Beyond The Bio: 16 Questions With Post Brothers President Matt Pestronk
This series profiles men and women in commercial real estate who have profoundly transformed our neighborhoods and reshaped our cities, businesses and lifestyles.
Post Brothers President Matt Pestronk has never shied away from speaking his mind, especially when it comes to the political infrastructure of his hometown of Philadelphia's policies surrounding development. But he has made just as many waves with his company's developments in the Philly area and beyond.
Post Brothers' specialty is redeveloping, whether bringing outdated apartment complexes to the top of the market like it did with Presidential City at the border of Philly and Bala Cynwyd, or converting warehouses like it did at the Goldtex building in the northern reaches in Center City.
The company's two biggest ongoing projects reflect Pestronk's ambition and willingness to court controversy. Post Brothers purchased the well-known but underperforming Piazza at Schmidt's in Northern Liberties from Kushner Cos. and is attempting to reinvent its amenities and retail offerings.
Near the burgeoning Callowhill area, Post Brothers' mixed-use conversion of the former factory called the Quaker building required a court victory over the city's Zoning Board of Adjustment to move forward. Pestronk previously told Bisnow that the ZBA is in the pocket of the cities' labor unions, calling the influential board "the mechanism through which old-fashioned, pay-to-play politics operate in Philadelphia.”
Bisnow: What is your favorite part of your job?
Pestronk: Delivering progressively better projects and constantly improving our investment and development processes. We always look for new projects that have no direct comparables.
Bisnow: What is the worst job you ever had?
Pestronk: Furniture mover, age 16. A misspent youth can be underrated in terms of the lessons to be learned. My mother owned a travel agency and a woman who worked for her had a son who managed a moving company. My mother thought if I got the taste for hard manual labor, I would be more likely to pursue a path in life that would not lead to my only career option being a mover of the furniture of others, and I might one day own furniture that I’d pay others to move! She was right.
Bisnow: If you weren’t in commercial real estate, what would you do?
Pestronk: I would be a wrestling coach full time. I currently coach my boys, ages 10 and 6, and enjoy it tremendously. I wrestled as a kid through high school and in college. It is about the best character-builder there is, especially for kids with lots of energy. Wrestling instills the ability in a person to 1) implement and manage a systematic method of improvement in technical skill and 2) become comfortable pushing themselves beyond the point of physical and mental exhaustion.
Bisnow: What deal are you proudest of?
Pestronk: I am proud of all of our projects. Most recently, we completed our largest project to date located downtown, The Atlantic, a $200M, 268-unit adaptive reuse which has leased to 65% since opening at the end of 2018 at the highest rents ever achieved in [the] Center City [neighborhood of] Philadelphia, both on a per SF and per unit monthly basis. All of our projects have pushed the envelope in that they achieved rental rates and absorption that were not able to be envisaged by the wider community.
Bisnow: What deal do you consider to be your biggest failure?
Pestronk: We have had the good fortune of having the wind at our backs the last 10 years and haven’t had any projects that were total disasters. That said, we have bought a few buildings that had pretty limited upside relative to the amount of money and time we had to put into them. We learn from our mistakes.
Bisnow: What is your biggest pet peeve?
Pestronk: People who do not listen.
Bisnow: What is your greatest extravagance?
Pestronk: Reading for pleasure. By far the highest return activity I do in my personal time.
Bisnow: What motivates you?
Pestronk: I am not a particularly motivated person. [Laughs]
Bisnow: What advice do you wish you got when you started in CRE?
Pestronk: Don’t listen to what other people tell you are limitations or mores governing the industry. Get as close to the top entrepreneurs in the industry as early as you possibly can in your career. I give the younger people I work with very specific advice that I think they appreciate. When someone says, “We tried that 10 years ago and it will never work,” run, don’t walk away from that person.
Bisnow: What is the biggest risk you have ever taken?
Pestronk: Making the decision to leave a comfortable and well-compensated position with little risk to go all-in on growing Post. My brother ran Post full time for the first five years of its existence. Before and during that time, I had a job as a mortgage broker because my skills could not be utilized full time at Post and I would have been more of a burden on our [profits and losses] than an asset.
Bisnow: What keeps you up at night?
Pestronk: After age 40 (now 42), I’ve become more comfortable wrestling with my shoulders near the mat, as they say, and I rest early and well, and rise well.
Bisnow: What is your favorite place to visit?
Pestronk: Jerusalem, Nantucket and wine country, aka my garage.
Bisnow: Outside of work, what are you most passionate about?
Pestronk: My family, my kids growing up to be their own successes, Jewish secular work and opportunity for people caught in the cycle of generational poverty to get out of that cycle.
Bisnow: What CRE trend do you think will have the most impact over the next few years?
Pestronk: Environmentally sustainable development. I did not include the planet in [the previous question] because sustainable development is a fundamental principle of everything Post Brothers does, so it is not just an "outside interest."
Bisnow: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
Pestronk: I do not like sweet foods along with savory ones, i.e. seared tuna with cherries. I also despise baby corn. It is not even actual corn ... Don’t get me started.
Bisnow: What do you want your legacy to be?
Pestronk: Way, way too early to even think about this.
CORRECTION, NOV. 6, 10:30 A.M. ET: A previous version of this article misstated Pestronk's position at Post Brothers. This article has been updated.