Developer DDG Launches New Venture, Bringing Together U.S., French Portfolios
New York developer DDG Partners is bringing its American and French subsidiaries under one company called Azur, as the firm ramps up acquisition plans on both sides of the Atlantic.
The firm officially launched Azur on Monday, a move which brings together DDG’s 2M SF of real estate developments in the United States and GS Invests’ 3M SF portfolio of largely industrial space in France. The company is kicking off with two major ground-up developments in Chicago, a land acquisition in Miami and plans for a rental development in New York City.
Until now, both companies have functioned separately, though they are owned and operated by DDG CEO Joseph McMillan.
“In my head, this has been in the works for 18 to 24 months, and now that we're coming out of Covid and we're on the other side, it felt like the logical time to launch something new,” said McMillan, who will now become CEO and chairman of Azur and run its New York City and Paris offices.
The projects that DDG is building right now — including condominiums at 180 East 88th St. and 532 West 20th St. in Manhattan — will continue under DDG’s branding, but all future projects will be created under the Azur name. McMillan said the growth the company plans to pursue, specifically in North America, will be multifamily investments, expanding its rental presence, and to a lesser extent hospitality projects. In France, the focus will be on expanding the industrial portfolio.
Azur has also closed on an investment in proptech company Whiterock AI, an artificial intelligence real estate analytics startup. In June, Azur will be launching a platform to acquire single-family and smaller multifamily assets in the suburbs, with its first acquisition outside Philadelphia, set to close that same month.
In Miami, Azur has bought a vacant parcel on the Biscayne Bay where it plans to develop a 100-unit rental building with retail space. In New York City, it is preparing to develop a 150K SF rental project, though McMillan declined to give further details on both those deals.
In Chicago, Azur’s first projects are a 254-unit multifamily build at 1415 North Sedgwick St. in Old Town and a 259-room Standard Hotel as part of a mixed-use project at 1234 West Randolph St. in the Fulton Market neighborhood. Both projects had been backed by crowdfunding platform Prodigy Networks, which has collapsed after being mired in controversy.
Multiple investors sued Prodigy, claiming the company’s late founder, Rodrigo Niño, had siphoned their money into his own coffers. Niño last year died from cancer, and Prodigy has been hit with in excess of a dozen lawsuits from investors seeking recompense, The Real Deal reported.
None of those suits named Azur, and McMillan said both developments were moving forward and would not be affected.
“Prodigy has gone south and it has filed a Chapter 7, we are allowing it to work its way through Chapter 7," he said. "Azur has been the general partner in those projects from day one, and so we continue to be the general partner and we are pushing forward those projects and intend to build both.”
McMillan said he is aiming for residential assets to lead the portfolio, with industrial and hospitality investments following behind. Right now, 60% of the portfolio is in France, but McMillan said the plan is for a 50/50 split. The entire portfolio is about 5M SF, so Azur will need to acquire and develop an additional 1M SF to achieve that balance.
"The half-half is largely the balance between the residential and industrial," McMillan said. "And we think both are going to have tremendous growth potential and limited downside, and we want to participate in both."