The Remarkable Story of Moishe Mana

Real estate is a reminder that there can be big business in small things. That great ideas are not exciting by definition, and don’t have to involve technological breakthroughs. to create a lasting impact on the world around us.

Winding through a swampy, dirty maze of New Jersey back roads, vacant lots and decrepit warehouses just east of Manhattan, this lesson hit home. Epic delays approaching the Holland tunnel led my cab driver and me past Newark Avenue in Jersey City, as we tried in vain to squeeze through the fastest route to Manhattan.

Accelerator jammed down, I barely had time to snap a mental image of the address above the door to a towering box of concrete, glass and rusting metal mullions, a depression-era reminder of the immense physical infrastructure that supports a city like New York. But I’ve gotten good at such mental exercises, as has become my life of scouring cities for interesting property to buy.

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A quick note on my phone, a reminder to check into it back at the office, and it was gone, likely the last time I’d ever lay eyes on The Topps Industrial Building. Not that massive warehouses in Jersey City are on our current shopping list, but the more our business rotates towards industrial property, the more fascinated I become with such structures, their history, who owns them and, increasingly, what do the people buying them have in store for these relics of our once-proud industrial past.

People like Moishe Mana.

According to public records, Mana purchased 930 Newark Avenue in 2013 for a $11 million, a mere $55 per foot for 200,000 square feet of building and an adjacent vacant lot five miles from the New York Stock Exchange. Nothing too noteworthy here, buildings like this trade hands every day for all kinds of not-that-interesting reasons. Storage, distribution, boring things like that.

Which is what makes the story of Moishe Mana all the more interesting.

A note online suggested that the buyer “plans on letting the tenants’ leases expire so he can change the building into a document storage facility.” Boring for boring. But it had me intrigued – not what I would have guessed with e-commerce lighting a fire under the formerly sleepy market for warehouses.

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Born to in Israel to Iraqi-born real estate brokers, Moshi is a billionaire businessman whose professional interests spread from property to art to fashion to moving and document storage. It’s the latter two that earned him his early fortune, which enabled him to pursue his true passions for art and culture. Real estate was the common link, the fuel that enabled his empire and fortune to grow.

He owns millions of square feet of warehouses in the New York area and recently went on a buying spree in Miami with grand visions of transforming a once-blighted warehouse district into a glimmering neighborhood built on a foundation of the arts.

You can read more about Moshe here, here and here. It’s quite a story, and arguably what people outside the US mean when they speak longingly of the American Dream.

Closer to home, Moshe’s story is a lesson not just in the power of real estate to create generational wealth, but of how powerful the combination of a great business and the control of real estate can be.

We in the business too often think only of property as a series of cash flows. We easily forget that tenants are more than just leases and rent payments to keep tabs on, but that the creation and events that go on inside our buildings are what create true, lasting value – not just to our bottom line, but to the neighborhoods and communities in which we own.