Don Peebles: A leader’s role “is to look at things in balance”

Developer talks capital markets, state of economy in conversation w TRD

National /
Apr.April 13, 2020 11:15 AM

Flattening the curve by keeping most of the country at home is what medical experts believe will allow the U.S. to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. But according to developer Don Peebles, doing so “with blinders on” will create an economic disaster that could be riskier than getting people back to work.

“There are 17 million new unemployed Americans, and that’s going to keep climbing,” the Peebles Corporation founder said in an interview with The Real Deal’s Hiten Samtani. “Hundreds of thousands of small to midsize businesses closed. Many will never open again. Those kinds of economic impacts are critical, and we need to add them to the discussion. We’re in a capitalist democracy. If we dismantle what has taken hundreds of years to build, we are in the wrong place.”

When Samtani noted that Peebles’ suggestion to get people back out there “flies in the face” of what medical experts, including President Donald Trump’s top infectious-disease adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has been saying, Peebles said: “Doctors are trained to save lives. And that’s their responsibility and their role. Leaders’ role — political and business — our role is to look at things in balance. And the nation as a whole needs its economy.”

Peebles, whose current projects include the public-private $1.8 billion mixed-use Angels Landing complex in Downtown Los Angeles and a $500 million public-private development in Boston’s Back Bay, said he and his partners had to reevaluate their component mixes in the wake of the pandemic, specifically the hotels.

“Clearly, there’s no capital markets for those kinds of projects,” he said. “We’re evaluating what steps we should take to make those projects more reflective of where we think the market’s going to go.”


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