CARIBBEAT: 4 who combine style, substance – NY Daily News

Here is a snippet from the Daily News feature by Jarred McCallister

“At first glance, Gousse’s concept of linking real estate and fashion may be difficult to grasp, but she’s made the connection through her blog “Real Estate: A Guide for Investments, Style and Travel” at

CARIBBEAT: Tech for Virgin Islands during Caribbean Week in NYC

From left, Ashley Alese Edwards, Victoria Gousse, Kosi Harris and Veronica Pierrilus are fashion-chic and career-smart.

Real estate executive Victoria Gousse believes there is elegance in fashion and architecture — and she expresses that belief in her blog.

The reason for combining fashion, design and travel on her website is simple, she says.

“I do believe that the blog should be a colorful presentation of fashion, style and photography in order to draw in the audience to read about a topic that they might find otherwise mundane. “I hope to grow the blog platform to broaden my real estate experience,” she added.

Gousse is equipped with a keen personal fashion sense and real estate expertise from her position as a transactional asset manager at a private equity real estate firm and her education, a master’s degree in Real Estate Development from Baruch College.

Part of her personal background is her Caribbean heritage and childhood. She is fluent in French and Creole. Both of my parents are from Haiti,” said Gousse, who was born in the U.S., moved to Haiti as a child and lived there until returning to New York to attend junior high school.”

Here is the full link below:



Streets of Madrid

There’s an eerie feeling around the streets when I visited Spain…the image below was taken in the middle of Puerta del Sol in Madrid, a few steps away, there were protesters chanting against the current situation in Venezuela, there were homeless people asking for change, and others selling counterfeit goods on the lookout for the police. 

Parallel to this scene, was a completely different setting, full of tourists, five star hotels, expensive restaurants and old world architecture that reminded me of  the decadence of the Spanish empire.

Although it is general knowledge that Spain is on a long road to recovery from the economic crises of the of the early 2000’s, this contrast got me wondering about the income disparity that could exist in a place like Spain, where the unemployment rate was still hovering around 18% at the time I traveled.

Below is the data–as of 2010, 24% of Spain’s population live in lower income households and 13% are in the upper income brackets, their statistics are starkly similar to that of the United States, where 26% of the population live in low income households and 15% are in upper income households. The difference is that America’s unemployment rate is under 5%, and Spain’s is more than TRIPLE that number, YET, they have less households living on the edge of poverty, and more middle income households than we do in the US.

Food for thought….

Index of Income Inequality in Europe & USA





Loveday 31 Astoria, Queens

Astoria is a popular residential neighborhood north of Long Island City in Queens, New York. Its a few train stops out of Manhattan on the N and Q train lines, but I rarely make it to that side of town because the retail landscape hasn’t drawn me in. Largely made up of auto-body repair shops, local distributors, business services and food establishments, I was surprised when a friend invited me vintage shopping there, and found the most special shop nestled between blocks around the 31st Street stop.

Here are some notable reports on the real estate front:

  • Does a 2 Bed Condo at $489K sound like a good price? Street Easy has a great neighborhood highlight on Astoria–see the neighborhood and residential availabilities here on Streeteasy
  • Want to see what developers are doing with small lots? See the specific project listing by clicking on this Yimby Link
  • And lastly, Hallet’s Point. It’s the largest development in Queens, at a $1.5 Billion cost, 2000 apartments and new retail. Its faced some setbacks from the phasing out of the 421-A program. See the drama here on Curbed.

To satisfy my fashion  craving that weekend, I focused on the accessories and found the most fun gold jewelry I could get myhands on; from studs with gold accents, necklaces with vintage pendants, as well as gold rings and bracelets. As an aside, my rule is one ring either on the ring or middle finger for most occasions; and three rings dispersed between hands (displayed above) when you really want to make a statement. I wouldn’t generally recommend any variations from that rule!

See a more detailed  post on the fashion end, from my friend at One Creates Oneself  here.

Deal Book 44-46 Purves Street

In 2012 during my time in Grad School, the university let me play Real Estate Developer for the first time and sent me off in the world to try and make a deal. This is the first time I sought out my own development site, researched zoning, determined the highest and best use, sourced construction loans, talk through the deal with brokers and created a full development deal book that was reviewed by industry experts brought in by the University.

This was the cover photo of my investment memo, for a deal I named Thompson Lofts at 44-46 Purves Street in Long Island City. 44-46 Purves Street Marketing Photo

This site was on sale in the spring of 2012 at $130/buildable SF. I was going to create a project that would bring a unique residential loft product to this market at prices affordable to those who were working as local artists or at Silvercup Studios.  Not super luxury, but a great location, and no subsidy needed from the city. 57 units, and a total development cost of close to $13 Million, $387/SF after construction cost (yes, I realize now, that number was not realistic) .

But alas, most investors do not take on the risk of ground up development for mediocre returns to satisfy a social mission, without some incredible incentives or upsides. Which is why I believe the current owners waited out the LIC market, and will now deliver this product at rents 20% higher than what I proposing.

Here are some photos of my ideas:


This is what actually happened:

Fast forward a year, and the site is purchased, allegedly by an investor who plans a hotel. Deal goes quiet for a couple years, I research online every once in while and found nothing promising.

In 2015, the same owners scratched their hotel plan (LIC was completely over saturated with this product type), and envisioned a residential building that gave some honor to my my original idea. They’ve modified the plan to include a retail space on the Thompson street side, and fit about 33 residential units with a Purves Street lobby.

44-46 Purves Street

Looking Back

Now that I have solid experience with these deals, there are many aspects of my original proposal that I would change. Here are a few:

  • Construction costs at about $210/SF, they would realistically be upwards of $400/SF at that time
  • Operating expenses, too low, would bump them up to 45% of stabilized revenue
  • Exit cap rate today would conservatively land at 5.5%, and this would have balanced the increases above and leveled the returns.
  • Rents underwrote them at an average of $46/sf/yr, for a high end product they are likely upwards of $55/sf.

I’m excited to see the Jewel Liton, LLC venture develop this site, I cannot wait to report on the construction as it develops.

Want to see this student project and related return metrics? Link below:!AohDHQmdRqtshgHsu4VfJtlL2vRE




Business School Career Panel

Steven L. Newman Hall

Where it all started, with a Lilly Pulitzer vintage dress that accents the bronze details of this building.

This past week, I was invited to speak at a career panel for graduate and undergraduate students of The Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College. Most students were in the MBA program majoring in Real Estate, and others are in Finance or Accounting, looking for the opportunity to transition to the real estate sector at some point.

Personally organized by Margo Weaker of the Newman Real Estate Institute, I was joined by four equally accomplished panelists from Arbor Realty Trust , CBRE , Kimco Realty  and The Lefrak Organization.

Summarizing the input and advice from all the panelists, here are some recommendations from various industry perspectives:



  1. Lending–understanding appraisal methods, the basics of loan sizing as well as sharp excel modeling skills. Its a good starting place to eventually transition to capital markets, private equity or other aspects of real estate finance.
  2. Valuation and Advisory Services–if you’ve owned or invested in real estate on your own, having that transactional experience coupled with a formal business degree will help you break into this field. Traveling all over the country valuating investment opportunities will give you well-rounded industry experience to move on to become a real estate entrepreneur or educator.
  3. Affordable Housing–you may initially enter this field through compliance or policy related background but it covers a wide range of professionals that include property managers, accounting and finance or private equity investment. Its requires an understanding of regional and federal housing policy and can grow into a career in housing development, acquisitions or specialty consulting to the industry.
  4. Retail Leasing–obtaining a real estate license and starting in retail sales or leasing is a good entry point for those who are just starting out in the field. A business school education can land you in a larger firm where there are additional opportunities in commercial asset management or corporate real estate.
  5. Property Management–a career in property management requires a solid understanding of building mechanics, property-level accounting, and a talent for managing clients and tenants. Its a great field for students with backgrounds in brokerage or business management, and transitioning to corporate real estate is a likely path for those who have this type of experience.

Career Panel

My last takeaway from this event is that everyone on that panel didn’t just fall into this industry by chance, but rather through diligence in their focus on finding the right opportunities. This focus is fueled by a passion for the physical real estate and a commitment to growing their respective real estate businesses. One panelist described his work as “a rush”, and I couldn’t agree more.

A Lesson From China’s Urban Villages

Urbanization on the outskirts of Shenzhen, China.

Urbanization on the outskirts of Shenzhen, China.



In China, the issue of affordable housing is deeply connected to the rapid urbanization of cities in the past 20 years. Rural inhabitants are flooding cities like Shenzhen or Guangzhou and as a result these cities end up with these incredibly dense neighborhoods (pictured above) right outside of their central business districts.

The characteristics of those areas are generally referred to “handshake architecture”, buildings constructed so close together that someone can reach out and shake hands with the person in the next building. And while there are issues with this type of urban plan, it serves the cause of affordable housing in the following ways:

  1.  Instead of directly subsidizing housing developments, the government can spend tax dollars on funding energy efficient retrofits, better quality management systems for those developments and reducing the burden of rising operating costs for landlords as an incentive to maintain rent levels.
  2. Since the government owns the land, they can regulate pricing in awarding those parcels to developers. This allows for lower development cost and thus more economic feasibility.
  3. Where there are limits in residential building heights, this type of plan creates more housing units per block than would be allowable in traditional urban planning scenarios.

Similarly in the US, the idea of bending building codes to allow for micro-units as affordable housing apartments in central business districts will allow for many more housing units, while minimizing the amount of direct subsidy that the government must place into those projects.


Affordable housing is a topic that is tossed about in local politics all over the united states, as a social policy to address the rising cost of living for those on the edge of poverty. Its also a way to allow everyone across the economic spectrum to have access to major cities where there is better access to jobs and education. Here in the states the government moves that agenda along in the following ways:

  1. The Federal Government (IRS) issues a certain amount of tax credits to each state. Developers are awarded those credits and then sells them to investors to fund their projects, in return, the rents remains capped at a certain level.
  2. Housing developers can apply for a HAP contract through the Federal Government (HUD), where the government sets your rent, gives the landlord a  guaranteed payment  monthly, and tenants pay only a portion of that amount.
  3. Local Governments can also build their own housing (often referred to as the Projects), which is also subsidized through a contract with the Federal or State governments.
  4. Lastly, in the case where the Government owns the land, they may decide to give it away to developers for very little money, or lease the land at a low rate, and in return, the rents on some of the apartments remain capped at a lower level.

In Sum, there is almost no scenario where you can find low income housing in the CENTER of major cities like New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, without the help of some government subsidy. The economic feasibility just doesn’t work because land is so expensive in those areas.


A better way to implement affordable housing in city centers is to implement a similar strategy for increasing density in central business districts in the form of what we are seeing as today’s micro-units. In our cities most desirable economic centers,  why not increase the number of micro unit developments, which will bring more low income households to those neighborhoods.  More units per square foot equals more revenue for the landlord and less direct subsidy from the government.

Ensure quality of those units by setting design standards, monitoring occupancy limits, creating a supporting infrastructure of public safety, schooling and community resources as a means to enhance the standard of living at the same time.

Buddha beads and traditional Chinese retail store the size of one of NYC's micro-units.

Picked up some Buddha Beads, in a Chinese retail store as small as one of the city’s micro-units

An Urban Exploration (Detroit Pt. 1)

St. Agnes Church, Detroit


Having read, discussed and studied the story of Detroit over the years in grad school, taking the time to go and visit for myself had always been on my bucket list.

Specifically, when you think of Detroit, you think of all the negative media images of blight and abandoned real estate; and I wanted to find a way to see the ‘destruction’ with a guide who knew where to go and what to see.

Fortunately, Detroit now has a mini-urban exploration industry, geared towards tourists and photographers, taking them around some of the most run down institutions in the area. There are all sorts of blighted property types; libraries, churches, schools, warehouses, factories, residential…whatever it is, you can find one that’s completely stripped and abandoned in Detroit.

Detroit Public Library; John S. Gray Branch.

John S. Gray LibraryTake for instance, this public library in the heart of the city. Constructed over 100 years ago in 1913, funded by John Gray who was the former CEO of Ford Motor Co. and served on the city’s Library board. The building has beautiful architectural features and a sturdy brick façade. However, after nearly 20 years of disrepair, this structure is sadly part of the blight that is gripping the city, with its interior stripped of everything but THE BOOKS! Go figure…Detroit Library Interior

Historic Site Owned by City of Detroit. Fate: Likely acquisition for Public/Private community use.


St. Agnes Church

I was not surprised to find a Roman Catholic church on our list of abandoned sites to tour. As a matter of fact, due to the state of the church overall, their falling parishioner participation and recent consolidation of parishes throughout the country, the likelihood that some of their properties would fall by the wayside is very high. Particularly properties in locations like these, whose continued care would likely have no financial upside. Nevertheless, the interior was majestic (image at the top of the post) and worth the exploration. Here are some other notable images:

It was a haunting experience… This site is owned by the city of Detroit. Fate: DEMOLITION


Hutchins Intermediate School.

This property happens to be FOR SALE. It was my intent to do a quick analysis on its potential value; but having limited knowledge of Detroit, I had a difficult time figuring the highest and best use of 30,000 sf of space in the middle of a depressed residential neighborhood on the north side of Detroit. Average value in that neighborhood is $39/sf. I will call the broker and post an update soon!

Hutchins School for saleThe school had been fully vacant and unsupervised since 2013, yet every part of it has been completely stripped. Here’s one of my favorite shots from this location.School HallsBased on similar municipal property sales, average value is: $390,000 Fate: sale to private investor


Fischer Auto Plant.

This was BY FAR my favorite location. The property is vast at over 500,000 sf, 5 stories, and has been abandoned since 1994. At this time, the City of Detroit is shopping the site to potential investors for uses that do not include nightlife (as proposed by Dmitri Hegemann, Berlin nightclub owner).

Fisher Plant 5th Floor

The photos cannot begin to explain the feeling of being in such a vast and beautiful decaying space. It is a grand, artistic, somber and reflective space. One of the last structures from the height of the auto industry, putting its decline into perspective.

And like every potential development or rehab, one of this size has to be supported by local demand for its potential use. Perhaps an Ikea Furniture location..? Ideal for all the downtown Detroit “hipsters” everyone seems to be so concerned about. Perfect size, and the lot is large enough to accommodate parking. The existing Ikea location is about 35 minutes drive from the Central Business District. Just a thought, and before you judge, Ikea had $37 B. in revenue last year, and is contributing jobs to the local economy. All this equals revenue for Detroit, should the company decide to invest in that location.

FOR SALE. Fate: likely acquisition by private investor, pending approval of USE by Detroit Gov.


Industrial Smoke

Coming Up on the Lower East Side

Hotel, Residential and Mixed-Use in the pipeline

Hotel, Residential and Mixed-Use in the pipeline

Have you been to the Lower East Side recently?  There’s a little neighborhood sandwiched between the south side of East Houston Street and the north side of Delancey Street, full of the most fascinating development activity.

Residential Rehab Site

Residential Rehab Site

The uniqueness of this area, I suspect is driven mostly by the large inventory of apartment buildings still very heavily under rent stabilization and the mom-and-pop feel of the retail spaces, many still available under $125/psf/yr.

So the price of land for development is still within feasible measures compared to neighboring Soho or Tribeca. A few development listings found through Cushman & Wakefield and Besen & Associates, came in within $400 and $900 per buildable square foot. These typically include certain FAR bonuses for exclusionary housing or low income housing tax credits.  This seems hardly like a bargain, from a neighborhood that has been transitioning in price and investment activity for years–but finally, has caught up as any new development will likely cost as must as most competing NYC neighborhoods. The value here is in the existing stock of real estate, both residential and commercial where the inventory of older spaces are abundant enough to offer a thriving economic environment for up-and-coming businesses.

Retail Landscape in LES

Retail Landscape in LES

Lastly, there’s a cool factor in LES that I have not yet seen replicated in other NYC neighborhood; it’s colorful, busy, full of style and hustle. The shot below was taken by a local butcher on a cigarette break outside of a graffiti-clad market, who volunteered to capture me in this scene because he could not stand to see such an artistic opportunity go to waste for my lack of a personal photographer. This sort of thing only happens in a place like this.

LES Graffiti Art

How Brickell and Wynwood are transforming Miami

A recent trip down to the very swanky land of Miami, really peaked my interest in how they are redeveloping their downtown neighborhoods and building this center of mega developments to rival some of their best North Eastern neighbors.

I took the full tour of most of what you would call “Downtown”–particularly the Brickell area. And what really stood out were the number of cranes in the sky, at least half a dozen developments under construction within a 10 block radius. I focused on the condo project Brickell Heights developed by Related Group, with Moss Construction putting up the steel and concrete.

According to my friends and family, this area of downtown 10 years ago was a bland mix of unattractive office buildings, a typical business district, somewhat derelict and in need of some real urban redesign. In comes a slew of major developers, including those representing the Related Group–some of whom had acquired parcels since the 1990’s, and began generating activity which is slowly turning Brickell into a top destination. The addition of The Shops at Mary Brickell Village, restaurants, supermarkets and coffeeshops create a true residential feel for the new owners moving into Brickell Heights when construction is completed in 2016. A total of 690 units across two towers, with NYC style amenities such as party rooms, pools, Equinox gym and Soul Cycle, starting at about $300/SF for smaller units, and up to $600+/SF for larger apartments. South Florida, oh you tease!

Moss Contruction
I headed out in this very special aboriginal necklace and authentic Panama Hat, toured the area, and befriended some construction workers who gave me some details on the site. Incredible, and well worth the trip.


Driving north from Brickell, we began to notice every building was covered in the most colorful graffiti art, and we found ourselves in Wynwood. The art district where every corner exists a mural that is as colorful as it is inspiring. Wynwood Art

And so I learn another fascinating neighborhood transition story–the Wynwood arts district, previously occupied by old warehouses, these structures have now been re-purposed as artist studios, design showrooms as well as a gentrified residential area and tourist attraction.

Here’s an example of a mural along a side street on NW 25th Street.

NW 25th Street MuralThe increased interest in this neighborhood was driven primarily by the low costs of retail storefronts and artist workspaces. But for property owners who started out years ago when this area was under-valued, this means a gold mine of financial and business opportunity. Much like what Williamsburg was to Brooklyn, Wynwood is transforming South Miami in a very unique way.

33 Park Avenue

33 Park Avenue Development Site

33 Park Avenue is a 448 unit residential high-rise development planned for the downtown Jersey City waterfront. Part of the growing section of Liberty Harbor, named due to the views of the Statue of Liberty to the East (though very cloudy on this day, and not pictured in this image). Above is a photo of the construction site taken on June 20th, with excavation and foundation still in its early stages.

The market in which these units will be delivered will be a saturated one in 2 years, when another dozen or so rental developments are set to hit downtown Jersey City. The luxury rental market downtown and near the waterfront currently commands rents at anywhere between $40-$50psf.

The expected cost of the development is over $140 Million, however, this includes property tax credits that reduce the annual expense to 10% of gross revenue for the first 6 years, increasing incrementally through the 10th year. Best explained here by Joshua Burd on NJBiz

So as I wandered around this site this weekend, I snapped pics in this vintage yellow crochet dress, decorated by my favorite versace scarf. Who said a dreary Saturday on an empty construction site had to be boring….?