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American Building

60 EpisodesProduced by Michael GravesWebsite

American Building, hosted by Atif Z. Qadir, Sponsored by Michael Graves & REDIST, shares how iconic buildings came to be from the perspective of their developers, investors, and designers. These innovators discuss on a deeply personal level what they faced over the course of the entire building proc… read more


44. Creating Successful Partnerships | Melissa Román Burch of Lendlease Development

Today, I’m joined by Head of the New York City office for Lendlease Development, Melissa Román Burch. Melissa is a leading property executive and developer in New York with twenty years of public-company real estate experience. 

In our conversation, we discuss how growing up in Ohio, attending college in Cambridge, and living her adult life in New York City has shaped her outlook on real estate. We touch on the role of academic institutions as economic generators for the cities in which they're situated and the connection between community and higher education. 

Melissa shares the three main lessons that she learned from her time on the Pacific Park/ Atlantic Yards project, a massive mixed-use commercial and residential development in Brooklyn. We discuss getting buy-in from the community, learning how to build in a dense urban environment, and understanding the nature of public-private partnership. 

Melissa’s currently working on the Claremont Hall renovation and provides some details on the background, challenges, and opportunities that she’s seeing with the project. We get into the New York City phenomenon of air rights and Melissa shares how the team is monetizing 300,000 aerial square feet to weave together the gothic collegiate style into modern living. 

Melissa also shares the importance of incorporating community feedback and local organizations on development projects, namely through the lens of the 1 Java Street project. Lendlease is transforming a vacant, single-story industrial warehouse into 850 units of housing, 30% of which will be affordable. They are also redeveloping the waterfront into an esplanade that will be open to the public. As property and rental prices skyrocket, housing access is top-of-mind for Lendlease. 

We round out the conversation by discussing the core purpose of Lendlease and what drew Melissa to join the team. Because Lendlease has construction, development, and investment under one roof, they’re set apart from almost every New York City developer. She describes some of the significant carbon reductions that they’re making towards their goal to be absolute carbon zero by 2040. A lofty goal, but Melissa believes it’s achievable given their resources and dedication to the mission.

About the Guest:

Melissa is the Head of the New York City office for Lendlease Development where she spearheaded the Sydney-based firms’ entry and expansion into the New York market and originated a pipeline of large-scale, ground-up developments for the firm. 

Before joining Lendlease in 2015, she worked at Forest City Ratner for 12 years, where she oversaw the Pacific Park/Atlantic Yard project featuring the Barclays Center. She started her career at Merrill Lynch. She serves on the board of the Henry Street Settlement, Citizen’s Budget Commission, Urban Design Forum, and Coro New York Leadership Center. She is an alumna of Harvard College and Harvard Business School.

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, or on your favorite podcast platform. 

Topics Covered:

  • The role of higher education in connecting the many stages of her life 
  • Reimaging community as an opportunity for developers 
  • Public-private partnerships built to last generations 
  • The role that curiosity plays in successful real estate development 
  • How Lendlease is really getting involved with the neighborhoods that they’re constructing in 
  • Melissa’s perspective on housing access 
  • How to deliver units faster and more cost effectively  
  • Decarbonization in the construction industry 

About Your Host

“Atif Qadir is the Founder & CEO of REDIST, a technology company making it easy for commercial real estate professionals to find and use the $100B of real estate incentives given out every year in the US.”

Resources and Links

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