After graduating college, Dan Cooper had a tremendous opportunity to work with a development and construction company based in California where he learned the business from the ground up—everything from identifying properties and sourcing capital, to entitlements, moving dirt, construction, sales and leasing.
Cooper is now Partner, Head of North America at 90 North Real Estate Partners LLP, and after 25 years of experience—across a wide range of property sectors and leadership roles in property management— in the industry, he has a few reasons as to why he’s remained in it.
“Opportunities for value creation in product, process and positioning in real estate for my clients and partners,” he said. “Real estate is full of challenges and many don’t see how to unlock the highest and best use. I like to provide the key which opens that door.”
90 North is an independent investment advisory firm, specializing in socially responsible real estate investments. According to Cooper, what sets 90 North apart from other firms is the company’s timing. “We know when to press hard, and know when to take a step back,” he said.
On 90 North’s recent successes, Cooper said that success is measured in many ways, and noted a recent hire the company made.
“Marty Ahern, a Chicago native, was hired out of 100 plus applicants,” he said. “We had almost a dozen interviews and could have hired any of the final four individuals. I see it as a success because 90 North has the strongest team internally and externally I have ever seen or worked with. We took time.”
“We had several different interviews with different people on our team,” Cooper continued. “We questioned and challenged each other. We were thorough and it became clearer about our needs and culture during the process. Marty is an “all arounder” with a full range of skills and tools, and a strong work ethic. In a smaller organization these traits are required for continued success. We are stronger with Mr. Ahern on board.”
Throughout his career Cooper has had many positive role models, each with different strengths, of which he’s learned and adapted the best from each as well.
“For example, Roger Knutson, a mentor in high school and an International Mercantile industry executive, always made me and others feel like (read “believe”) we have genius within us and inspired us to be our best. He always told me to “go walk the floor and meet the people”. In real estate it means walk the entire property not just the lobby and, of course, meet the whole team including the tenants!”
“Tony Askew, a water colorist and university professor, taught me that art is more than hard work, and intrinsic value is not tied to time or effort, it is created in moments or in years. And just because you paint a picture, you’re not an artist. Translation to real estate, not all solutions are equal, and just owning a building or working at a real estate company does not make you a real estate professional.”
He continued, “Marc Recordon, a real estate investor and friend, rarely left his California office but knew more about deals in Texas than people living there. How? He focused on calling people, asking questions and listening to get all facts.”
Cooper’s most memorable deal was taking the one million square feet Chase Tower in Indianapolis, IN to 99.5% occupancy. “It involved a negotiation on a major tenant which took over a year, as well as choosing the right retail user in the ground floor. Not all tenants are created equal. The result was only achieved by collaboration, quality standards and persistence.”
The biggest lesson he’s learned working in commercial real estate? “Never assume negatively or positively, no matter how big or small. Dig in. Big issues on the surface can become immaterial, and one small change can lead to significant results.”
When Cooper isn’t working he enjoys spending time with family and friends. “Also, I enjoy good food, a good movie, and a good triathlon.”
One thing he’d like to do, that he hasn’t already? “Travel to Asia, write a few books about life, meaning and truth. Speak at my Alma Mater.”
His favorite movie/ musician?
“My favorite movie is Into the Void – A true story of a mountaineering climb in South America; it can take you to your core and tough decisions, perseverance and friendship. It’s a truly incredible story. Musically I enjoy Natalie Merchant – Amazing! Her melodic songs are stories with soothing and upbeat sound. Tiger Lily is my go to album and also really like Ophelia. Love U2 as well, Miracle, Beautiful Day, Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”
What’s happening in Chicago right now that makes him hopeful?
“I strongly believe Chicago has an opportunity to prosper due to the demand for high quality CBD at a materially lower psf compared to New York and San Francisco,” he said. “Chicago is a natural choice for those individuals who want both a high quality of life and business. The architecture, the food, the lake/beach, the music are all within 5 minutes. Given market conditions it’s a great time to buy.”