Jason Halpern, the founder of JMH Development, is racking up frequent-flyer miles these days. The 45-year-old is juggling multiple projects in New York and Miami and teaming up with a slew of big developers to boot. The “boutique development firm,” as Halpern calls it, has completed more than $500 million in projects since 2007, including the 200-plus room Aloft South Beach in Miami, which was co-developed with Mitchell Hochberg’s Madden Real Estate Ventures and opened last month. Most recently, Halpern struck a deal with Kushner Companies and the Rockpoint Group to convert the former Wild Turkey bourbon warehouse in Williamsburg into condos. JMH converted it into a 338-unit rental building in 2010, but Kushner will take the lead on the next round. And late last year, JMH teamed up with Madison Estates to buy the Brooklyn Heights Cinema, where it’s building luxury condos. Halpern — who had a high-profile debacle several years ago when a mega project he was planning with a partner in Vegas was scrapped — is working on several other projects in Miami and is eyeing a site in Long Island City, where he is planning a hotel. The developer, whose fast-paced lifestyle is offset by fatherhood, began his real estate career at Halpern Enterprises, the Westchester firm his late father founded, but launched JMH in the late 1990s.
Halpern’s father, Joel, wore these work boots to an office-building groundbreaking in Tarrytown in the late 1970s. “I remember as a kid he used to keep [boots like this] in the back of his car.” His father, a national champion in offshore powerboat racing, was killed in a boating accident in 1981. The company was sold to Reckson Associates in the late 1990s.
Halpern has a 13-year-old son, Max, from a previous marriage. He’s taken him to see the New York Giants, his family’s longtime team, play around the country, including their winning bid in the 2012 Super Bowl in Indianapolis. The two also scuba dive together, with recent trips to Costa Rica and Mexico.
Halpern’s father sponsored a racing team named for his company in the late 1970s. Halpern inherited his father’s love for fast cars and raced them himself in the early 2000s. Before the recession, Halpern had planned to participate in races in the South and even bought a car and started to train. “I sort of wish I wouldn’t have given it up,” he said. But, due to the crisis, “work got too hectic.” Nonetheless, he said he still finds racing “therapeutic,” and said he hopes to pick it up again in the future. “Speed relaxes me.”
A photo of Halpern’s dad on a safari in the 1970s with good friend and former New York Giants running back Tucker Frederickson. “It’s a cool picture, because Tucker Frederickson was one of the all-time great Giants,” said Halpern, who’s met him many times.
184 Kent Avenue
Halpern might have NYC’s easiest commute. Both his office and penthouse apartment are in the building, so his commute entails walking across the landscaped roof deck. The rental conversion is the largest project the firm has completed. He plans to stay in his apartment even after the condo conversion. “I love my apartment,” he said.
Young Mike Tyson
This photo of an 18-year-old Mike Tyson with legendary manager Cus D’Amato was a gift from a friend’s father, a professional photographer, who took it. It was taken in the Catskills, where the boxer used to train, way before Tyson achieved fame (and later infamy). “I’m a big boxing fan,” Halpern said.
Halpern is engaged to Ukrainian model Veronika Gomeniouk. The two recently traveled to Africa together, where they celebrated fellow developer and close friend Winston Fisher’s 40th birthday. The couple was part of a group of eight that joined the Fisher Brothers heir. Trip highlight? Bungee jumping off a bridge in Zimbabwe.
A vintage Patek Philippe that belonged to his father, who Halpern called a “visionary.” His dad didn’t wear this watch every day. “He actually wore a Rolex,” Halpern said.
Mini Eiffel Tower
Halpern bought this trinket at the gift shop in Mama Shelter, a boutique hotel in Paris’ 20th arrondissement. “It’s a better version of the Ace Hotel,” said Halpern, who often returns from his travels with inspiration for his New York City projects.