Jeff Dvorett, who joined Kuafu Properties as head of development in 2014, is leaving the firm, the latest executive shake-up at the Chinese private equity-backed developer.
Dvorett is taking on a new role at Midwood, a New York-based real estate development and investment firm led by John Usdan.
A spokesperson for Midwood said Dvorett, formerly a vice president of development at Extell Development, was one of several executive hires the company had made in a bid to prepare for larger scale projects. The company has grown from a residential brokerage into an investment and development platform that owns over 125 properties in 10 states comprising more than 3.5 million square feet and has a development pipeline of several million square feet, she said. Its New York properties include the Williams, an 82-unit rental building at 282 South 5th Street in Williamsburg, and 96 Spring Street in Soho.
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Midwood also tapped Bryan Banks, a former partner at Mercury Capital Advisors, as chief financial officer earlier this year. Mehul Patel, the former COO and chief of staff at Empire State Development Corporation, joined as COO in 2014.
Dvorett said Midwood’s national footprint had been a draw, as well as its willingness to develop.
“Midwood has historically worked with partners but not typically at an institutional level,” he said. “As we start to consider some of these largest-scale projects, it’s becoming the focus of a push.”
Kuafu , which made a big splash on the New York development scene in 2014 with the acquisition of a large Hudson Yards parcel and plans to develop a 320,000-square-foot project there, has seen some big changes over the past year. Zengliang “Denis” Shan, a former architect who co-founded the company and acted as a conduit to Chinese capital, left in October to start his own venture, Sumi Properties. The other founder Shang Dai, a former attorney who began his real estate career doing deals in Flushing, stayed on to head the company.
In a statement, Dai wished Dvorett well, saying he was “instrumental in helping build Kuafu Properties into one of the active players in the New York real estate market.”
In the wake of the split up, Kuafu lost other talent: Stephen Muller followed Shan to become chief investment officer at Sumi and Kuafu’s de-facto in-house attorney, Daniel Dwyer of Dai & Associates, joined Meister Seelig & Fein.
Christopher Sameth, who was a principal at the investment firm Investcorp before joining Kuafu as head of acquisitions, remains at the firm.
Sources pointed to Kuafu’s lighter pipeline of development projects as one of the possible reasons for Dvorett’s departure.
A site Kuafu purchased at 143-161 East 60th Street in October 2015 for $300 million, or over $1,000 per square foot, was primed for a supertall condo tower, but went with Shan when he formed Sumi.
The company is still developing a 223,000-square-foot, mixed-use tower with Stillman Development and Ceruzzi Properties at 151 East 86th Street, dubbed 86th and Lex, but Ceruzzi is doing most of the heavy lifting, sources said. The Hudson Yards project, at 462-470 11th Avenue, has been tied up because of infighting with Kuafu’s partners at Siras Development.