JLL’s Bob Knakal on the future of New York

Veteran broker maps Manhattan — on foot — to find opportunities

TRD New York /
Sep.September 18, 2020 07:30 AM

While most New Yorkers hunkered down when the city went into lockdown, Bob Knakal did something different. The veteran commercial broker walked the streets of Manhattan, looking at every building south of 96th Street, and mapped all ongoing and potential development sites he found.

“Now I have a Sanborn map that’s 27 feet long, 12 feet wide, completely highlighted,” he said. “And that’s the basis of a tremendous amount of great information that we’re hoping to convert into some opportunities.”

Knakal and Paul Massey co-founded brokerage firm Massey Knakal, which they sold for $100 million to Cushman & Wakefield in 2014. Now JLL’s chair of New York investment sales, Knakal discussed his work this week on TRD Talks Live with The Real Deal founder and publisher Amir Korangy.

Despite having been around the block a few times, Knakal attends weekly sessions with leading commercial real estate coach Rod Santammasimo.

“Self-discipline is very difficult. It’s always easier to have a little more discipline when somebody is looking over your shoulder,” Knakal explained.

The current commercial real estate environment requires an innovative approach in New York — and not just because of the coronavirus pandemic, he said, claiming the city is also losing investors because of high income taxes. Knakal said multifamily investors who have historically had a presence in New York City are increasingly putting their capital into states such as Florida and Nevada, which have no state income taxes, and Tennessee, which does not tax wages.

But Knakal believes in New York City because there are always people who want to invest here.

“I’m constantly looking for people that are bullish about the future of the city, and that’s been becoming harder and harder to do,” Knakal said. “But there are folks who still believe in the future of New York. … And so those are the folks that we’re working with on a daily basis.”






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