Breathing new life into Baltimore’s historic real estate
Eugene Poverni is the managing partner and CEO of Poverni Sheikh Group, a real estate development company based in Baltimore. Unlike many firms, PSG is vertically integrated and fully manages every stage of its projects, from brokerage and advisory to construction to property management. The company specializes in the sustainable, adaptive reuse and rehabilitation of historic and distressed structures such as The Vault, a landmark 40,000 square-foot bank building that PSG recently converted into a mixed-use retail and residential space.
OFFIT KURMAN: How stiff is the competition for real estate?
EUGENE POVERNI: The good news about the development business is that it’s not really a competitive landscape. Except for RFPs that the city puts out and we all compete and bid, generally speaking, while we do have some colleagues in the industry who do similar-sized projects, it’s rare that we’re really butting heads. Our business is about identifying unique opportunities. They’re often identified not on the market—they’re often identified through relationships. So, 99% of the time you could typically say our competitors are really complements to us; they’re individuals we can call to bounce ideas off of, to say, “Why did you walk away from that? What did you think about that?” It’s one of the things we like the most about the business. We have colleagues in this business that are local, that are doing comparable projects, whom we have good relations with, and we can just be candid about it. We do what we say, and we have some competitors out here that are as good as we are and they also do what they say. What we tell anybody who’s trying to sell us an asset or when we’re looking for a capital partner, is we’re going to work as hard as we can, when there are issues we’re going to try to do the right thing, and we think we are as smart as most with our ability to execute, and that when times get tough—because they will—we’re going to be here and take care of the issues.
Why do people choose to work for PSG?
If you wonder why you would want to work for us go and ask anybody that does. We’re pragmatic, easygoing people who believe in results. What matters to us is that you’re smart and you’re capable. We don’t care about anything else. If you’re willing to learn and you’ve got a head on your shoulders, we’d love to have you. What that means is we’ll train you, we’ll put resources into you, and what we expect from you is what we expect from ourselves. If tomorrow, I see a printer is broken, I’m going to fix it; if I see trash on the floor, I’m going to pick it up; if I have something to do and I need to be there until midnight, I’ll be here until midnight. If I wake up tomorrow and I happen to have cleared my schedule and I want to play golf, I’m going to go play golf. We expect that from everyone that works for us. Get what you need done, continue to show your value, and when you have time, when your plate’s clear, go enjoy your life because work isn’t everything.
What do you like to do for fun?
I love to travel. Right now my wife and I are expecting, so our travel schedule is cut back a little bit. Historically, Constantinople or Istanbul—super impressive. The history of the East and West—really impressive: the mosques, the landmarks they have there, everything that went on there—it’s very humbling. Relaxation—look out at the sun. Bali’s incredible. Indonesia—you’re in the middle of nowhere, look at the beach, remember how far away you are from home and just relax. And there’s everything interesting in between. I haven’t been anywhere that I didn’t walk away from and say, “wow,” something different came. I respect the culture in other places and can’t wait to see more.
Is there anywhere you have avoided traveling to?
I wanted to take the Trans-Siberian Railroad when I got out of law school. It goes from Moscow across to Vladivostok through, whatever, 10 time zones, and it was the one time in my life my father begged me not to do something. We were from the former Soviet Union, and look, you’re on this train for two weeks, you’re in the middle of nowhere, and there’s a lot of things that could happen—that do happen on a regular basis—and in fact he said, “I don’t want to fly somewhere to pay ransom to get you out to jail, so why don’t you just go somewhere else?”
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