L+M Development Partners is at work on several of the most anticipated mixed-used developments in the country.
In 2021, the firm, in partnership with Type A Projects, broke ground on the first phase of Bronx Point, a $349 million project that will include 542 units of affordable housing as well as the Universal Hip Hop Museum, which will be a new cultural destination in New York City’s South Bronx.
In Manhattan, L+M Development is among the partners creating another high-profile mixed-use development that will deliver 170 affordable housing units as well as be the new headquarters for the National Urban League, the Urban Civil Rights Museum Experience, and additional office and retail space. Scheduled to be completed next year, the $242 development is being called the most significant building project in Harlem in 50 years.
The firm is also one of the developers behind Sendero Verde, a transformative community that will include 709 affordable homes in East Harlem. It will also feature approximately 12,000 square feet for a community center for seniors and youth, the Harlem Children’s Zone Promise Academy II, and a nonprofit community arts center. Once completed, the combined phases are expected to be the largest multifamily residential Passive House development in the United States.
While much of the company’s work is in New York and New Jersey, L+M Development has also done notable projects across the country, including New Orleans and San Francisco.
In many cases, these large, complex developments are built in collaboration with other developers, local groups, and public agencies. The firm, like others in the industry, has embraced the idea of partnership, according to CEO Lisa Gomez.
“It means a lot of different things to us,” she says. “It means partnership with community. It means partnership with government and partnership with colleagues in our field. One of the things we’ve started to drive at for the past couple of years is the nexus of affordable housing and community-centered anchor institutes.”
The New York City projects are prime examples. Another is in Newark, New Jersey, where L+M Development, Type A Projects, and MSquared recently closed on $42 million in financing to develop 78 affordable apartments with University Hospital, which will operate a ground floor clinic and office space.The firm also has been involved in large federal Rental Assistance Demonstration conversions to turn around aging public housing properties, including projects with the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA).
“L+M and other PACT (Permanent Affordability Commitment Together) partners enable the authority to make comprehensive repairs to thousands of NYCHA apartments and provide safe, healthy, and affordable housing to thousands of residents in New York City,” says Jonathan Gouveia, NYCHA executive vice president for real estate development. “…We are grateful to L+M and all of our PACT partners for providing much-needed resources and support in the rehabilitation of these developments.”
To start the year, L+M owned 101 developments with 17,155 affordable units, making it No. 16 on the AHF 50 list of owners. The firm is also No. 23 on the AHF 50 developers list after starting construction on two projects with 659 affordable units last year.
This will also be a year of transition, or realignment, for the company, which was founded by Ron Moelis and Sandy Loewenthiel in 1984.
Gomez, who has been with the company for 17 years, took over the top post this year and will lead the company’s growth strategy after serving as chief operating officer. Prior to joining L+M, she was in senior management at the New York City Housing Development Corp., overseeing $1 billion annually in bond financing and mortgage insurance. She began her affordable housing career working at a small nonprofit, the People’s Firehouse, in Brooklyn. With Gomez’s promotion, Moelis moved to chairman of the company while Loewenthiel retired.
“I hope L+M stays focused on its mission and double-bottom-line philosophy, and I am confident Lisa and the senior management team will make good decisions to guide the company forward,” Moelis says. “There’s certainly room to grow in the urban and community development space, especially as affordable housing continues to be a scarce resource and the need for more affordable housing becomes a bigger priority. In addition to growing the scale of new construction, I see preservation, especially around public housing and affordable housing outside of New York City, as a growing sector of the business. I also think that we will look to expand and create a meaningful presence in a couple of key urban markets outside of New York City.”
Gomez was ready for the CEO post, adds Moelis, citing her knowledge of the organization as well as her understanding of the complexities of real estate development. “Most importantly, Lisa has the full confidence of her peers, the folks at L+M, our development partners, our lenders, and our public-sector government partners.”
Over the years, she’s been involved in a number of important decisions, including in New Orleans, where the firm undertook the major redevelopment of a public housing site destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. About a year after the project was finished, the team was approached by a community nonprofit about revitalizing a nearby vacant building into a healthy food hub.
“Lisa decided L+M needed to take this on, and she took the lead,” Moelis says. “She focused on the details and convinced me and the investment committee that although the risk was high and the financial reward was probably not great, this was the kind of development that was incredibly important, and, if we didn’t get involved quickly, it would never get done.”
Gomez stuck with the project for two years, and the development ended up being a modest financial success but probably one of the company’s most unique and transformational projects, according to Moelis.
“It was a gutsy decision and is a great example of Lisa’s leadership, willingness to take managed risk, and her ability to follow through and perform,” he says.
In conjunction with the succession plan, L+M launched a new affiliated platform, LMXD, which will focus on expanding the company’s active mixed-income and market-rate development business. This platform joins L+M Fund Management, an independent investment management business that will continue to focus on investing institutional capital at scale in affordable and workforce housing investments in New York City and across high-growth markets in the U.S.
In another move, the firm published its first Social Impact Report that looks at its role in the community as well as its company culture. L+M has long been doing meaningful community work but had not fully synthesized it in one place.
The team decided it was time to take a more focused look at the firm’s impact, a move driven in part by a growing interest from lenders and others in their business partners’ environmental, social, and governance practices.“It was an opportunity to pull together our work and tell that impact message,” Gomez says. “We’ve always done that work like many affordable housing folks, but we felt we could tell a more cogent story.”
According to the new report, the company has awarded $17.5 million in grants to nonprofit organizations since 2014, supported free after-school and summer programs that serve 350 children a year, and, in 2020, hired a director of diversity, equity, and inclusion. During the COVID-19 pandemic, L+M Development made 25,000 wellness calls to residents and worked with nonprofit partners to distribute 300,000 meals.
Looking forward, the firm hopes to start construction on eight new projects with nearly 1,000 affordable housing units this year as well as looking as potential new markets, including Chicago and Michigan.
“I think the next evolution will be taking the lessons that we’ve learned and trying to deploy them in new strategies and new places,” she says. “We’ve increasingly been looking out of New York.”