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Why Steven Marvin Is REBNY's Young Real Estate Man Of The Year

Configuring the right workspace for a tenant requires a lot of compassion and creativity these days, especially when it comes to New York’s ever-evolving TAMI sector. Both are qualities that characterize Steven H. Marvin, who will be honored next Thursday as this year’s recipient of REBNY’s Young Real Estate Man of the Year Award.

Having spent 28 years immersed in nearly every facet of New York City’s commercial real estate, brokerage, leasing and management worlds—the last 24 of them at Olmstead Properties, where he’s executive managing director—Steven has built a reputation as a jack of all trades when it comes to navigating the complexities that typically accompany the search for commercial office space.

In addition to overseeing the leasing and marketing of Olmstead’s Manhattan portfolio—including approximately 2.5M SF of properties in SoHo, Hudson Square and Fashion District, among others —Steven is also an active tenant rep. With clients like Buzzfeed, Paperless Post and Intent Media, he considers trust and resourcefulness among the firm’s biggest assets.

“Because of the business model we have, we’re able to work with tenants and understand what their needs are,” he says. “That’s first and foremost, but we don't have space in their current buiding or they require something else in a different location or area in the city, then other thing I’m most proud of is that they’re comfortable working with me to help them find the space reuqirement they need because there’s a trust factor that’s been built in from the get-go.”

Steven’s initial foray into real estate was as a college student during the mid-’80s at Clarke University when he and his roommate set about purchasing a series of triple-decker off-campus houses in Wooster, Mass. “We were living in the dorms and we saw this opportunity,” he recalls. “We thought there was a market to be served and we were able to pursue it thanks to a bank loan and the help of our fathers.”

Surprisingly, Steven’s first job after graduating with a degree in economics and moving to New York in 1987 was as a retail buyer at Sacks Fifth Avenue. “I think as a kid you have aspirations of who knows what at the time,” he says.

However, it didn’t take long for Steven to realize that commercial real estate was his true calling and after less than a year he began pursuing his true passion. After networking through friends, he connected with te develoers of a building in SoHo. His first gig was as the on-site manging agent of the multi-tenanted renovation and conversion of 584-588 Broadway, one of SoHo’s first conversions from a manufacturing building to a commercial office building.

Steven then joined Olmstead Properties in 1993 (which purchased 584-588 Broadway three years later) and hasn’t looked back. He calls Olmstead founder and president Sam Rosenblatt his mentor.

“Sam formed the company a year before I joined to take over his family’s buildings and was looking for somebody to do what I had just finished doing at 584-588 Broadway. I was fortunate enough to be offered a position and working with him on transforming 180 Varick St, which Sam's grandfather built,” he says.

In the nearly three decades since, he’s seen lots of ups and downs in the industry. The most difficult was the financial crisis of 2008. “It was a very trying time to be supportive of our tenants, but also deal with the fact that we were running a business just like everybody else,” he says.

As for his favorite kind of tenant, Steven has a particular sweet spot for the TAMI sector. “We typically look for creative types that are going to have synergies with other existing tenants whether it's production companies, fashion showrooms, architects, tech, media firms and other creative tenants."

Even so, he admits there are still challenges—especially among startups. “The hardest part is trying to manage the rapid growth that a lot of these companies are going through. We’re long-term owners of our real estate, and so we need to make sure that we’re making decisions that aren’t reactionary for one tenant and are right for the long-term stability of the building.”

Outside of his job, Steven enjoys spending time with his wife, Samantha, and their two children in addition to skiing and playing golf. He’s also an active member of REBNY and serves on the admissions committee of YMWREA (Young Men’s/Women’s Real Estate Association of New York).

As for Olmstead’s philosophy: “We’re an old school real estate firm,” Steven says. “When the right opportunity approaches us, we look to see if we can make it work and fit into our portfolio, but we’re also not going to chase buildings and tenants where others see it differently than us.”