01 Mar 2018
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In My Humble Opinion: Urban Renewal

Anti-development developer takes the long view
by Julia Hanna

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photo by Christina Gandolfo

Dan Rosenfeld (MBA 1979) witnessed the birth of the modern environmental movement while growing up in Portland, Oregon, an experience that has shaped his perspective as a real estate developer in his adopted hometown of Los Angeles. “There’s a yin and yang between the improvement of the built environment and the preservation of nature,” says Rosenfeld, a member of the California advisory board The Trust for Public Land. “I’d like to think we’re protecting the natural world every time we start to pile bricks and steel up into the sky. Making cities more attractive for people takes pressure off our open spaces.” A cofounder of Urban Partners—a developer of urban infill, mixed-use, and transit-oriented real estate—Rosenfeld has moved between the private and public sectors, serving as director of real estate for the State of California and the City of Los Angeles, in addition to assisting nonprofits with their land and building challenges through his volunteer work.

LA in three words: Diversity, unity, and talent. “It’s the world’s great urban laboratory, an example to Cairo, Jakarta, São Paulo, and other great megalopoli.”

Keep it all rolling: “Imagine a wheel. A developer is the hub where the spokes of land acquisition, design, finance, construction, marketing, sales, and building management all meet.”

Site specific: “Good development evolves from sensing what is unique about each place’s topography, history, economy, and aspirations. We serve as psychotherapists to neighborhoods.”

Favorite LA building: Los Angeles City Hall. “In a city that is so diverse and dispersed, it’s the symbol of common ground that draws us together and gives tangible expression to an intangible concept: democracy.”

Favorite space: The Los Angeles River. “It’s been polluted and paved, but it’s why the Gabrielino Indians and Mexican Pobladores—who founded Los Angeles—chose the location they did. Now, in a fascinating turn of events, we are restoring the waterfront with parks and tasteful development.”

No. 1 Fan: “For 32 years, my wife, Heidi Duckler, has had a modern dance company that performs in unusual urban spaces all over the world—the firing range of the LA Police Academy, a laundromat. Her work causes us to see the ordinary in extraordinary ways.”

Pas de deux: “Developers create a choreography of experiences. The motion of people through space is the deepest distillation of what a developer provides. It’s what Heidi does with dance.”

Boston souvenir: The wind on Weeks Bridge in February. “Extreme weather reminds us that, no matter how important we think we are, people are really very small animals.”

Last laps: “When I was a competitive runner, we pushed hard when we got close to the end of a race. I want to take life the same way. There will be a finish—there is for all of us—but the closer I get, the harder I’m going to sprint.”

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Featured Alumni

Featured Alumni

Class of MBA 1979, Section B

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