Consulting

I help people solve problems related to real estate development, urban planning, and sustainability. Some problems are people problems, some are capital problems, and some are design problems. I’m well-versed in all three, having trained in the Rust Belt school of getting stuff done and being a generally curious, interdisciplinary thinker.

I’ve worked around the Midwest and parts of the Northeast, from the prairies of Iowa to the stately spires of Philadelphia, focusing on pushing good design and profitability in creative real estate projects in challenging capital climates. I have worked on community projects outside of for-profit real estate contexts, and my balance of nonprofit, public-private, and private equity experience means I am effective at formulating, translating, and, ultimately, achieving complicated goals while managing complex, cross-functional teams or partnerships. Stuff I have worked on:

Predevelopment: Research, analysis, and modelling to identify appropriate sites or properties for development, developing budgets and pro forma, preparing proposals and submittals. Design to figure out what is going to work for a specific site or, at the micro level, actual design to figure out what a space is going to look like.

I have done a lot of construction estimating and scope writing and pride myself on an ability to be exhaustively specific based on the needs of the client as needed, having developed a comprehensive set of standards for material sourcing and vendor selection.

Finance: Working with a well-developed toolkit to figure out how financing can work in a challenging capital climate, I have experience from numerous inner city real estate markets in navigating partnership financing, unconventional financing, and the appraisal gap.

The first home completed by Southwest Housing in the AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust program in the Bagley neighborhood on Detroit’s west side. Work performed by Jenkins Construction, featuring most original finishes from the home but with new, high-efficiency systems and LED lighting.

Project management: I’ve worked with both large and small property investors and developers in Northern Indiana and the Calumet Region from 2012 to 2015 (home to Gary, Hammond, East Chicago, and a variety of smaller strip mall suburbs, rural, and lakefront communities), consulting in the acquisition and development of real estate portfolios ranging from eight properties to two hundred fifty-nine. This ranged from estimating and preparing pro forma for small construction jobs to planning portfolio development for private equity investors while navigating the complex regulatory mechanism surrounding the tax foreclosure statutes.

From 2015-2017 I worked with Southwest Housing Solutions to design and manage housing development programs with the AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust, Flagstar Bank, and Chemical Bank (née Talmer), and also worked with the Detroit Home Mortgage Program, produced in conjunction with CRF-USA and the Detroit Land Bank Authority to develop and improve a meaningful framework for project management of affordable and market rate housing development. I developed a 130-page set of construction and design standards to govern renovation that evolved from, quite literally, a napkin sketch, and focused on sustainable design, energy efficiency, and quality interior design. I provided quality control to ensure that affordable housing was also energy efficient.

A bungalow on Mendota on Detroit’s West Side whose ceiling insulation needed some attention, as indicated on these two thermographic images from my handy dandy FLIR.

The AFL-CIO HIT program was set to develop up to 300 homes by the time I left Southwest in 2017, and the Talmer/Chemical Marygrove Program had been touted as an acclaimed model for neighborhood development, bringing up local values through a creative financing mechanism while also providing an excellent market foundation for the city’s new, adjacent Fitzgerald revitalization project.

The art of the elegant spreadsheet: All relevant information– but not too much information.

Disposition: Developing strategies to sell, manage, or refinance a completed property or a portfolio of properties.

Collaborative projects, public speaking, and volunteerism: I assisted in producing the Open/Closed Forum on Vacant Property in 2011 and 2012 with NextSTL. I spoke at Rust Belt to Artist Belt: At The Crossroads in 2012 and at 1871 in Chicago in 2014 on crowdfunding, real estate, and financial innovation. While at Southwest Housing, I managed outreach for the programs I was managing, attending community meetings and developing connections with local groups and neighborhood organizations. I’ve also volunteered with Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice and the Detroit Climate Action Collaborative to help develop their Sustainable Homes and Neighborhoods Toolkit, Pingree Manufacturing / Detroit Boots on the Ground, an apparel manufacturing and veterans empowerment social enterprise, various USGBC chapters, the Chicago Passive House Alliance, and various cycling advocacy groups and community bike rides in St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, and Windsor, Ontario.

Stuff I work on periodically: Private woodworking commissions, residential construction management, residential carpentry, writing my novel about utility politics in northern Michigan, making music, or writing lengthy blog articles about Ontario energy policy.

I have formal technical training in energy efficiency from BPI (residential retrofits, insulation analysis), RESNET (HERS rating), PHIUS (Passive House design and modeling in WUFI and THERM), oodles of sustainability education from the US Green Building Council and its affiliates, and have studied a wealth of theoretical and technical material on urban planning, business management and improvement, and finance. I also am fluent in German and have some proficiency in Spanish.

Let’s get started: Shoot me an e-mail at nathaniel dot zorach at gmail dot com.