The Real Deal New York

Farewell, Forest City? MaryAnne Gilmartin may be teaming up with L&L principals on new firm

Website, now taken down, bills L&L MAG as "a proud woman-owned and managed company"
By Kathryn Brenzel | January 14, 2018 10:37AM

From left: David Levinson, MaryAnne Gilmartin and Rob Lapidus

After more than two decades with Forest City, MaryAnne Gilmartin may be setting off on her own.

Gilmartin, the CEO of Forest City New York, and L&L Holding principals David Levinson and Robert Lapidus have built a website for what appears to be their new development firm. The website describes the company, L&L MAG, as a collective of builders that “develop beautiful projects that enhance the skyline and streetscapes of our communities while delivering value to partners and investors.”

Photos on the site show the three, along with four other top Forest City New York executives — Jeffrey Rosen, Adam Greene, Ashley Cotton and Susi Yu — with new titles. Gilmartin will serve as CEO and co-founder, while Levinson and Lapidus are listed as co-founders. Yu is described as managing director and head of development. Greene and Rosen are also listed as managing directors, who will respectively oversee construction and capital markets.

Jeffrey Rosen, Susi Yu, Adam Greene and Ashley Cotton on L&L MAG

The site has now been pulled down. It was first spotted by Norman Oder, the author of the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park report, who wrote about it for the Bridge on Saturday.

Gilmartin and Forest City didn’t respond to requests for comment, nor did representatives for L&L. In October, L&L formed a $500 million joint venture with a pension fund to acquire properties, The Real Deal reported at the time. It’s unclear if any of this dry powder will be used for L&L MAG projects.

Given that she bills herself a “hopeless developer,” Gilmartin’s move may not come as a shock. Forest City New York, the local arm of Forest City Realty Trust, has already shifted away from ground-up development, shying away from ventures like its massive Pacific Park project in Brooklyn and turning to investing in market-rate apartments and office properties — i.e. behavior more befitting a real estate investment trust.

In August, Gilmartin said it would be a waste for Forest City to relinquish its position in the market as a builder.

“It takes a lifetime to establish the credibility and the reputation and the partnerships that we have in New York,” she said. “To not take advantage of that going forward in a responsible and responsive way to the market just doesn’t make any sense at all.”

Gilmartin joined Forest City Ratner (the local arm of Forest City Realty Trust, now called Forest City New York) in 1994. She took over as CEO in 2013, succeeding Bruce Ratner. Since then, she’s been the local face of the company and one of the very few women at the helm of a major development firm in the city. She’s overseen the controversial 22-acre mega development, Pacific Park, (formerly known as Atlantic Yards), the new New York Times building at 620 Eighth Avenue and the Frank Gehry-designed residential tower at 8 Spruce Street.

But the REIT’s now at a crossroads. After a decade of various hurdles — a parade of land seizure lawsuits, partner infighting and construction glitches — the future of Pacific Park  remains uncertain. Only four of the 15 planned buildings are complete with an encroaching 2025 deadline to complete 2,250 affordable housing units. In October, 2016, Forest City stopped all work at the development until further notice, citing a $307.6 million accounting loss on the project. The REIT and its partner, Greenland USA, which owns a 70 percent stake in the development, previously were shopping stakes in some of the remaining sites, though they indicated in July that that was no longer the case, according to the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park report.

The draft website for L&L MAG emphasizes that the new firm is a “woman-owned and managed company dedicated to inclusivity in the real estate industry.” This is on-message for Gilmartin: She’s repeatedly described Forest City as a “meritocracy” that’s enabled several women to ascend to executive-level positions. And if you ask others in the industry to identify a female CEO of a development firm, her name is the first — and often the only — one that comes to people’s minds.