By Orlando L. Rodriguez
As a venture capitalist in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, Douglas Elliman commercial broker Louis Puopolo became adept at recognizing the futuristic value within a vision.
Involved with raising funds for film and television for 12 years, Puopolo learned to understand that profit, particularly from creative projects, could take some time. That is if the public ever came around on the content.
But the Internet bubble exploded around the turn of the century and by mid-decade, Puopolo decided it was time for a change.
The real estate industry, ironically in the midst of the next bubble, had a particular pull for him, but most of all it was an area where he found all of the skills he had acquired perfectly transferable.
“Raising money for films it could take three years to make a profit,” Puopolo said. “For venture capital, it was just a terrible time, because the Internet bubble exploded. It was hard to raise money [or] make profit and I wanted something where I could do a deal in a day, something I could put a lot of effort into.”
Puopolo, who began working with Douglas Elliman at 575 Madison Avenue in 2004, began doing mostly residential deals. But around 2006, he started to expand into commercial transactions, working with the Shvo Group and selling the Greenpoint Lofts in Brooklyn. Later on, he began to add retail clients, able to make parallels between his retail clients’ vision and his creative investment roots.
“Back when I started, I was always pursuing the investment type of deal,” said Puopolo. “That led me then to working with businesses. Helping them lease, helping them relocate or helping them grow was always something I was interested in.”
Now, Puopolo says, commercial transactions make up the majority of his business. He has been involved in some notable deals, including the 2010 sale of the Hammacher Schlemmer Building on East 57th Street to the Sao Paulo, Brazil-based Malzoni Group, and finding new studio space for Contemporary Conservation Ltd.
He has also represented The American Lung Association, Montreal based ad agency Sid Lee and Ercole Furniture. More recently, Puopolo closed two downtown sales worth $26 million; 85 Leonard Street for $10.8 million in Tribeca and 85 Mercer Street in Soho for 15.2 million.
“The best thing about the commercial side of the business is that you have a lot more layers of input and value added as a broker,” he said. “It’s a lot more challenging. You deal with valuation, marketing, advising. For me it’s a lot more fun.”
From his vantage point, Puopolo says that he thinks that the retail market is in fantastic shape in Manhattan, depending on exactly where the property is positioned. But unlike other forecasts which have pegged Midtown South as the big story of 2013, Puopolo thinks that this will be the year of an area a little further south on the west side.
“The Meatpacking District is probably going to be the most exciting thing in 2013,” he said. “All the changes that are happening over there, I’m interested in seeing where that goes. Is it going to be more of a 24-7 market? As opposed to what I think, which is more of a post five o’clock – weekend market.”
As the leader of his own team — The Puopolo Group —Puopolo says that salespeople and brokers looking to add commercial transactions to their portfolio have to be patient as it is a whole different animal from residential sales.
“There is an uphill, steep learning curve,” he said. “You have to know the market. You have to learn about buildings. You have to learn how to communicate correctly using the right type of terminology.”
“It’s persistence. Try and have a lot of fun. Hard work, persistence and a good attitude usually lead to success.”