As soon as you meet Jason Braidwood, President of KDG, you will learn three things: 1) he’s
from Detroit, 2) he went to Michigan, and 3) his pride in both Detroit and Michigan is unparalleled. Growing up, Jason was disheartened that his beloved hometown would be the punchline of many jokes internationally, and even more so when told by Detroiters themselves. Such appreciation was solidified when he moved to Chicago upon graduation and experienced the positivity that the people of Chicago had for their city. With that he formed the belief that Detroit could achieve a modicum of Chicago’s success – a vision that he still holds today. While he had no history or family within the construction or real estate industry, he noticed and respected the power that real estate developments have to change people’s opinions about a community. This led him on a path to study real estate investment back at the University of Michigan, where he complemented his undergraduate business degree with a dual degree MBA/Urban Planning Masters. Commencing his real estate career with asset management and investment financing, he has endeavored to have residents, businesses and community leaders alike make the most of real estate decisions – where we invest, call home and go to work all maintaining the ability to catalyze growth. What gets him excited is:
“A forward-thinking, long-term commitment from a business, community, or financing source. When a tenant calls us wanting to invest in the community through its job base, it drastically changes the investment dynamic. The notion that C-suites and philanthropists can give back just by choosing an urban location where a mixed used atmosphere may be fostered is lost on so many. The promise of this keeps me going because that investment fosters re-investment – it’s the true impact on so many people and communities.”
Through years of experience and projects varying in asset type, scale, and complication, Jason has come to realize that he most enjoys development projects that have multiple uses. A residential, office, hotel, and/or retail space located in an urban, densely populated neighborhood brings excitement and value to the surrounding neighborhood. Not only do these spaces bring in jobs, but they are self-sufficient: residents patronize retail spaces, which in turn provide conveniences to young workforces.
“My favorite part is working on building or property design toward a collaborative, win-win between the owner and the tenant. It’s how, where, and with whom people live and work that is exciting. Real estate has the distinct and unique ability to foster new relationships and methodologies for everyone. EVERYONE lives, works, and plays, and not many industries can say that they touch everyone’s lives.”
Since moving to St. Louis and joining the KDG team, Jason has been fortunate to have his time in St. Louis coincide with three positive real estate dynamics: 1) the rebirth of demand for mixed use urban living across all demographics and all uses, 2) a low interest rate environment, and 3) the longest expansionary economy in the history of the United States. Trends and opportunities change every year, and the effect of the changes 2020 will bring on the real estate industry is yet to be seen. Jason is excited to use these times as a challenge to innovate design and functionality, working with future residents and businesses to develop activated communities, most notably in St. Louis.
Real estate is known as a rather static, inflation-hedging industry, but in reality it is complex and ever-changing (consider the regional mall or your favorite big box store). For someone embarking on a real estate path, Jason’s one piece of advice is:
“See as much deal flow as possible and align yourself with a like-minded well-heeled investor. There are so many young people who go off on their own without a balance sheet behind them. They don’t see enough varied and complex projects, and they are at the mercy of financing institutions who want more wealth to back the loans. I was lucky in finding great folks to introduce me to large scale projects along the way, and I urge those just starting out to look for people with experience and community interests at heart. At the end of the day, real estate is all about relationships.”