Even After Seven Decades, CRE Services Firm is Embracing its Agility
The Levin name has been synonymous with New Jersey retail real estate since the post-WWII suburban migration sparked the Garden State’s first open air shopping center developments. Seven decades later, as Levin Management Corporation (LMC) commemorates the Platinum Anniversary of its foundation, the North Plainfield-based commercial real estate services organization is embracing a period of notable growth and portfolio diversification.
LMC is an outgrowth of Levin Properties, a pioneering development firm founded by the late Philip J. Levin and subsequently led by the late Janice Levin, his wife. They created an extensive suburban retail real estate portfolio beginning in 1952. This included New Jersey’s first open-air center, the still-thriving, 220,000-square-foot Somerset Shopping Center in Bridgewater. LMC originated as the management arm of the organization, evolving to deliver a full range of third-party services to other retail property owners beginning in the 1980s.
Today, LMC’s clients are institutional, fiduciary, and individual owners – for which the firm leases and manages a portfolio of 125 properties totaling approximately 16 million square feet in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. And while the award-winning firm’s activity remains largely retail focused, with a strong emphasis on grocery-anchored open-air product, its diversification within the office and industrial sectors has gained significant momentum recently. This is a credit to its quality approach and current demand for comprehensive third-party services for all commercial property types.
“From the beginning, our Levin roots grounded us as a landlord-focused firm with a management style employing a hands-on, proactive strategy to leasing and operating properties,” said William Farber, chairman, who celebrated his 50-year anniversary with the organization last year. “This proprietary approach distinguishes us. We have full in-house capabilities, which enables us to excel in assignments of all sizes while remaining highly in tune with the markets we serve.”
LMC’s 70th year in business comes at a time of sustained organizational growth. The firm completed a record 1.2 million square feet in leasing activity in 2021, with high volume continuing to date in 2022. The firm has a notable pipeline of diverse new business as well, recently adding property management assignments involving multiple sectors and property classifications. LMC’s construction management activity is at a high point as well, with hundreds of thousands of square feet in retail tenant fit-outs underway or in the immediate pipeline, as well as a recently launched, ground-up last-mile warehouse facility.
Longevity and Talent Drive Progress
“Entertainment tenants like Exit 4 Private Escape Rooms bring added value to a retail property by providing consumers with the opportunity to shop, dine and have fun all in one convenient location,” noted Hand-Freda. “This is something completely new and different for Hartford Corners – and it’s sure to be well received by the community.”
According to LMC’s Matthew K. Harding, chief executive officer, LMC’s agility stems from its longevity (through market cycles, the firm has “seen it all”) and full, integrated services. “LMC’s achievements also have hinged on having a close-knit team all working together under one roof, and the leadership of an executive team with a 265-year combined tenure,” Harding said. “The quality and talent of our people resonate in LMC’s reputation and respect among clients, tenants and industry peers; this is a great source of pride for all of us.”
At the core of its approach, LMC continually seeks new ways to gain efficiencies and boost value, while focusing on supporting assets so they remain competitive and best serve their local markets. This includes a specialization in repositioning, retenanting and renovating commercial properties. Promoting environmental sustainability has been an ongoing effort – for decades – with products like solar power, LED lighting and high-efficiency roofing. Currently, the firm is introducing EV chargers at select shopping centers.
LMC is a recognized thought leader as well. Its Retail Sentiment Surveys gauge the strength of the retail industry from a street-level perspective. The company polls the store managers of its 1,000+ tenants three times annually, gathering information on current sales and traffic numbers, and on performance expectations. The surveys also ask timely questions about hiring patterns, the evolving impact of ecommerce, key events and other socio-economic factors that may be influencing progress.
Throughout its history, LMC – an active member of ICSC – has earned dozens of accolades and honors. Within the past year, the firm has been named a GlobeSt./Real Estate Forum Top Retail Influencer and an NJBiz Business of the Year finalist, and has ranked as a top property manager both regionally and nationally. LMC executive and leasing team members have also garnered multiple industry awards acknowledging outstanding leadership, performance and service to communities, tenants and property owners.