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Beyond The Bio: 16 Questions With Primestor CEO Arturo Sneider

This series profiles men and women in commercial real estate who have profoundly transformed our neighborhoods and reshaped our cities, businesses and lifestyles.

Arturo Sneider likes to describe himself as a commercial real estate activist.

Sneider doesn't advocate against projects. Rather, he uses his activism to promote the development of CRE projects in minority and marginalized communities. 

As the CEO of Primestor Development, a Los Angeles-based retail property manager and development company, the social impact investor and developer, Sneider, takes pride in his activism to promote economic development in areas that have historically been neglected.

"I like to say that I'm an activist dressed as a commercial real estate developer," Sneider said. 

Primestor Development CEO Arturo Sneider

Originally from Mexico City, Sneider came to the U.S. as a teenager more than 30 years ago. He worked as a dishwasher with other mostly Mexican immigrants. That's when he say he realized immigrant struggles and the lack of amenities in immigrant communities. 

He co-founded Primestor Development in 1992 and has grown the company to a portfolio totaling 3.5M SF in four states and worth more than $750M.

Bisnow: What is your favorite part of your job? 

Sneider: Community engagement, interactive events with the community and the cross-section of local job creation and economic development by the people. 

Bisnow: What is the worst job you ever had? 

Sneider: Door-to-door residential rent collections in C- and D-level buildings in the early 1990s.  

Bisnow: If you weren’t in commercial real estate, what would you do? 

Sneider: In some form of brand creation and development business. As a company we are focused on creating brands. Our projects are a brand. Our image is a brand. The way we run our company culture is a brand. I'm very interested in how you can create a brand and a lifestyle by having some thing tangible that people can believe in and focus on. So I would be on the creative side of marketing but on the standpoint of brand building and creating culture.

Bisnow: What deal are you proudest of?

Sneider: Freedom Plaza in Watts. Watts is one of the most overlooked areas. I remember when President Bill Clinton introduced the New Market Credit tax program during his presidency and [ever since then] new market tax credits were not used in the [Watts] community. We were able able to bring tax credits to the community, create local jobs and integrate the street grid to the community and bring fresh produce and foods to a food desert. Also, bringing brands and unifying a community that literally created the community. We were the facilitator for the neighborhood. We were not the developers.

Bisnow: What deal do you consider to be your biggest failure?

Sneider: The Marshfield Plaza in Chicago. We got caught in a combination of the city politics that were against big-box retailers and the 2009 recession. Even though we built the project, we were never able to financially recover from that whole hit. 

Primestor Development CEO Arturo Sneider

Bisnow: What is your biggest pet peeve? 

Sneider: Selfish behavior. I am very focused as a culture, as a company and as an individual [on] being present and recognizing the small role we, as individuals, each play, and we should not be thinking inward.

Bisnow: What is your greatest extravagance?  

Sneider: Fashion and travel. I do adventure, high-risk travel with my brother. If we're going to the jungles of Papua New Guinea, we're going to sleep on the floor in a tent. But if we're going to go to Paris, we're going to stay at the best hotel in Paris. We like to spread the experience of adapting the place that we are in. I'm very comfortable in any of those settings. Scuba diving and snow skiing are some of my favorite things. 

Bisnow: What motivates you? 

Sneider: The desire to help create structures and models that form the basis for people to improve their own lives.

Bisnow: What advice do you wish you got when you started in CRE? 

Sneider: That who you do business with, the integrity, moral compass and drive of people, is more important than the quality of content of any contract one signs with that other party.

Bisnow: What is the biggest risk you have ever taken? 

Sneider: Expanding the company's platform nationally at a time when we had many projects at the same time. I think it was 1999 or 2000, the 2000 census had come out and it was becoming apparent the minority market, in particular the Latinx community, was going to be off the charts in terms of growth. A lot of people began approaching us asking us to take a look at some markets. So when we got approached by the city of Chicago, Phoenix and Tampa, it all started working well.  

Primestor Development CEO Arturo Sneider

Bisnow: What keeps you up at night?

Sneider: Nothing. I have a very full life. I'm focused on health, exercise, diet, reading, music, my business, my work, my family and my life. I have a very full life. I'm very comfortable with the fact that I'm just one person that has very little control over anything in this world. I'm focused on my work and the things that I can do right. That's it.

Bisnow: What is your favorite place to visit?

Sneider: Italy and Mexico. The amount of creativity and drive and passion for life in those two countries just pours out. There is a connection to history that somehow informs everything modern and things still exist in the past. There is a sort of balance of progress and respect at the same time.

Bisnow: Outside of work, what are you most passionate about? 

Sneider: Music, reading, snow skiing, soccer, scuba diving and travel.

Bisnow: What CRE trend do you think will have the most impact over the next few years? 

Sneider: Firstly, in the markets that we are familiar with, the densification of land use through truly multiuse projects around publication transportation nodes. Secondly, the nearly seamless integration of physical and digital interactions in the built environment. Lastly, the broader acceptance by and adaptation of the capital markets for short-term, dynamic commercial leases which accommodate a constantly shifting end user market.

Bisnow: What would people be surprised to learn about you? 

Sneider: Perhaps, that I spent a better part of my life's first half intensively in martial arts training and competition. I did Hapkido and Taekwondo for most of my life as a child through my early 30s. I did full contact competitions in Mexico and the U.S. I taught classes. It was a big part of my life. I'm grateful for the discipline I learned from it. For me, this was the foundation of my life. 

Bisnow: What do you want your legacy to be?

Sneider: The collaborative co-creation of being an integral part of a long-lasting ethical, unapologetic and activist-minded firm that truly cares about job creation, local economic and aesthetic development in mostly low-income minority communities.