The Story of Feldman Equities: 100 Years in Real Estate

Success may look like it comes out of nowhere, but more often there is a long history that built up slowly over time. Our business today is no exception to that rule.

Feldman Equities has been in the making for almost 100 years. My grandfather started in the construction business in the 1920s and then passed it to my father and uncles, who then passed it on to me. We grew and endured over decades, amassing a large portfolio of properties and creating a name for ourselves in the industry.

Humble Beginnings

My grandfather, Hyman Joseph Feldman (H.J.), came to Chicago in the winter of 1910 to work as a plumber’s assistant on construction sites around the city. He started from nothing, with no money in his pockets, no place to stay, and no real skills to speak of. It was this group of Chicago plumbers that helped him get his start– the ‘Giants’ he liked to call them. Under their guidance and mentorship, he worked his way up to be a fully qualified construction plumber.

After a few years, H.J. struck out on his own and started his own plumbing business, moving into plumbing contracting work in the 1920s. He continued growing his skills and expanding his opportunities until, by the time the 1940s rolled around, the company had moved into general contracting.

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Transitioning & Adapting

1929 was a difficult year for many businesses in the US. It was no different for my grandfather. Times were hard, but he managed to keep the business alive and grew it again on the other side of the depression. During the 1940s, my father and his three brothers served in the military and then all joined the family business upon their return after World War II.

The business really took off in the late 1940s and the company realized its first opportunity for enormous growth. The company – known then as Malan – was contracted by the US Government to renovate a few barracks in an Air Force base in Geneva, New York. The contract was small, but it quickly evolved.

During the contract discussions, the Feldman brothers were called to Washington, D.C. to meet with a couple of military generals. In the meeting, they were sworn to secrecy to be allowed to hear the project details. My father remembered that encounter vividly, and he always liked to tell the story.

The generals explained that the Korean War was imminent and that they needed to increase the contract from the two or three small barracks to renovating 350 barracks. The brothers signed a cost-plus contract, launching them into their first big government construction project. From there, Malan went on to complete other contracts for the military including atomic energy facilities and sewage treatment plants.

My father was proudest that my family built Chicago O’Hare Airport’s two main terminal buildings in the 1960s.

Projects & Acquisitions

During the 1960s, the company transitioned from general contractor to real estate developer. My father and his brothers started developing in New York City. They focused on office buildings in the metro new York area, even in those early days. The company also developed several shopping centers and a Florida office building.

I joined the business in the 1980s as the company was growing its presence in Manhattan. We built acquired around five million square feet of office space from 1965 through the 1980s. In the 1990s, the company also owned extensive office space in Florida and Arizona.

My first major development project was the ground-up construction of Tower 45 located at 120 West 45th Street in Manhattan. I led the project, which we finished in 1990, the same year I became CEO of Feldman Equities. Tower 45 was our largest building, and it was my first major development success. We later went public in 1997 with Tower 45 as the flagship. We restructured the company as a public REIT and renamed the company Tower Realty Trust. Tower Realty was listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: “TOW”). I was the chairman and CEO of the company.

Just before 2000, we sold the REIT and soon thereafter we bought back our Florida office buildings from the company that acquired us. The   acquirer of Tower Realty was a New York centric REIT, so they readily agreed to sell us back all our Florida assets. These were mainly properties in Orlando that we had developed or acquired from as early as 1985.

Renewed Focus

Since establishing ourselves as a Florida property owner in the mid-1980s, more recently, the bulk of our investment has been centered in Tampa Bay. I see a lot of potential in the region.  Today we own and manage 8 office buildings totaling approximately two and a half million square feet. All of these properties were acquired as underperforming office buildings in mostly downtown locations. Following these acquisitions, the properties underwent extensive renovations.

We rarely fix and flip. Instead we prefer a long-term hold, where possible. We are so confident in Tampa Bay that we believe this strategy will keep us growing and gaining profitability for decades to come.

Today, we are called Feldman Equities. Our company looks vastly different than the company my grandfather started more than 100 years ago, but at its heart is  the same generational family business. The lessons of a century of experience are interwoven deep in our fabric.

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