Former New York City Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen today announced the launch of MSquared, a nationwide real estate development and investment platform dedicated to creating mixed-use, mixed-income projects in America’s fastest growing metropolitan regions.
According to the launch announcement, MSquared will operate at the intersection of real estate and social impact investing in and developing projects that address the breadth of the affordability crisis driven largely by the explosive growth of the innovation economy.
“Too often, the economic success of cities has resulted in an increasingly ‘barbel’” economy, eroding the social fabric and threatening to undermine long-term prosperity,” said the announcement. “The onset of COVID-19 further highlights how fragile and fragmented our cities are, creating new challenges as states and municipalities look towards recovery and seek to address the disparate impact of the pandemic on underserved communities.”
MSquared will work with local governments, developers and investors to build projects that incorporate a mix of uses designed to promote inclusive economic growth, affordable housing for a wide range of rent-burdened residents, and dedicated spaces for small business owners and community institutions.
“Approaching mixed-income and mixed-use development as additive to our social infrastructure will help address the fear and isolation felt by many in the current environment by creating connected communities that incorporate housing, food access, jobs, and healthcare,” said the announcement.
According to Glen, who also previously served as Head of Goldman Sachs’ Urban Investment Group (UIG), a differentiating aspect of MSquared’s projects is the creation of housing for a wide range of incomes, rather than exclusively serving very low-income residents or those who can afford a market rate apartment.
Key to the strategy is the development of new regulated affordable units for the “missing middle,” a cost-burdened group that includes essential workers, such as teachers, nurses, police officers, service and retail workers.
Glen said the MSquared model is the first vehicle through which private sector capital can support the expansion of truly mixed-income “affordable housing,” filling a gap in the investment marketplace.
“Cities across the country have grappled with the unintended consequences of rapid, high-wage job growth fueled by our robust innovation economy. The current public health crisis has further highlighted these inequities, making it even more critical that we build to strengthen our social infrastructure and create neighborhoods where a diverse range of incomes, ages, and occupations coexist and support one another,” said Glen, who will serve as Founder and Managing Principal.
“MSquared addresses the growing need for cost-effective and quality housing for our essential workers, as well as the need to create affordable spaces for the small businesses, creative companies, manufacturers, artists and non-profits that make cities vibrant and successful.”
“A lot of companies and investors are talking about ‘inclusive economic growth,’ but we don’t know of any other platform that is structuring projects to assure that economic diversity within buildings is maintained long-term,” Glen added. “And that is critical if we really want to grow cities sustainably and successfully.”
MSquared will also utilize transit-oriented development strategies and green building practices that benefit the environment and reduce operating costs.
Each project will emphasize high-quality, sustainable design and materials, as well as contextual architecture that complements and enhances the surrounding community. Projects will be integrated into the streetscape and incorporate vibrant public spaces where possible.
Glen is joined by Carolee Fink, a Principal at MSquared, and a growing team of real estate and economic development professionals. Glen and Fink, who most recently served as Chief of Staff in the Deputy Mayor’s office, combine more than 35 years of experience structuring, financing and executing some of the most complex public-private projects in the country. While at City Hall, they oversaw more than 20 agencies, departments and authorities with over 25,000 employees and a $30 billion capital budget.
As the architect of the largest housing plan in the nation, Glen oversaw the development and financing of more than 125,000 affordable homes in New York City. She also initiated large-scale planning efforts at Sunnyside Yards and Governors Island, launched NYC Ferry, spearheaded the rezoning of the Garment District and East Midtown, negotiated financing for the Union Square Tech Hub and expansion of Google’s campus, and repositioned the City’s industrial assets to support modern manufacturing and film and TV production.
At Goldman Sachs, Glen catalyzed more than $5 billion of mixed-use development in cities across the country. She led and grew UIG into a successful business that invested in and structured innovative public-private partnerships, including the first domestic Social Impact Bond, CitiBike bike share, “New Lab” in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the first mixed-income condo project in New York City, the headquarters of the National Dance Institute at PS90, and Teacher’s Village in Newark, NJ. She also co-led the firm’s 10,000 Small Businesses initiative.