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The Independent Interview: Robert Levine

Robert-LevineJULY 11, 2016 – PARADISE VALLEY INDEPENDENT – BY TERRANCE THORNTON – Local commercial real estate figure Robert Levine offers insights into his experience as a real estate professional and provides Independent readers with a snapshot of a man who built his career from the ground up — literally.

Through a running question-and-answer series Independent Newsmedia seeks to better understand those the product covers and the decision makers that shape the news that is reported.

Co-founder of Scottsdale-based LevRose Commercial Real Estate, Mr. Levine says he is no stranger to adversity or hard work and the combination of the two have shaped the business man he is today.

“We started in 1992, the market was terrible, we were in a one-room suite,” he said of the early days at LevRose with partner Jonathan Rosenberg. “We worked ourselves up from there.”

Mr. Levine says he came to the Valley of the Sun by way of majoring in business and sunshine at Arizona State University and upon graduation has been working in the real estate realm “probably 30 or 40 years,” he says.

“After graduation, I took a job as a runner for a title company and I worked myself up at the branch,” he said.

“In between of the title business and all that I was rehabbing homes, fixing them up and selling them. Then, I met Jonathan Rosenberg and started what is now LevRose Commercial Real Estate. We figured that Scottsdale and Paradise Valley could use a commercial real estate firm.”

He was right. Today, Mr. Levine says, LevRose manages over 70 commercial buildings in the Phoenix metropolitan area and own “seven or eight buildings here in downtown Scottsdale.”

But the great successes also came with much professional and personal sacrifice, Mr. Levine contends.

“I am just proud we are able to make something from nothing — it’s just hard work, it’s not luck, it’s hard work,” he said. “Even when I worked at the title company, I don’t think I missed one day. I remember the first lease we made, I was so thrilled to make 500 bucks.”

Mr. Levine agreed to respond to a series of questions to better understand the person who took the exuberance of a first sale and transformed it into a premier real estate development and management company. This is what he had to say:

What inherent beliefs do you have that help guide you through your life and its challenges?
I always have believed that a strong work ethic will help overcome all challenges.

When faced with a difficult task or problem, how do you motivate yourself to overcome?
I force myself to get things going. There is a quote by Albert Einstein that “you don’t have to get it perfect, you just have to get it going.”

What do you think is your worst quality?
I sometimes find that my expectations of others and myself can be very high, which creates unnecessary frustration at times.

How has LevRose Commercial Real Estate evolved in the last several years?
In the last few years my business partner, Jonathan Rosenberg and I, decided to move LevRose into the direction of a broker-owned firm. This has helped create additional loyalty and excitement amongst the brokers, some of who have now become partners (Geoff Turbow, Zak Kottler and Michael Waxman). In 2006, we started our commercial property management firm, MODE Real Estate Managements Services with property management veteran Patty Hartley to manage office, retail and industrial properties. In 2014, we partnered with experienced residential realtor Chris Bianco to create Civic Center Real Estate.

How has commercial development evolved in both Scottsdale and the Town of Paradise Valley?
Clearly, we are seeing a continuous transformation in both Scottsdale and Paradise Valley. The Ritz-Carlton projects, as well as the Mountain Shadows redevelopment, are going to be amazing for the Town of Paradise Valley. Scottsdale has seen similar redevelopments, including an explosion of multifamily throughout the market.

In your entire life, what accomplishment are you most proud of and why?
I am proud of the fact that I went through the downturn in the early 1990s and again in the recent recession and survived and grew through both of them.

What has been your biggest challenge professionally and how did you overcome?
The downturn of commercial real estate in the late 1980s and early 1990s was extremely challenging for me. I had owned several commercial properties and faced a lot of difficulties in keeping them afloat. Overcoming these challenges was due to my persistence and never giving up.

What has the biggest mistake you ever made and how did that experience help shape the person you are today?
In my earlier years, I found that I was over-leveraged in the hope that the market would continue to grow. Unfortunately, this was also a huge downfall for me that I have used in a more conservative approach to business now.

As a resident, what do you believe to be the biggest issue facing the Town of Paradise Valley?
I think Paradise Valley is one of the most unique places in the U.S. The biggest challenge is keeping the uniqueness and beauty in place while growing as needed. I can honestly say that driving from my home in Paradise Valley to my office in downtown Scottsdale each morning is an incredibly beautiful and inspiring way to start my day. – read more at paradisevalleyindependent.com

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