New York developer with COVID-19 hopes for major post-pandemic upswing

As prominent New York developer Sharif El-Gamal recovers from the coronavirus, he says that agents need to wait out the storm as best they can — a post-quarantine work boom is likely to follow.

Gamal, who is the founder and CEO of Soho Properties, shared his story in a video interview with The Real Deal reporter Hiten Samtani. His company is behind projects like 560 Seventh Avenue in Times Square and 45 Park Place in Tribeca and has had six staff members, including Gamal himself, infected with the virus. New York state currently has more than 75,000 confirmed cases and 1,400 deaths have been reported statewide as of Tuesday morning.

“I had a feeling of fatigue that overtook me,” El-Gamal told The Real Deal, adding that his symptoms were mild in comparison to cases seen in the news and are almost completely gone by now. “[…] It was very different from any other ailment that I’ve ever felt.”

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Gamal says that he has been trying to reassure his brokers and staff. The company’s plans to build a condo building and a hotel are currently put on hold as the state ordered an end to all non-essential construction. But even though the situation is “nerve-wracking” for both agents and developers, Gamal believes that, even as the pandemic wreaks havoc on the real estate industry, there will be an upswing.

“Once we get to the bottom of this pandemic that we’re going through, there is going to be such a pent-up demand to transact,” Gamal said, adding that people who have been pent up for a long time will want to sell and unload property. He also expects commercial real estate to see a renewed demand for entertainment buildings as people try to catch up on what they couldn’t do for a while.

That said, Gamal also notes that the coronavirus outbreak may cause many to reevaluate their relationship to real estate. Some will not want huge spaces when they realize how little they need to survive.

“This pandemic has proved to us that we might not need all this real estate,” El-Gamal said. “And there need to be other uses for it, because we were able to get through a lot of things without all of this space.”

Watch the full interview above or on The Real Deal.

Email Veronika Bondarenko