The Real Deal New York

Related exec takes Columbia position funded by SL Green CEO

September 09, 2009 04:47PM
By Sara Polsky

A Related Companies executive is heading back to school as the leader of Columbia University’s real estate development program.

Vishaan Chakrabarti, a developer, architect and planner, is leaving his position as executive vice president of design and planning at Related this fall to take charge of the real estate development program at Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, the university announced today. Chakrabarti will be responsible for expanding the program’s faculty, reviewing the curriculum and making admissions more competitive, he told The Real Deal.

“The idea is to make it the best in class real estate program in the world,” Chakrabarti said. “There [are] actually very few terminal professional degrees in real estate…[and] it has all the makings because it’s housed in one of the greatest architecture and planning schools and it’s got an affiliation with one of the best business schools.”

Chakrabarti said he thinks the 23-year-old master’s program, which recently expanded to three semesters, is at “a great pivotal point” and can accomplish its goals within five years.

The funding for Chakrabarti’s position, the Holliday professorship, comes from a donation from SL Green CEO Marc Holliday, an alumnus of the program, and his wife Sheree Holliday.

The chance to reshape Columbia’s program and to make use of his architecture and planning background made the position a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity for Chakrabarti, he said. Before coming to Related, Chakrabarti spent three years as the director of the Manhattan office of the Department of City Planning, where he worked on Hudson Yards, the High Line and the reconstruction of Lower Manhattan. He was previously an associate partner in the New York office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and a transportation planner with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
 
Chakrabarti won’t be leaving his previous work completely behind. He plans to continue working in an advisory capacity on Moynihan Station, his primary project at Related, after he assumes his post at Columbia. There might even be the potential for students to get involved in that project, if the university’s conflict-of-interest rules permit, he said.
 
Chakrabarti said he’ll also be opening his own urban planning firm, to allow him to do non-academic consulting work on the side.

“I’m going to be a busy man,” he said, “but in this economy, busy is good.”

Got a tip? E-mail Sara Polsky at sp@therealdeal.com.

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