Aug 4, 2010 - Real State Weekly

When Patricia Dunphy returned to Manhattan after starting her real estate career in California, the City wasn’t nearly as green as it is now.

But in 2001, Dunphy, senior vice president of Rockrose Development Corp. brought in New York’s first Whole Foods at the Chelsea Mercantile at 250 Seventh Avenue and, less than a decade later, the grocery store has six Manhattan locations.  Dunphy was introduced to the chain on the West Coast, and now, she said, sustainability is a huge issue throughout the country.

“You see it is starting to permeate all aspects of our society,” she said.

Dunphy works with tenants who want green features in buildings.  She says she’s always concious about avoiding pesticides and eating grass-fed and humanely-raised animals and attributes that to her parents, who raised her in Jersey City.  Her father was a mechanical engineer and her mom was an accountant, professions that aren’t too far afield from her eventual career in real estate.

But when Dunphy attended the University of Wisconsin, she studied philosophy.  It wasn’t until she moved to California that she entered the real estate industry “by chance,” she said, working at Lash Realty.

She credits her “New York sensibility” as an ingredient of her success, since she was quicker than her laid-back Californian competitors.  For example, when real estate listings were published on the weekend, Dunphy would immediately check for good deals, while the competition would wait until Monday.  She returned to New York and saw a Rockrose ad in the New York Times in 1983, joined the firm and ultimately rose to the position of senior vice president.  She has worked on both residential and commercial properties.

Currently, she has been leasing 300 Park Avenue South.  Rockrose was originally going to convert the office building to a hotel or residential tower, but then decided to continue to use it as an office building.   Unfortunately, many of the tenants had already made leasing arrangements elsewhere, and Dunphy had to re-lease the 175,000 s/f building from scratch.  In addition, the company has hired TPG Architecture to renovate the lobby and elevators.

Asking rents range from $38 to $48, and Dunphy said 300 Park Avenue South is around 40 to 50% leased.  Modeling agency Wilhelmina renewed its lease at the beginning of July.

Since returning to New York, Dunphy has lived all over the city, from Greenwich Village to Lower Manhattan and Battery Park City to her current apartment on the Upper East Side.  She lives with her 14-year-old daughter, who has just finished the competitive public high school application process and will be attending LaGuardia High School for vocal performance.  The two have also been talking about moving to another neighborhood, a process that Dunphy thinks is an exciting way to see a new part of the city.

“I wouldn’t mind moving again,” she said.  “When you move to a new neighborhood in the city, it’s a new experience.”

Rockrose has also been developing properties throughout the city.

The company, founded in 1970, was a partnership between Henry, Thomas, and Frederick Elghanayan, but Thomas and Frederick left the company last year to found TF Cornersone.  Along with the split, Rockrose’s 20 residential apartment buildings were divided amongst the two companies, with Henry and Rockrose retaining about half of the properties.  These include 200 Water Street, a former New York University dormitory in the Financial District that was converted into a rental building that was fully leased last month.

Rockrose has also developed Queens West, at 47-05 Center Boulevard in Long Island City, which includes retail, rental apartment units and even a CB Richard Ellis leasing office.  Dunphy thinks Long Island City as a whole is an up-and-coming area, with cultural centers such as PS.1 Contemporary Art Center, amidst an industrial area.  And, as the old maxim goes, Long Island City has location, location, location.

“The thing that is most valuable is how fast you can get there from Manhattan,” she said.

Rockrose has weathered the current recession, fully leasing a number of its properties and avoiding high leverage.  This strategy has led to growth that Dunphy describes as “steady.”  And while the around 50 employees of the company miss their former colleagues, now at TF Cornerstone, it’s apparent that Dunphy wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

“I had a good fit.  I always had something new and interesting to do.” said Dunphy.

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