David Amirian subscribes to the switch-hitting philosophy of operating an enterprise.
The principal of residential and commercial development firm The Amirian Group, he runs a bare-bones company that demands agility from its employees.
“There’s only four of us. That’s it,” Amirian said. “We’re four people running $100 million worth of construction. So everybody’s a secretary; everybody’s an analyst; everybody’s in charge of new development; everyone’s in charge of investor relations. Every person has to be good at everything. You have to be a utility player, like in baseball. You have to be able to play every position.”
Amirian, who questioned the wisdom of hiring one-dimensional specialists, has a high-stakes bet on this model through his firm’s projects, which includes residential developments at 316 East 3rd Street and 540 West 49th Street.
He owes his belief in operational dexterity to his somewhat roundabout career path. Amirian, who holds a business degree from American University, entered the workforce as an office assistant (he claims that his more commonly-used title was ‘coffee boy’) for a construction firm.
“I was the most overqualified coffee boy that you’ve ever seen in your life. When I went to give them my resume, they laughed and said, ‘With this kind of resume, you sure you want to be a coffee boy?’” he said.
His responsibilities eventually expanded from coffee duties to light administration work. However, he recognized that his credentials were still lacking for the kind of career advancement that he wanted.
“Coming out of college, I wasn’t an engineer or an architect. Immediately, I knew that there was a void.”
He plugged up the void by entering the real estate development and construction masters program at New York University. For three years, he worked from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. then went to class from six to 9:30 p.m.
However, he credits his real-world education in real estate development to what he calls his “big break,” which came when he worked as an executive at White Plains firm, HRH Construction.
“I got my big break in 2006 to go and build The Setai (condo project) downtown at 40 Broad Street. I was 26 years old and I was running a $250 million project; and it was the best experience of my life. As I say, I got my MBA in real estate development and construction from that project,” he said.
His education and re-education has provided him with a pragmatic view of investing. He’s currently pulling back on acquisitions, citing adverse conditions such as the high price of land and a slowdown in financing deals.
“I’m not buying right now,” he said. “I think that over-supply of condos and just the bid-ask spread difference between land buyers and people that want to sell land, it’s just too far.
“There’s no financing right now for condos. There’s minimal financing for anything development-related. The prices of land have just skyrocketed. The prices for development have skyrocketed. If you can’t build condos in Manhattan right now, there’s nothing to build, because the price of land has not adjusted to build rentals or office. You can’t buy anything to build right now.”
Nonetheless, the Amirian Group has several projects in the pipeline.
Last July, the firm filed plans to build a 12-story condo building at 117 West 21st Street. It is also building two six-story luxury residential buildings at 436 and 442 East 13th Street.