J.P. Rosenbaum and a rendering of the Gallery at Westbury Plaza
Despite his sudden fame, J.P. Rosenbaum, the victor on the last season of ABC’s “The Bachelorette,” seems remarkably unfazed.
The Long-Island native, a construction manager for New York City-based J Companies, a residential and commercial real estate services and consulting firm, won a happily-ever-after — though they have yet to tie the knot — with the beautiful bachelorette Ashley Herbert, but he has other things on his mind. Rosenbaum is consulting on one of the biggest projects he’s been involved with to date, the construction of a 330,000-square-foot retail center in Nassau County. The project, called Gallery at Westbury Plaza, in Westbury, L.I., by national powerhouse developer Equity One, is slated to be completed in the fall of 2012.
In his first real estate-related interview since graduating “The Bachelorette,” Rosenbaum, who has just moved into to a new Midtown apartment with Hebert, sat down with The Real Deal to talk about life, love and condo conversions.
So, how long have you been with J Companies?
I’ve been there for four-and-a-half years. Prior to that, I was working for a small family [construction] business in Brooklyn.
Why did you decide to do “The Bachelorette?”
A friend nominated me online… It was totally out of character for me to do something like that. Up until a week before [I was set to leave], I wasn’t sure I wanted to go.
How did the decision to do the show affect your job?
I’d been working on pre-construction consulting for the gallery project for almost a year before I went, but then there was a gap in time while they were finishing demolition and not much was going on so I thought that would be the time to do it. It was not a given that I would have a job when I came back. [My employers] were skeptical, totally supportive, but didn’t fully understand why I was doing it.
How long were you away?
I was away from work for about two and a half months. While I was gone, they had finished the abatement and demolition of the existing buildings… They hadn’t gotten into the ground yet. I sent an email to everyone saying I was taking a leave of absence, but I couldn’t tell them I where I was going. Eventually I sent another email saying “I’m healthy, I’m fine, I’m not going to prison” [laughs].
I guess in real estate you don’t worry too much about being recognized…
You’d be surprised.
Has the new fame helped you at all in your real estate career?
Maybe it will open doors. It hasn’t yet, but you never know.
Tell us about your Long Island project. You used to live by there, didn’t you?
Equity One purchased an Avis rental car headquarters that had been vacant for around 10 years. I grew up 15 or 20 minutes from the job site. They purchased the site in late 2009, got site plan approvals and hired us over a year ago for the pre-construction consulting design phase. We have two people working on the project, myself and Allan Brot, who’s the principal of our company, taking an owner’s representative role. I’m on site once or twice a week liasing between consultants, construction and the owners. Steel is currently being erected and we’re on our way. It’s a 24-acre site and it’s going to have two buildings and 390,000 gross square feet.
How much of the development is leased already?
I think it’s 50 percent pre-leased. The tenants I can name are Nordstom Rack, Saks Off Fifth, Trader Joe’s and the Container Store.
What does a development like this mean for that area of Long Island?
East of Meadowbrook Parkway, it has Best Buy, Costco; it’s a retail hub. Here, anyone who knows this area knows what the site used to be like so everyone is happy.
What Manhattan projects have you done?
I worked on 141 Fifth Avenue for Savanna Partners at a condo conversion. [Conversions] are a totally different animal. You never know what you’ll find inside the walls. The building’s going to talk to you once you start construction. There can be a ton of surprises.
You met with real estate mogul Elie Hirschfeld recently to discuss a possible project at 218 East 79th Street. Did you get the job?
I met [Hirschfeld] through a mutual friend. He’s still in the schematic design phase so it’s premature to pick a manager. Once he’s ready to move on with the project, I’m sure we’ll sit down again. It’s in our wheelhouse and it’s something we’d love to do.
How has J Companies been affected by the recession?
We’ve downsized by about 70 percent since I started, from about 40 people to about 12 or 15. I’m busier because there’s just more for me to do. We’re not running a skeleton crew exactly, but it’s a tight ship. We’re definitely being more selective about the projects we take. We want to know that the developer has the means, has the financing. We don’t bid on jobs so it’s all about word of mouth and reputation. Architects and engineers are much busier than they were and it starts with them. It’s definitely much better than it was even two years ago.