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Chilling Events And Scary Transactions

San Francisco Skyline Halloween

The job of a commercial real estate broker is not all sunshine and good times—it can be taxing juggling client demands, frustrating waiting on a deal to close and sometimes downright scary. Bisnow spoke with a few of the country’s top brokers about their scariest deals and received some chilling accounts. Read on if you dare.

Mortuary Blues And Dead Bodies

Michael Doten, Transwestern

Michael Doten, Transwestern Senior Associate

Michael Doten (pictured with Transwestern VP of management services Amanda Monroe) tells Bisnow his scariest deal occurred earlier this year when he sold a mortuary property in the San Francisco Bay Area. He says there was a freezer in the back of the property where dead bodies were stored stacked on top of each other.

The scariest part was there was a two-by-four piece of wood slid behind the freezer door to keep the door closed,” Michael says. “It was braced so it couldn’t be pushed open from the inside.”

He adds there was also a 400 SF apartment above the mortuary and a basement noted on the building plans.

“When walking the building to perform due diligence, no bone in my body wanted to go into the basement,” Michael says. “Fortunately no one could find the door to the entrance.” Michael says not even the seller really knew where the entrance was or even set foot in the basement.

— Julie Littman, S.F. Reporter

Untimely Fire And Anxious Endings

Bob Knakal

Robert Knakal, Cushman & Wakefield Chairman of NY Investment Sales

Robert says his scariest experience was during his very first transaction back in 1985. The current chairman of New York Investment Sales at Cushman & Wakefield had been working to sell a building at 1421 3rd Ave in New York at the time.

“It was a vacant building, which we were selling to [a client] for the very first MRI center in New York City,” Robert tells us.

On the morning the deal was supposed to close, he says he received a call informing him and the client that there had been a horrible fire the night before causing significant damage to the building. “We were sure the transaction would never close,” Robert says. “However, [the client] was going to do a gut renovation of the property anyway, so they decided to close and did not even ask for a price adjustment. We certainly were very lucky in that situation.”

— Ben Mazzara, NY Reporter

Uncovered Dead Body And Remains

Don Lusty

Donald Lusty, S.F. Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development Senior Project Manager

Donald tells us when he worked as a project manager for BRIDGE S.F., a dead body was uncovered.

The City of San Francisco had previously moved all its cemeteries out of the city and into the town of Colma, but some of the graves were left behind. BRIDGE had been forewarned the site was previously a cemetery, Donald says, so he wasn’t shocked when they discovered the body.

He and his colleagues had also stumbled upon wedding rings and other human remains at the site. They worked alongside the city to remove the remains—which were placed in a banker’s box—and take them to Colma. Donald says a woman who lived close to that site said she used to dig up bones all the time while gardening.

— Julie Littman, S.F. Reporter

Dead Deal Revived 

Chilling Events And Scary Transactions

Mary Ann Tighe, CBRE Tri-State CEO

Mary Ann Tighe brokered the move of the New York Times from its old building at 229 West 43rd St. The deal died early on because the Times decided it would renovate the building it was in instead of relocating.

“We all went away for over a year and didn’t expect anything, until they called us [again],” Mary Ann says. The Times had renovated one of the newsroom floors and was not pleased with the results. “Let’s try that other deal,” they’d told Mary Anne, a request that was easier said than done. Mary Ann says they had to use the state’s powers of condemnation to take the site, with the help of Extell Development founder Gary Barnett.

“There were 10 buildings on the site. Gary bought one and organized them and tried to get the Supreme Court to hear a case that rejected the taking and use that was leveraged to come into the deal,” Mary Ann says. Fortunately for them, Justice Ginsberg ruled it was a state issue and gave them the go-ahead. With the state’s approval, it was a question of whether or not they could achieve the rents needed at 41st and 8th Avenue.

“I’m simplifying what took four and a half years,” Mary Ann says. “It was scary until the day we broke ground, and then we knew it was going to happen.”

— Ben Mazzara, NY Reporter