SHoP ups the ante naming Chakrabarti Partner
When Theresa Agovino of Crain’s New York Businees broke the news Sunday that Vishaan Chakrabarti was joining SHoP as its seventh partner, thus ‘landing the firm a rainmaker’, she wasn’t kidding. The 46-year old Chakrabarti has been on frontlines of some the most-high-profile projects the city has seen since the likes of Robert Moses, including The High Line, the development of Hudson Yards and Moynihan Station. Indeed, it seems like almost every real estate development project in New York City worth discussing or doing is less than six degrees of separation from Chakrabarti.
Just last week, in fact, Chakrabarti was in headlines again, this time as part of a front-page news storey in the New York Times about how many people Manhattan could actually hold? His answer may surprise you. Not only does Chakrabarti think the city can hold more people that it currently does, he wants to grow Manhattan, not up but out, creating a land bridge made of landfill that would connect Lower Manhattan to Governor’s Island. It’s an idea that smacks of ‘pie in the sky’ thinking and unchecked idealism but one that typifies the forward thinking, big picture making Charkrabarti who has the resume, the connections and the track record to pull it off.
Chakrabarti, who now head’s Columbia University’s Center for Urban Real Estate and will continue in the post, did a six year stint at SOM New York, where he was an associate partner working on the master plans for both the World Trade Center site and Columbia’s Morningside Heights campus. He is also a former director of the Manhattan office of the city planning department and a past executive vice president of Related Cos.
Having worked real estate deals from almost every angle; as an architect, planner, developer and now head of a urban think tank, Chakrabarti has experiences few others have; which is why he would be a highly sought after commodity by most anyone, let alone a mid-sized architecture practice like SHoP, albeit a very good one, that wants to be considered for commissions currently out of its reach, like major museums and skyscrapers in the city, that it thinks Chakrabarti can help land. SHoP partner Christopher Sharples told Crains that to do so ‘means knowing big developers and understanding the city’s regulatory landscape. That’s what Vishaan brings to the table’.
While the deal makes sense from SHoP’s perspective, from Chakrabartiti’s perspective, a man who seemingly can have his pick of jobs, one wonders, ‘why SHoP’ and why now?
We run down the possibilities here.
1. For the love of architecture?
Been there done that. Educated as an architect with a master’s degree in architecture from the University of California, Berkeley, Chakrabarti worked at SOM early in his career before returning as an associate partner in the firm’s New York office.
2. For the love of money?
Few architecture positions pay more than real estate development. Chakrabarti was with the Related Companies from 2005-2009, before leaving to become the first full time director of Columbia University’s Real Estate Development Program, where he continues to serve an advisory and advocacy role on plans to develop the Moynihan Station.
3. For the art of the deal?
My bet is that Chakrabarti thrives on deal making and sees great potential in molding this very good and highly respected design firm into a major global player.
For now, Chakrabarti has only said ‘the timing is right’ and that the position ‘is a great fit’.