The Power is Now

Talking Business: Meet the New York real estate mogul behind some of the area’s hottest properties – NOLA.com

One of the most successful real estate developers and commercial property owners in the local market is a New York-based investor you’ve probably never heard of: Jeffrey Feil.

Among the Feil Organization’s vast holdings are historic Manhattan high rises, Chicago shopping centers and office complexes in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area.

But outside of New York, the largest chunk of the firm’s portfolio — estimated nearly a decade ago by the Wall Street Journal to be worth more than $7 billion — are 45 properties totaling some 11 million square feet of office, retail and multifamily space in Metairie and New Orleans. This includes Lakeside Shopping Center; The Galleria; Lakeway 1, 2 and 3; and the land on which New Orleans’ only Costco sits.

Jeffrey Feil’s father, the late Louis Feil, was an early investor in Lakeside and bought out the shopping center’s original developer in a 1968 foreclosure sale. The family has owned it ever since, gradually acquiring other properties and growing their local footprint.

Feil and his son Brian Feil sat down with us recently to share their investment philosophy and insights about this market.

Why did your father invest in a shopping center in a suburb of New Orleans in the 1960s, back when that area was, essentially, a cow pasture?

JEFFREY FEIL: I have no idea. All he used to tell me was the muskrats were down here. But he loved New Orleans. I love New Orleans.

What do you see in Metairie and Jefferson Parish, and why have you concentrated so much of your local portfolio there?

JEFFREY FEIL: Well, we were already here. My father was an investor in Lakeside and we stepped into it through a foreclosure. But, based on what we do in other communities, once we get comfortable in a community, and we own something, especially like a Lakeside, we try and continue to buy prime stuff around it.

BRIAN FEIL: When you know the neighborhood, you say, “OK, I understand the area.” Gatehouse apartments, which we also own seems like a great investment because we understand the area. Then, Galleria, being right next to Gatehouse, made a lot of sense to acquire. You get to understand the market and the neighborhood

What has guided your local investment philosophy?

JEFFREY FEIL: I like the community. It is unique to the United States, so we have invested here. It’s a tough place to do business, between insurance and whatever else is going on, but I’ve been here all these years so it’s like my second home.

What makes it difficult to do business here?

JEFFREY FEIL: The political systems. I don’t see cooperation between the two parishes and that sort of makes operating quite difficult. … sharing information, running different real estate rules. There is no apparent interconnection.

How do New Orleans and Jefferson Parish compare to other markets where you do business?

JEFFREY FEIL: At this point in time, all the inner cities are suffering from the same thing: crime, lack of education and a focus on the wrong things. I see it in New York, Chicago, and I see it here.

How are your investments here doing?

JEFFREY FEIL: Some have done extremely well and continue to do well.

BRIAN FEIL: Some are up and down. I can’t say every investment is a winner, but I was told if you don’t take some risks, you probably are not trying hard enough.

What is your outlook on the local market?

JEFFREY FEIL: The problem here is that there is no growth. There is no investment in the future other than tourism.

BRIAN FEIL: In other marks we see a lot of growth in tech, the younger generation, people moving in and that is creating growth in all different segments and sectors.

Back to your point about the economy not growing, who is bringing all your customers to Lakeside? It is very successful and is seriously outperforming other malls.  

JEFFREY FEIL: Because we have invested back in our property and most of the other malls have gone out of business

BRIAN FEIL: What’s happened is that better malls have gotten better and weaker malls have continued to deteriorate and, like my grandfather told my father and my father has told me: You take care of your real estate and your real estate will take care of you.

In addition to your shopping centers, you own a lot of office space. What trends do you see in that sector? Are people coming back to the office?

JEFFREY FEIL: Galleria has been predominantly full throughout the pandemic. Lakeway has a lot of tenants that are shrinking or giving up space because of COVID and whatever else, and some of the insurance companies are shrinking and just don’t need all that space. But it will be a flight to quality. You have to give people decent places to work and that’s what we try to do.

So you don’t think the days of the office are dead?

BRIAN FEIL: Remember when they used to say retail is dead? We never believed that. We were heavily investing in and renovating Lakeside when people were saying retail is dead. We don’t believe office is dead.

Do you feel good about what you see on the horizon in terms of the economy, locally, nationally?

JEFFREY FEIL: No. There is too much upheaval right now between the political systems, business system so it is not steady as you grow. Businesses like consistency. We are not consistent right now.

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