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Shaping the New York City Skyline

Nearly 100 students of Lehigh University’s Goodman Center for Real Estate attended the event to gain insight and network with industry professionals. At center are Tara Stacom ’80 and Marc Holliday ’88.

Don’t assume there’s only one path. Work through the obstacles — and there are always obstacles. Know when to follow conservative advice and when to buck the trend. Be a responsible risk taker, but do take risks if you want to do something dramatic. That was some of the valuable advice imparted to Lehigh University real estate students by Marc Holliday ’88, chairman and CEO of SL Green Realty, at the 2019 Stacom Family Real Estate Series event held on April 15 at One Liberty Plaza in lower Manhattan.

In introducing Holliday, Tara Stacom ’80, a member of  Lehigh’s Board of Trustees and executive vice chairman of Cushman & Wakefield, said he “has played a major role in shaping the fabric and the skyline of New York City.”

In a presentation that was often as humorous as it was insightful, Holliday spoke about SL Green’s rise from its beginning in 1997 as a “niche player in what was then the B-building market” to an enterprise with $20 billion in assets that has become New York City’s largest office landlord.

“For all you real estate students, it’s a good goal to try and shoot for!” advised Holliday, who earned his Lehigh bachelor’s degree in finance. He and his wife, Sheree, have been supporters of the real estate program in the College of Business and Economics and also Lehigh’s lacrosse program.

Holliday said some of the guiding principles that led to SL Green’s and his own personal success include a value-added approach to increasing assets, going after big deals “because they require almost the same time as small deals,” and keeping up with the state of the market to stay ahead of the competition.

His other strategies for climbing to the pinnacle of the industry included assembling a “best-in-class team, one by one,” and practicing passionate indifference — not falling so in love with properties that he was reluctant to sell when they matured and their contribution to the bottom line diminished.

Holliday also recommended staying in tune with hot trends and topics in real estate. He spoke about densification and co-working and their effect on office space planning, and the growing desire for amenities such as onsite concierges, high-end restaurants, and outdoor space as part of office buildings.

Holliday showed architectural renderings of SL Green’s One Vanderbilt skyscraper, a project that was 20 years in the making and is set to open in August 2020. Once completed, the 73-floor building will stand 1,401 feet at the top of its spire, making it the tallest building in midtown Manhattan and the fourth-tallest in the city. It will include an observatory open to the public and views and internal access to historic Grand Central Station.

New York City, and in particular mid-town Manhattan, has been a major focus for Holliday and SL Green because he believes it’s the single best market in the country. Diversity outside of Manhattan would be “’adverse diversity,’ something I learned about from Professor Steve Thode at Lehigh 30-some years ago,” Holliday laughed, acknowledging his real estate instructor in the audience, who is the retired director of Lehigh’s Goodman Center for Real Estate Studies. During the program, Holliday assisted in honoring Thode for his contributions to real estate education at Lehigh.

Stacom said she was proud to have helped establish Lehigh’s real estate program and to host and facilitate events and activities that “provide an ever-improving network of alumni who are truly dedicated to the success of our students.” She thanked the other trustees in attendance, James Maida ’85 ’17P ’19P and Peter Morales ’82, for their support of the event.

Aware of her good fortune as the daughter of industry veteran and Lehigh alumnus Matthew Stacom ’41, Stacom established the Stacom Family Speaker Series in 2009 to connect Goodman Center for Real Estate students and alumni with notable figures in the industry. Her goal is to raise awareness in the New York real estate community of the excellent talent pool that Lehigh is producing.

A Q&A and networking between students and industry professionals followed Holliday’s presentation. Skyler McCabe ’21, a finance and marketing major minoring in real estate, said she was impressed with Holliday’s insight. “I didn’t know I’d have the opportunity as a student to get such an in-depth look at the New York City real estate market.”

View a photo gallery from the event.


—Cynthia Tintorri