Donald Trump: the builder

Construction Intelligence Center 23 Jan 2017 NORTH AMERICA BUILDINGS

Olti Gjomema, construction industry analyst at Timetric’s Construction Intelligence Center, presents Donald Trump, the builder along with some of his property investments. 

Donald Trump is the New York City construction brand name associated with extravagance and opulence.

Starting from the bottom and making his own way up, Donald Trump’s father, Frederick Christ "Fred" Trump, built a solid construction company focusing on affordable homes — adopting the less risky business models and concentrating on the suburban area of Brooklyn, avoiding the luxury parts of New York City.

Trump, on the other hand, had opposing ideas. He got started by renovating a run-down Cincinnati apartment complex, and then moved on into billion dollar real estate projects. In 1970, he invested in Manhattan after convincing his father to lend him $1M.  

In 1979, construction started on the Trump Tower, his flagship development. The 68-storey tower, located on the Fifth Avenue, is a $200M apartment-retail complex designed by Der Scutt. It is not to be mistaken with the Trump World Tower though. The $300M, 90-floors Trump World Tower is an apartment complex designed by Costas Kondylis — construction on the tower started in 1999 and finished in 2001.
To build the Trump World Tower at 845 United Nations Plaza, the tallest residential building in the city in the time, it would have been impossible with just the floor area of the original building.

Trump then successfully bought the floor-area-ratio (F.A.R) from low-rise neighbouring buildings, and merged their lots into the Trump World Tower. The construction of the Grand Hyatt Hotel made him one of the city's best-known developers.

The casino gambling business was approved in New Jersey in 1977, and in 1984 Trump opened the Trump Castle Hotel and Casino. In 1988, he was able to acquire the largest hotel-casino in the world, the Taj Mahal at Atlantic City. In 2016, it was announced that the Trump Taj Mahal would be closing its doors amid multiple bankruptcies throughout the years and a lengthy strike by workers.

Holiday Inn Corporation, the parent company of Harrah's casino hotels, wanted to partner with Trump, and the $250M new complex opened in 1984 as Harrah's at Trump Plaza. Trump bought the Holiday Inn soon thereafter and renamed the facility Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino.

In 1985, he purchased 76 acres of land on the West Side of Manhattan for $88M to build a dozen skyscrapers, a mall and riverfront parks. In 1988, he acquired the Plaza Hotel for $407M and spent $50M refurbishing it.

In January 1990, Trump flew to Los Angeles to unveil a plan to build a $1bn commercial and residential project featuring a 125-storey office building.

In 2000, a state appeals court ruled that Trump Organization had the right to finish an 856-foot-tall condominium. The Coalition for Responsible Development sued the city, accusing it of violating zoning laws by letting the building reach heights that towered over everything in the neighbourhood. The city has since moved to revise its rules to prevent similar projects, but the failure of Trump's opponents to obtain an injunction allowed him to continue construction.

To conclude, it is noticeable that 80% of the Trump Organization construction portfolio is composed of high skyscrapers — these are not a show of wealth but of strategy and ability to make a deal. 

* Data provided by Timetric's Construction Intelligence Center.

* Image credit: ant D / Shutterstock.

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