Beyond The Bio: 16 Questions With Jamestown Properties CEO Matt Bronfman
This series profiles men and women in commercial real estate who have profoundly transformed our neighborhoods and reshaped our cities, businesses and lifestyles.
On any given day, Ponce City Market is a bustling hub of Atlanta's 21st-century renaissance.
The mixed-use structure off Ponce de Leon Avenue in Atlanta's Old Fourth Ward neighborhood is now a massively popular attraction, complete with a robust food hall and prime Class-A office space, apartments and even an amusement park on the roof. Some 10,000 people shop, eat and work at Ponce City Market on a daily basis.
Not bad for a building that most recently was an underused government building for the city of Atlanta. Before that, the historic structure had a long history as a Sears warehouse.
The visionary behind this change is Jamestown CEO Matt Bronfman. Bronfman's creation is part of a Midtown renaissance that has since catalyzed the formation of the Atlanta BeltLine — a 22-mile pedestrian trail ringing many of the city's diverse neighborhoods — and the revitalization of older, aging properties all around the city.
Bronfman joined Jamestown, a real estate investment and management firm based in Atlanta and Germany, in 1998 as general counsel. He has since risen through the ranks at a rapid pace, becoming CEO in 2012 and having led the acquisition, redevelopment and oversight of more than $20B in real estate across the country, including the iconic Chelsea Market in New York, Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco and the Innovation and Design Building in Boston.
A 1988 graduate of Tufts University, summa cum laude, as well as a magna cum laude at Northwestern University Law School, Bronfman formerly served at the Atlanta law firm of Holland & Knight, specializing in real estate and corporate law. He currently serves on the boards for the Association of Foreign Investors in Real Estate, or AFIRE, the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership, the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta and the Jewish Funders Network.
Bisnow: How do you describe your job to people who are not in the industry?
Bronfman: I am a jack-of-all-trades and master of none and try to facilitate teams to [make] good decisions.
Bisnow: If you weren’t in commercial real estate, what would you do?
Bronfman: Professor or lawyer. I was not one of those lawyers running from the law. I enjoyed the practice, but just saw a better opportunity.
Bisnow: What is the worst job you ever had?
Bronfman: Paper boy (on rainy days).
Bisnow: What was your first big deal?
Bronfman: Buying 1211 Avenue of the Americas for over $500M in 2000.
Bisnow: What deal do you consider to be your biggest failure?
Bronfman: Any deal where I look back and think we did not maximize value. Fortunately, they are few and far between as we at Jamestown are very good at creating value.
Bisnow: If you could change one thing about the commercial real estate industry, what would it be?
Bronfman: The industry should have more diversity. It is still an industry dominated by white men.
Bisnow: What is your biggest pet peeve?
Bronfman: People who are late.
Bisnow: Who are your greatest mentors?
Bronfman:[Jamestown Properties Chairman] Christoph Kahl and my father, Alan Bronfman. Both taught me the value of hard work, perseverance, loyalty and that you can’t get more than you ask for.
Bisnow: What is the best and worst professional advice you've ever received?
Bronfman: Best advice: It is better to be tired than bored. Worst advice: I can sleep when I am dead. I don’t think the two conflict. Being tired is good, but working yourself to exhaustion is a bad idea and I have found that we often make poor decisions when exhausted.
Bisnow: What is your greatest extravagance?
Bronfman: I have some control over my schedule, and so when I am not traveling I try to get home for dinner and to see my wife and kids. I often work late at home but I rarely stay at [the] office late so that I can visit and have dinner with family.
Bisnow: What is your favorite restaurant in the world?
Bronfman: Ma Li in Virginia Highlands.
Bisnow: If you could sit down with President Donald Trump, what would you say?
Bronfman: Think before you speak and tweet.
Bisnow: What's the biggest risk you have ever taken?
Bronfman: Buying a dilapidated and vacant building from the city of Atlanta at the height of the recession, but it has been a rewarding experience to see the success of Ponce City Market.
Bisnow: What is your favorite place to visit in your hometown?
Bronfman: Arthur Bryant’s Bar B Que in Kansas City.
Bisnow: What keeps you up at night?
Bronfman: Very little. I sleep well.
Bisnow: Outside of your work, what are you most passionate about?
Bronfman: My family and my greater community.