Feldman

Feldman still has a home in New York but also maintains a residence in the Tampa Bay area, currently in Tampa, but soon to be downtown St. Petersburg.

He’s built a reputation for finding distressed, and underused, properties and reviving them which is something, he says, that comes from the real estate knowledge that runs through his blood.

“I was brought up in the construction business, so we’re not afraid to take over a very old, and tired, building in a platinum location. The thing you can’t change about a building is the location,” he says.

When Feldman started buying buildings in Tampa, he started looking for the best buildings and the best locations.

“We weren’t afraid to come in and do a major overhaul,” he says. “In certain buildings, we’ve spent almost $20 million renovating the building, top to bottom, inside and out.”

One of the most gratifying experiences is hearing the responses of people who visit a building and can’t believe it’s not new construction.

“When a person walk into our buildings, people who are not knowledgeable about what was there before will ask, ‘When was this building built?’ I get a thrill when people [ask] that. It’s the epitome of what we strive for. Giving the tenant, and the customer, more than they expect.” Feldman says. “After a while, we got the reputation that, when we said we were going to do a quality renovation, we weren’t kidding. So now, what’s happening is we’re able to start leasing up our buildings aggressively, in advance of our renovations, because people believe we’re going to do it.”

THE COVID YEAR

In early 2020, Feldman Equities was getting ready to close on its latest transaction when COVID-19 hit the United States.

The company was signing the paperwork to buy Sarasota City Center, a major office building downtown, when the world seemed to be hitting the pause button.

“While we were exchanging the final paperwork, the stock market fell like 1,200 points. We went ahead and closed because we gave our word. After we closed, we started wondering, ‘Will people pay rent? Is everybody going to be working from home now? Is this the end of office space?’ There were some dark hours where I was curled up in a fetal position, right?” Feldman recalls.

Ultimately, while things may look different, demand and need for office space continues.

“We are still signing leases. There is a demand for offices,” Feldman says. “Every time we get into a recession, that’s the playbook I subscribe to, be aggressive. Keep our buildings full, give back to the tenant more than they expect.”

Feldman has been working with microbial experts, and manufacturers, to buy new technology that treats air with ultraviolet light technology, which treats airborne particles inside the office space.

“It’s not a bulletproof solution, but it’s a great way to make space feel safer so that people can feel a little more comfortable coming back to work,” he says.

Feldman has been through a few recessions in his lifetime so he’s not deterred. He still has big dreams for the Tampa Bay area.

“Our dream is to build a very major building, either in downtown St. Petersburg or downtown Tampa, or both,” he says. “I think what is needed, in both of these markets, is some real skyline-changing—the type of products that can change the city. What gets me up in the morning is projects that have an impact.” ♦

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