Partner, Director of Operations
Jason Friedland is the Director of Operations and Investments for Iron Stone. He has over 10 years of experience as a developer in commercial and residential real estate projects, with a focus on acquisition, construction management, financing, zoning, historic tax credits, and portfolio and asset management. He is the co-sponsor of Falls Center, the 800,000 square foot redevelopment of MCP Hospital, one of the largest active historic redevelopments in the Northeastern United States. Since 2008, in his capacity as Director of Operations for Iron Stone Real Estate Fund II, Jason has helped negotiate and acquire more than 15 non-performing commercial mortgage liens from financial institutions.
Jason is also a partner of Friedland Capital Inc., a US-based merchant bank with offices in New York City, Denver, and Beijing. He provides corporate financial advisory services to domestic and foreign publicly traded and privately held emerging growth companies. Jason founded the financial and investment event division of Friedland Capital Inc., which sponsored over 280 events annually in 31 cities in the US and Europe.
Born in Denver, CO, Jason received a B.A from Washington University in St. Louis, MO. He is a Trustee of The Clarke Schools For Hearing and Speech in Northampton, MA and spearheads grass roots initiatives to broaden educational choices for children with hearing loss in Pennsylvania. He was instrumental in the introduction of legislation in Harrisburg in 2010. Jason is a Trustee and Chair of the Building and Grounds Committee of Woodmere Art Museum, a member of the Prints, Drawings and Photographs Committee at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, a member of the Friends of Alfred Stieglitz Center and a member of the Childhood Friends of The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Q: How did you get your start in the real estate business?
It was originally my wife’s idea. In 2002, having just moved to Philly, I was exploring opportunities in several different industries, but real estate was not on the list. However, I became enamored with the historic and organic nature of Philly’s urban landscape and would spend my free time exploring the city’s neighborhoods. It was more of a hobby than anything else, and she suggested I pursue real estate professionally.
Q: What is your favorite part of your job? What is your least favorite?
I would say I enjoy 90% of my job. Every day is a different adventure. I have had the pleasure of collaborating with my two business partners, Matthew Canno and Andrew Eisenstein, for more than 10 years. Some of my favorite aspects include creating the structure and execution strategy for new acquisitions. Also, I thrive on working with our team members in a positive and supportive office environment. No surprise here, but I would say that the constantly increasing accounting, regulatory and audit requirements for our funds are my least favorite aspect of the work week.
Q: How have economic conditions affected Iron Stone’s investment strategies? Has your focus widened or narrowed due to present market conditions?
Our investment strategy has not changed much over the past 12 years. We remain committed to opportunistic investments that actually underwrite and make financial sense. If they do not pencil out, we pass. Every investment must have a discernible exit strategy from the beginning and for that reason we look at everything, and bid on much less. This ability to rapidly adapt and remain highly sensitive to changes in the market has really helped us realize value from our investments. We completed our 100th project a few years ago, and our expertise encompasses nearly all real estate asset classes. For that reason we have expanded our scope to about a 100-mile radius from our headquarters, with the majority of our investments targeted for the city and near suburbs.
Q: You work with a wide variety of property types. Since the recession began, have any of these asset types surprised you with their performance (for better or worse)?
In 2009 and 2010, we purchased the underlying debt on 15 apartment buildings that had been overleveraged and severely neglected. The sellers included Capital One and CitiBank among others During the recession we felt that if we could improve the buildings to provide secure, clean, renovated apartments, we would be able to rent them regardless of the doldrums of the economy, and our instincts have proven correct. That said, now the multi-family sector is extremely competitive and we have targeted other asset classes that we believe are being overlooked by investors and lenders.
Q: Is green technology impacting your investment decisions? Do you think it is a good strategy economically? Why/why not?
We pursue redevelopment strategies that make financial sense, so our model of adaptive reuse is inherently “green.” For example, at Falls Center, the former MCP Hospital, we have been successful in recycling 90% of construction materials during demolition, and we used soy-based insulation instead of traditional materials because it was faster to apply and effectively provided an unbroken blanket of insulation. While the material was more costly per square foot, the labor savings gained from faster application of the soy product made more financial sense. Similarly, to reduce electricity consumption, we have converted the majority of our light fixtures at our apartment buildings to LEDs and have noticed about a 50% increase in efficiency. Also, we recently converted a few of our apartment buildings to use solar hot water systems.
Q: You have experience investing in and repurposing historic properties. What challenges do such properties present? What opportunities?
I have to begin this by saying that the weak demand for commercial and multi-use space is by far the biggest challenge to redevelopment in Philadelphia. We have repositioned more than one million square feet of functionally obsolete buildings and without the underlying users and tenants, our redevelopment business would be dead in the water. Looking specifically at historic properties though, we face the added challenge of constructing within increasingly restrictive historic preservation standards. The guidelines require a lot of attention and need to be effectively communicated to every person working on the project to make sure that the whole team understands what to save. Despite these challenges, the opportunity to save and incorporate existing features into the new building design—instead of gutting the building wall to wall—helps us maximize efficiency and preserve important elements at the same time. This approach takes a tremendous amount of time in the planning stage, but the savings are well worth it.
Q: In what ways do you imagine the industry will be different 5 years from now? 10 years?
I’m hopeful that increased demand for space will make obsolete and vacant industrial buildings throughout the city more financially viable to put back in service. I’m also excited for engineering breakthroughs in building materials that will make older buildings even more cost efficient to renovate.
Q: If you didn’t work in the Mid-Atlantic market, what region would you be interested in exploring? Why?
I’m only interested in investing in markets that I understand, so that would limit me to the Mid-Atlantic region and my home state of Colorado.
Q: What is the most interesting or challenging component of your job?
For me, the most interesting part of the job is helping tenants figure out their space and programmatic needs while also learning about their businesses. Managing the growth of our company is also challenging but a lot of fun at the same time.
Q: Assuming you are able to get time off this year, what vacation destination would you like to visit in 2012? What about this destination is so appealing to you?
It’s already planned. I am spending my 10th wedding anniversary in Montenegro. It’s off the beaten path and devoid of cell phone service.