John Lund’s Four Decades in Real Estate DevelopmentMay 27, 2022 01:38PM ● By Jeff Lacey
Photo by Bill Sitzmann
When John Lund started in the real estate business in 1981, he rented a small space in a strip mall on 90th and Center streets, near the VIP Lounge. He had virtually no inventory. The prime interest rate was 21%. His only staff member was a part-time receptionist.
That startup has grown to become one of the highest profile real estate development companies in Omaha, and perhaps the Midwest. Lund’s organization has nearly 400 employees, manages over 8 million square feet of real estate, works in partnership with international development entities, and has over $1 billion in valued assets. Its portfolio includes Regency Shopping Center, the Landmark Center on 13th and Farnam streets, and Omaha’s PayPal building.
Last year, Lund transitioned to chairman of Cushman & Wakefield/The Lund Co., with Jason Fisher installed as CEO and Tanya Shapiro as president. Lund, 71, remains engaged in the work. He said the key to longevity and success in the real estate development industry is the ability to build. He’s not referring to properties, but relationships.
“That’s it,” Lund explained. “If not a hundred percent, [building relationships] is 99% of what we do. We’re client-based, and client-driven, and our relationships have sustained. When we get a business, we make sure we don’t lose that business.” Lund thinks relationship building isn’t just about the client. This philosophy carries over into the internal workings of the company. “All relationships are important in this business,” Lund said. “The greatest assets you have are the people who work in your firm. I like people. I like building relationships. I do my best to not disappoint.”
Another thing Lund cited as being key to his success is an ability to take calculated risks.
“I somewhat like risk,” Lund explained. “I really like taking calculated chances. I am always looking at what we can do better.” Lund said he steadily studies trends, and thinks about real estate trends mostly in terms of categories of development. He not only examines local trends, but trends in every part of the country. “You can measure risk by knowing interest rates and locking them in, knowing construction costs, and knowing tenants. There are lots of factors to understand. I have made mistakes, but I always learn from them.”
One calculated risk that paid off for Lund was entering a partnership with international developer Cushman & Wakefield, a global commercial real estate services firm. The opportunity to do so, however, was the result of a previous lesson learned. “Many years ago, I was offered a similar partnership,” Lund explained, “but we weren’t sure of the future of the firm. We were very local, and were focused on the projects at hand instead of the future.”
Lund and his partners passed at the time, but he decided that if they ever got a chance to become associated with another international company, to take it. In 2012, Cushman & Wakefield/The Lund Co. was born. “We made the deal in about 10 minutes,” Lund said. The deal wasn’t a matter of being acquired; it was an alliance, and allowed his company to be independently owned, keep the brand, and be connected to incoming business on a greater scale.
Lund takes personal pride in the properties his firm develops. Take, for example, the 450 Regency Parkway Building. When Lund’s firm acquired it, it sat vacant. Today, it is fully renovated and tenanted, and it is the corporate headquarters of Cushman & Wakefield/The Lund Co. The building was also awarded the development of the year at the 2012 Real Estate Summit.
Growing decade after decade takes not only an acute business sense, but a good motor as well. “I think the thing about John is that he’s always had amazing energy,” Fisher explained. “His type of energy always leads to positive interactions and outcomes. Watching and being a part of all those positive things as they build year after year is awesome.”
Lund is still excited about the future of his home city, Omaha. “What’s going on in this city is something I’ve never seen,” Lund explained. He is particularly keen on the rebirth of the urban corridor downtown, citing long-term projects like the development of the Blackstone District as a model of what kind of potential could be unlocked in the area.
“I had never been a heavy ‘yes’ or ‘no’ about [a streetcar], but other cities have proven that it creates development and connectivity,” Lund explained. Lund sees a streetcar project as producing a form of transportation, as well as a foundation for creating cultural and economic connection in Omaha.
Without a doubt, John Lund has made an impact on the face of Omaha. “I like doing things that people recognize,” Lund said. “And I like seeing things work.”
Visit lundco.com for more information.
This article originally appeared in the June/July 2022 issue of B2B Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.