Ali Ebrahimi discusses Plaza at Five Points and Spago Restaurant in Los Angeles.
Ali Ebrahimi Q&A
ERSA GRAE CORP.
Years in the business: 35 (Ebrahimi founded Ersa Grae in 1977)
Past notable developments: Westchase Shopping Center, Spring Valley Shopping Center, Village Real Shopping Center, Copper Grove Shopping Center and Greenspoint Shopping Center in Houston; and Gateway Shopping Center Beaumont, Texas; numerous subdivisions in Houston; Westchase Bank Building and Metro Exchange Building in Texas. Ebrahimi is currently building the 18-story, 500,000-square-foot Plaza at Five Points in downtown Sarasota, which is scheduled for completion in mid-2005. The city of Sarasota also is recommending Ersa Grae's proposed 1 million-square-foot, $175 million Plaza Verdi project for the vacant downtown lot on Palm Avenue behind the Sarasota Opera House.
Square feet of commercial real-estate development: Millions
Where he lives: Houston
What's going to drive development over the next 18 months to five years? "Sarasota is going to grow dramatically in the next few years. First of all, Sarasota is a very pleasant place to live. The city government is very knowledgeable and skillful at what they want, and those are great qualities for a city government to have to enhance development and expansion and population growth. I believe the price of real estate will grow as the city grows. There's no question about it."
Do you see the rate of growth increasing? "Yes, because Sarasota is such a cultural-oriented city, a city by the water. Sarasota is very clean and very pleasant."
What are the risks that concern you the most over this period? "If the economy slows down too severely, everyone's at risk, especially developers."
What advice would you give to public officials to deal with this area's new development? "They're doing exactly what they should be doing. They've set realistic goals for the city. They've gone out and hired Duany Plater-Zyberk, who has developed a master plan for downtown."
What mark do you want to leave on this area? "We just would like to do high-quality, high-class buildings where people can live, shop, be entertained - mixed-use buildings."
Where do you go to escape the office? What types of recreation do you enjoy? "I ski, I play racquetball and I enjoy walking as an exercise. I watch movies."
Favorite restaurant: Spago Restaurant in Los Angeles and La Cirque Restaurant in New York City.
How do you stay ahead of the pack? "We just try to survive and try to make a decent profit. We don't look at other people and see how they're doing. We just focus on how we're doing."
Key gadgets on his desk: Lots of papers, a clock, a laptop computer and a calculator.