The First One Into the Pool

“People use the term ‘gentrification,’ and gentrification has always had a negative connotation,” said Mr. Fox, whose son, Zach, 25, also works at Winick, and has done some retail deals on the Lower East Side, among other areas. “I don’t use that word. I use the word ‘regeneration.’ I think neighborhoods remake themselves.”

 

MR. FOX ORIGINALLY WANTED to be an architect, but he instead started his career in real estate in 1973 at Garrick-Aug, the legendary starting point for many of the city’s top retail brokers. Like many of his peers, he found retail transactions more interesting than the comparatively bland office leases he and many of his colleagues were then brokering across New York City.

“When I started with Charlie Aug, I started as an office broker, when he was still an office-leasing firm, and I failed miserably,” Mr. Fox said. “I just didn’t get it. To me, every office looked the same and had fluorescent lighting, a recessed ceiling and elevators.

“In the streets, I used to tell people that I window-shopped for a living, and that I got a nosebleed above the second floor. I had to retract the second part of the statement when multilevel retailing started to come into fashion.”

Mr. Fox left Garrick-Aug and later co-founded New Spectrum Realty in 1987, turning it into one of the city’s leading retail brokerage houses until Newmark acquired it, in May 2000. In the company’s first few years, Mr. Fox and his colleagues took an aggressive shot at the Flatiron district, eventually brokering deals in the area for Pier 1 Imports, Hallmark, the Gap and Citibank, among other businesses.

As for the next dream locale in his cross hairs, Mr. Fox believes the yet-to-be-named neighborhood may, indeed, grow to become the city’s next big thing. As for a hint of what to expect, Mr. Fox says only that it’s in Manhattan.

“I’m not going to tell you where it is,” he said, his lips totally sealed. “I got a chunk of turf that I’ve been working on and, like I said, I enjoy walking in a neighborhood where I look behind my shoulder and don’t see any other brokers, as opposed to nine brokers. So, for as long as I can keep it that way, I’ll be happy. But I recognize that isn’t going to last for very long.”

jsederstrom@observer.com

The First One Into the Pool