Drawing on their own love of art, Matt Lituchy and the executive team at San Francisco-based real estate developer Jay Paul Company have consistently amassed a collection of more than 250 works in their mixed-use condominium tower in the city of 181 Fremont.
From a sales point of view, the emphasis on art has given the developers of the 70-story glass building in the city center an opportunity to differentiate their product. But it was also a way to discover a passion and have fun as they worked with top gallery owners to turn unsold units into dramatic, temporary, pre-pandemic public gallery spaces.
“Unfortunately we had to take a little break during Covid, but hopefully we’ll start again in the fall,” said Lituchy, 61, the developer’s chief investment officer.
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In the absence of public events, the building has still furnished show homes with works by local artists for more intimate viewing, including a relaunched exhibition called PODIUM II, which includes the work of 14 international female artists – many celebrating black women and their experiences.
Mansion Global reached out to Mr. Lituchy for more insight into the San Francisco condo market, the art at 181 Fremont, and the spectacular views from his own home.
Mansion Global: Demand for luxury condominiums has decreased in New York City, do you see a similar increase in San Francisco?
Matt Lituchy: We are definitely seeing an upturn. I think we made more sales in the first three to four months of 2021 alone than in all of last year. Towards the end of last year, last fall, we started to see a small upward trend. But it really wasn’t until after the election, after the vaccinations were approved, and at the beginning of the year when people came back. From January onwards, activity and demand really increased.
The big companies that have been part of the liveliness of the inner city are just beginning to repopulate their employees in the offices. This is starting as we speak and I think by September 1st it will be a lot more active than you are seeing today.
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MG: One question I had during the pandemic is how buildings and building equipment could change permanently after the pandemic. Has the Jay Paul Company talked about long term change?
ML: It’s really hard to tell because all of this is so new and so temporary. We started planning at some of our facilities where you couldn’t just go to the gym and work out. And that gradually disappears when life returns to normal. But, you know, maybe bigger, more open areas or outdoor areas if possible. This is always difficult in an urban setting, especially when you are at 700 feet and dealing with wind and fog and the elements and the like. But I think if we were going to be planning a project today we would probably add up the common areas to make them bigger.
MG: In the past few weeks we’ve seen an impressive resurgence in art sales at major auction houses in New York. It is clear that art investors are back with a vengeance. But why should the client invest in significant works of art for a building like the 181 Fremont?
ML: For the company’s executives, art is a really big part of our lives. A lot of us are collectors, Jay [Paul] Coincidentally a very large collector. So art in our buildings has always been an important part of our company; It was a natural extension to do something special in this building.
We worked with a really well-known art consultant here in San Francisco named Holly Baxter and we started with just a few pieces for the lobby and it grew from there. I think we now have 260 works that we have for our own collection in the building. We have people who are established artists, emerging artists from all over the world, people who are pretty significant in the art world and who have had serious exhibitions in big galleries and museums. And that created a kind of rolling set of exhibits and shows in some of our unsold inventory, where we turned some really nice units upstairs into a gallery 700 feet up.
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MG: Have you noticed any change in the priorities of the buyers who have been on the road in the past four or five months?
ML: The urban setting isn’t going away, but we do see a lot of people looking for a second home or pied-a-terre, or moving away from a large suburban home. They are looking for a place where they can walk to wonderful restaurants and cultural events and have all of the conveniences and lifestyle things they had at home and something smaller. Often times this is a second or third home for them, where if they want to fish a creek in Montana they have it, or go to Hawaii and sit on a beach that is all part of their entire repertoire.
MG: You mentioned that big offices are bringing people back to San Francisco, do you have any expectations or do you know anything about the future of remote work, where are you?
ML: We also do a lot in the office. In fact, our assets and development experience are primarily contained therein. Our tenants are all big tech companies, and even in most of the Covid cases, they felt that people weren’t as effective and efficient as they would be if they were collaborative and working in teams while they work at home. And I think you can talk to all the managers for those mission-critical jobs at these tech companies and they want their people back.
It may start out with home two days a week or home one day a week. But at some point I think most people will be back in the offices most of the time.
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MG: How do you define luxury?
ML: It really is the best of the best. It’s first class design materials, architecture – engineering is important too – just a sense of comfort and relaxation when you are surrounded by luxury goods. It is the feeling of having arrived.
MG: What does your dream house look like?
ML: I’m a huge car fanatic so there should be a very large garage for my car collection and some space for the people who work on it. Definitely a nice outdoor area, a pool because I like to swim, a large media room, a nice fitness area where I can work out with a nice view over the water or the mountains. But not too far from civilization, where I can get to places quickly.
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MG: Where is your favorite place in your current home?
ML: I live on the 47th floor of a luxury skyscraper right next to 181 Fremont. I have a nice Eames chair in the corner that is completely glazed on both sides. I have a nice perch that I can see San Francisco from, almost three bridges, and water in three different directions. I could look north and see North Bay and Alcatraz, I could look west and on a clear day maybe see the Farallon Islands and out to Ocean Beach and south I can look out and South Bay and San Francisco Harbor see.
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