As a part of my series about the ‘Five Things You Need To Know To Succeed In The Real Estate Industry’, I had the pleasure of interviewing Asi Cymbal.
Asi Cymbal is the president and owner of Cymbal Development. Mr. Cymbal has over 30 years of experience in real estate development, construction, finance, and law. He has acquired, developed, or constructed more than $1 billion in projects. Cymbal Development is an innovative and design-driven development and construction company that promotes responsible and professional projects. It was formed with the intent of developing and constructing aesthetically significant real estate assets.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the Real Estate industry?
I always thought that I would get into real estate because that’s how I saw my mother getting off of food stamps and into the middle class. She bought a one-bedroom apartment that she was renting that was being converted to a coop, flipped it for a profit, and continued to reinvest. I thought I would do the same as a career. When I went to law school, I was introduced to a real estate developer. I didn’t know what a real estate developer did at the time. That developer, Howard Jacobs, told me, “you could always buy and sell real estate, but if you build and develop, you’ll have a lot more fun and make a lot more money.” I ran around his construction site for a year and then I was hooked. I knew then that I wanted to be a real estate developer.
Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occured to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?
Wow. That’s a tough one. My career has taken so many twists and turns. But the one that comes to mind is the time that I hired Philippe Starck to do his first residential condo project in New York City in 2003. It was one of the first times that I was introduced to great design and worked with an internationally renowned architect. I never spoke to Philippe directly, and all the work was being done through intermediaries. I wasn’t even sure that Philippe was really designing the project, or even knew about it, and I wanted to make sure of it since we were paying a hefty fee. So I hopped on a plane to Formentera, an island in Spain where his representatives claimed he was working on this project. I met him at his house and saw him really digging in and designing. What an amazing experience that was. What a talent! That was the time that I told him that we discovered a chandelier in the project that we were developing (Downtown by Philippe Starck) that used to be owned by JP Morgan and was one of the largest chandeliers in the United States. I didn’t realize what a passion he had for chandeliers. Philippe wanted to hang that chandelier in the lobby, but it was too large to fit that space. He insisted, so we had to carve out space in the floor to hang it there. It is now the centerpiece in the lobby and looks amazing.
Do you have a favorite “life lesson quote”? Can you share a story or example of how that was relevant to you in your life?
Burn your bridges. What I found was that in order to really achieve greatness, you need to burn your bridges. Set your sights on your goals and never give up. That’s what happened when COVID hit and I was committed to building our Oasis Pointe project in Dania Beach but couldn’t find funding. All the bankers stopped returning my calls. But I burned my bridges and was committed to the outcome and my dream. After over half a year of trying, one banker eventually returned my calls and we closed on a $60 million loan in the middle of the pandemic. We are now under construction and going vertical on the project.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I have a super exciting project on the water in Downtown Fort Lauderdale in Florida. Ever since I got into the business, my dream was to build a skyscraper and make an architecturally significant impact on the skyline of a city. With Raintree Riverwalk Residences, we have the opportunity to do that. We hired PALMA to design a neighborhood on 6 acres along the river and our thesis is to bring culture, art, lifestyle, wellness, nature, technology, design, luxury, and a curated ground floor experience to the community at a more affordable price. We are even taking over the ground floor space, approximately 15,000 square feet, and programming and operating it ourselves in order to control and better align the experience of our residents and the community to our vision, which is an ambitious task. Normally, developers rent out those spaces to third parties. We think it is so important to the community that we are undertaking it ourselves.
I am also excited about the possibility of bringing art, design, and culture to workforce housing projects. We are pursuing a workforce housing deal right now and our theory there is that you don’t need to pay big rents to live really, really well.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Collaboration and alignment of interest and culture. Our goal is to put together teams that work collaboratively, and in a spirit of harmony and with a shared vision. We are all aligned to create best in class projects, and we are there to help each other achieve that. We all make mistakes, and our goal is to create an environment where we can identify those mistakes and work collaboratively to remedy them. That requires work and alignment of interest. Not everyone believes in that or fits into that culture, so that also requires changing and refining team members as we go.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There are plenty of people who I am grateful to. Too many to count. But I will highlight Shaya Boymelgreen who hired me after many years when I couldn’t find work in real estate development. It was a low point in my life, and Shaya was building a company that ended up developing the most exciting and complex projects in Manhattan at the time. When I joined his company, there were 5 employees. By the time I left, he had $7 billion in development and I was responsible for his most successful projects in Manhattan, over $1 billion in development. That experience changed by life, and he was a great mentor and a great person. He is still a mentor. I will always be grateful to him for that experience.
Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Real Estate industry? If you can please share a story or example.
I love being able to create and build great experiences and make a positive impact on a community. Our business allows us to bring together so many disparate skill sets, which is great for people who like excitement. Every day brings a different adventure. And although it takes forever to create and execute the vision, and you need lots and lots of perseverance and patience, we do get to see our creation impacting a great many people in a positive way.
Ok, here is the main question of our interview. You are a “Real Estate Insider”. If you had to advise someone about 5 non intuitive things one should know to succeed in the Real Estate industry, what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each?
Never give up.
Follow your heart.
Don’t do it for the money. The money will come if you follow your heart and enjoy what you do.
Always learn and strive to be a better version of yourself.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can follow our work at www.cymbaldevelopment.com