As a newly minted University of Rochester graduate seeking to return to his New York City-area roots, David Cheikin took an internship at Jones Lang Wootton. That led to four years in its advisory services and national and corporate leasing programs. He left to earn an MBA from Washington University with a focus on environmental preservation and land management, but found the field required a biology degree. Returning to real estate, he joined Brookfield Office Properties’ efforts to win back favor to Lower Manhattan in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Initially in office leasing, he then became involved in such deals as the buyout of Lehman Brothers’ position in 3 World Financial Center and lease-up of its 1.5 million-square-foot headquarters, and led efforts to renew Bank of America/Merrill Lynch’s 767,000-square-foot lease and purchase its 49 percent stake in 4 World Financial Center, a deal that was complicated by the companies’ partnership in running the common areas, noted Bank of America transaction and investment executive Robert Becker. The deal, Cheikin said, benefited both sides, achieving a middle ground that left everyone walking away feeling the best decision had been reached.
The firm’s youngest vice president in 2006, Cheikin is now responsible for repositioning, redeveloping and re-letting the World Financial Center’s 8 million square feet of office, 200,000 square feet of retail, waterfront complex and arts and events program, and collaborates with two other executives on oversight of the entire 18 million-square-foot New York City portfolio.
With the World Financial Center arts and events program, the largest free program in New York City, he really tries to think about what New Yorkers want and how to continue to attract them downtown. Last year, he introduced the Lowdown Hudson Blues Festival, which attracted 5,000 people. He also brought in the Greenmarket to test consumer response; it turned in significantly higher-than-expected sales.
“I feel lucky that I found this opportunity. I feel lucky that Brookfield as an entity realizes this opportunity,” he observed.
Memorable Achievements: Getting all the approvals together and starting construction on the World Financial Center redevelopment. In 2004, completing 300 Madison Ave., and placing PricewaterhouseCoopers into 800,000 square feet there. Being asked by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to join the September 11 Memorial Foundation Task Force, a group of young professionals that provides outreach to the younger generation, and, still an avid environmentalist, volunteering for MillionTreesNYC, a public-private effort to plant trees across the city. “It’s good for me personally to have a goal.”
Goals: Reaching 2014, when the World Financial Center’s $250 million renovation is complete. Adapting Brookfield’s ability to impact Lower Manhattan to other cities worldwide where it has significant holdings. “This is a program that can rollout across the world,” he said.
What Others Say About Him: CBRE Group Inc. executive vice president Bruce Surrey termed him “very responsive,” very knowledgeable, thorough and someone who reflects Brookfield’s standing in the market but at the same time understands the tenant.
Greatest Challenges: “Projects of scale have challenges. You think a deal is on track, and 50 challenges come up. It’s a matter of (separating) them and working through only one without getting sidetracked and discouraged.”
Secrets to Success: “Hard work and having the support of a great family.” Longtime business relationships: “You develop a level of trust in each other and can focus on the problems because you trust the people. They give me the ability to run with things. I’m focused on the work, not the politics.”
Best Advice Received: His grandfather has always been his mentor: “A man who is eternally optimistic and he continues to push through adversity, believes the right attitude will carry you through.” Also, “it’s easy to get sidetracked on the next-flavor-of-the-month transaction. You need to focus on the (bigger picture).”
Advice to Others: Keep your head down, stay out of the politics and focus on the transactions at hand. —Suzann Silverman