What is Owners’ Representation?
We speak with Leith ter Meulen, the Principal of Landair, Inc. about what owners’ representation is and who needs it.
Tell us about what you do.
I have primary responsibility for setting strategic business direction for the firm, organising and managing project teams, and allocating financial and human resources. I am a native New Yorker and have spent my entire career in capital development, with a passion for projects that enhance the quality of life for diverse communities and residents.
My bio describes me as “a highly regarded real estate and project management consultant to not-for-profit institutional, governmental and community development clients.” With 40 years’ experience, I bring significant expertise working at the intersection of public/private initiatives that lead to economic enhancement, and return on public investment, including re-positioning and adaptive re-use of underutilised non-profit, institutional, and government properties.
I lead clients through all aspects of the real property development process, providing community development consulting, project management, and owners’ representation. Working within strict regulatory guidelines I advise municipal owners and their project teams on strategic capital plans that align real estate assets with financial objectives. Prior to founding Landair in 1992, I worked in private sector development and served as assistant commissioner in charge of facilities development and capital planning for major New York City mayoral agencies.
What is an owners’ rep and who needs one?
In its strictest definition, an Owners’ Representative (OR) helps clients organise and manage their capital projects. We serve as the client’s primary point of communication and control, support their efforts to secure financing, gain approvals, prepare and monitor budgets and schedules, select and manage the right team of experts. Our professionals have worked in both the private and public sectors - in design, construction, production, and operations - and have managed, run and chaired nonprofit organisations. We tell clients that having “walked a mile in your shoes”, we understand how impactful a project will be on an organisation’s future operations and mission. Landair’s professionals also bring experience as owners and developers and thoroughly appreciate that risk is ever present. We believe the OR is especially critical to highlight ‘risk alerts’ to the owner and to work with the owner’s design and construction team to minimise and mitigate risk to the project and the client. An owner’s rep is especially valuable to any client who lacks the experience and/or the human resources to effectively manage a capital project, without jeopardizing day-to-day operations.
An OR’s responsibility as a facilitator is as important as their role as a project leader and serves as “command central” for all aspects of the planning, design, and construction process. Ultimately, though the responsibility for timely and rational decision-making rests with the property owner, the OR’s expertise and professional advice assures trustworthy guidance throughout the entire real estate process to enable them to make decisions with confidence. The OR is often the arbiter between the architect and the construction manager. And while everyone from the architect to the construction manager should protect the client, the OR is the sole consultant whose only agenda is to protect the client’s interests at all times.
In recent years, Landair has expanded the definition of owners’ representation to include a much wider spectrum of services. Compliance is particularly warranted at the confluence of public-private partnerships (P3). At the root of P3 projects rests an agreement that is sealed by the shared goals and mutual obligations of both sectors. Frequently these opportunities involve public investment, and always public trust. We provide our government owners with an extra layer of ‘eyes and ears’ to ensure their statutory and contractual rights are being properly delivered.
What are your vision and mission?
As an entrepreneur, I firmly believed in starting with a bold vision and providing a high level of integrity in our work. Today, 30 years after founding Landair, I still embrace our bold vision and trust in the power of seeing each project and client challenge as a unique service opportunity.
Landair routinely assembles a panoply of consultants, designers, architects, and contractors to adapt, renovate, construct, preserve and modernise. We thrive on complexity. We are not building out simple office space (though we can!). Rather we seek opportunities that are challenging and complicated and that involve a lot of uncertainties. We are completely comfortable with fixed budgets and unforgiving deadlines.
Our mission is to participate in public/private Initiatives with a social impact. We are naturally drawn to transformative projects that enhance the economic quality of life in our communities through resourceful re-invention, preservation of history and culture and imaginative investment. Projects like the re-development of Times Square in NYC, Tampa’s Channel District Arts Plan, disaster recovery for Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery and most meaningfully, the reconstruction of Post 9/11 Lower Manhattan. We also take pride in serving non-profits that bring significant benefits to their communities such as the Center for the Women of New York, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Weeksville Heritage Center, Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation, The Africa Center to name just a few.
What’s the most rewarding part about your job?
As the founder, I feel very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to lead talented, capable teams of professionals serving many extraordinary clients. Clients who themselves are leaders in the delivery of public services – in the performing and visual arts, entertainment, education, community recognition and historic preservation. Our team members are as diverse as the communities we serve. We collaborate, we communicate, and we are genuine.
By far the most gratifying aspect of this business has always been serving public and institutional clients who themselves are serving the public to enhance their communities. What could be better? We focus on the gritty details of building a project so they can stay focused on delivering services to the public. And we get to participate in that and feel so gratified at the end of the day to say, yes, we helped to make this happen.
What are your aspirations for the future?
In 30 years in business, we have evolved Owners’ Representation to include every aspect of the real estate development process from “Concept to Compliance”. Our portfolio spans conceptual planning to the realisation of urban projects involving redevelopment, revitalisation and recovery including the application of critical path scheduling, conflict avoidance and risk mitigation. These assignments are typically high profile and of interest to the public and the press. I want to continue our practice of working in collaborative partnership with other small, women, minority, LGBTQ and Veteran owned businesses, and mentoring entrepreneurs entering the field to encourage their productive pursuit of projects that preserve the public good.
see the future as bright for the work we do with clients. The need today for an experienced, highly trusted and valuable partner in private and public sector programs, projects and processes is even more critical in an interconnected world. Landair has grown from its strong project management core into the multi-faceted program management company it is today by turning our clients' challenging projects and complex compliance issues into custom-built solutions. Our vision remains a part of every project we undertake.