By Dan Orlando
Massey Knakal’s new chapter has grabbed its share of recent headlines, but one of their recent alums has made quite a bit of noise himself.
Evan Daniel, executive vice president of the newly formed Commercial & Investment Property Group at Modern Spaces, joined the firm last fall after being recruited by CEO and co-founder Eric Benaim.
“In early 2013, Eric really started making a push to recruit me,” said Daniel.
Benaim had already navigated his company to success on the residential side of the Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan markets, but now he wanted to become a contender in the commercial arena.
After enjoying a business relationship with Daniel since 2007, Benaim pegged him as the man to lead that charge.
At first, Daniel opted to stay put with the established, Massey Knakal.
“It was more that it just wasn’t the right time,” Daniel told Real Estate Weekly. “Things were really going well for me and I had just taken over a new position in 2012.” Success in early 2014 led him to reconsider though. “There is no one good time to leave one opportunity for another. If you’re busy and working hard, you’ll always be walking away from business.”
The business that the then director of sales at Massey Knakal was walking away from included a career stat line of 54 properties worth an aggregate consideration of approximately $256,000,000.
In addition, Daniel had advised both private and institutional clients on positioning their assets, and provided valuation services on more than 1,150 properties with an estimated value of over $7.5 billion.
Daniel’s most noteworthy sale included a 220-unit portfolio that included four walk-up apartment buildings in Astoria that sold for $30,100,000. He sold a 40-unit elevator apartment building in Astoria for $11.5 million and a new construction mixed-use apartment building in Flushing for $10.1 million.
But it was time for a new challenge.
“I always respected what Modern Spaces was about,” Daniel said, admitting that he was surprised that he was asked to be “the face” of the fledgling commercial division.
“It was a great situation and it was really flattering,” he said. “I left Massey because I had a better situation waiting for me, I didn’t leave because I didn’t like Massey Knakal,” said Daniel.
With eyes on 2015 and beyond, the man who racked up an impressive portfolio at an entrenched contender must now build an impressive one from scratch. However, if Daniel’s past is any indication, he’ll be able to produce results faster than most of his peers.
Daniel had originally planned on entering the medical field. However as his undergrad studies neared an end, he soon found that attending medical school immediately would not be a viable option financially.
He needed money, in part to fund a potential career in medicine and in part to get married.
“I was trying to figure out something in my college dorm room,” said Daniel, who was eager to find a job that would allow him to make money at all hours before he graduated.
While also working as a sales manager at a liquor store and as a paralegal, a career in real estate allowed him to work on his own schedule. He soon began renting apartments to his college peers.
“My ads all said call until 2 a.m.,” Daniel said. “In a rental department, you have to be quick. I was getting back to people who were renting apartments at 2 a.m.” in order to set up an immediate 9 a.m. showing.
Why did those in the business take those late night calls and award him the quickest possible showings? It probably had something to do with the liquor he purchased for the building’s leasing agents when he went to them for head starts on leads.
Despite the early promise, Daniel was still not sold on real estate as a full-time career choice.
“I was probably going to law school had I not gotten a job at Massey Knakal right after college,” said Daniel.
That job turned into an impressive career.
“I’ve had a career now for ten years and (this is) obviously not how I had planned it,” Daniel said.
Looking to the future, Daniel has been aggressive in his quest to build Modern Space’s new division.
“As far as volume is concerned, we’re trying to go for as large a market share as we can possibly get,” Daniel said. “Hopefully, by the end of year we can do 10,12,15 transactions.”
Despite the ambitious goals, Daniel said that his focus will remain near his Astoria and Long Island City roots.
“I would say Manhattan last. Right now, we are very focused on Queens,” he said. “We are targeting more Western Queens and Central Queens and Western Brooklyn. Manhattan is really a whole different world.
“I wanted to get one or two things to really get working on right away and potentially repay the company with the closings.”
He has a few lease assignments already nailed down and perhaps equally as importantly, he’s settled right into his new home.
“Right off the bat it became apparent that Modern Spaces is a good company,” Daniel said.
To make himself feel even more at home, Daniel brought over Edward DiTomasso from Massey Knakal as well.
“Eddie has been with me since November of 2012,” said Daniel, who called his colleague “invaluable.”
The ambitions Daniel and his “right hand man,” DiTomasso certainly have plenty of work ahead of them as they continue to build a commercial leader from scratch.
However, if anyone can swiftly conquer an uphill battle, it’s likely the former pre-med student that
“didn’t even know where Long Island City was” when he first entered commercial real estate.
“I didn’t really know what I was doing,” said Daniel when discussing his first days in the business.
Those days are long behind him now.