A Trailblazer On A Mission

By Patricia Canole | Photography By Vital Agibalow For Hensel

Cagri Kanver could be known as the Man with the Golden Touch, with good reason. This trailblazer is on a mission with a vision to redefine industry standards and revolutionize how we look at real estate life cycle today. Inspired by his commitment to projects, he is constantly developing fresh concepts and innovative ideas in the market. Kanver has worked across multiple industries as an investor and start-up entrepreneur culminating in his success today.

From a young businessperson to years as a leader, he has been involved in many early-stage companies, ranging from proprietary building systems to real estate holding companies. He seeks to turn every project into a golden return for investors. As a result, a substantial number, from start-up businesses to major corporations, have experienced significant growth due to his skills. His expertise has been sought after by influential developers in New York City, Miami, and Chicago.

With a degree in architecture, it’s little wonder Kanver is in a position of not only being fully capable of structuring a real estate deal but also bringing all the necessary components of the fundamental building blocks of a location.

His business prowess has been recognized by GYODER, the Association of Real Estate Investors in Turkey, which has made him the representative of its United States Chapter. Not to be overlooked is his partnership in Watermark Investments, a family office and limited liability company which invests in and syndicates real estate projects throughout the United States. He has provided the structure and site-selection for Watermark throughout the U.S..

This native of Turkey has also succeeded in the hospitality world. A perfect example is his newest development in East Hampton, New York, the wildly popular El Turco. The Miami-transplanted restaurant soared this past summer with rave reviews and was applauded for accomplishing the task of turning an old nightclub spot into a hot new restaurant in less than a month.

The primary real estate deal maker alongside El Turco founders Nurdan Gur Yuzbasioglu and Gokhan Yuzbasioglu with Frank Cilione, the longtime operator of the dual restaurant and nightlife venue in East Hampton, made the grand opening of the the Michelin Bib Gourmand awarded restaurant a culinary destination. Adding property that impresses the culinary world is another attractive feather in his cap.

Kanver is also proud to note he is a Founding Partner of RED Company, a Leading Real Estate Networking Company based in New York.

New York Lifestyles recently met with Cagri Kanver, who shed light on real estate, business, and life.

What were you doing before landing in the real estate development industry?
I was working at one of the largest architectural offices in the world and traveling and dealing with large scale projects. I traveled all around the world. I spent the first five years after graduating meeting with diverse cultures, and different corporations who all helped me grow in my career. I was part of large-scale projects which helped me understand real estate with projects that included large corporate campuses, university and healthcare projects. Some were in emerging markets such as Dubai where I had the privilege to learn from experts early in my career.

What do you like most about real estate development?
It’s the challenge and, working with trusted names in the industry who deliver. Someone who knows what they are doing. The players may remain the same, but the projects change. What’s so important is with a successful project comes a good return.

What do you perceive as the biggest obstacle to real estate development?
Definitely financing. It’s a fast, rapid changing world economy. Not only here in the U.S., but other countries around the world markets change drastically. To finance the project as you predict in advance may sound simple enough. But by the time you apply for the loan, it may not match based on your predictions. The second challenge is location. Take for example New York City. The rules are being changed constantly. It’s when your game plan changes that you need to be incredibly careful not to aim too high—but being more realistic. Do I get discouraged? Not really because I always look on the upside.

What’s the most exciting aspect of your work right now?
After so many years working in the industry coordinating investments and purchase of materials from around the world including Turkey, I have the flexibility to collaborate with real professionals. I can choose the team to make a project a successful one. And, of course, selecting the right team excites me even more who will oversee the actual work involved.

How is the real estate development field changing?
It’s the ever-changing new rules and regulations that can be disconcerting. A good example was a project in South Florida. For the past decade, the region has experienced several serious hurricanes resulting in rule changes to make building projects more sustainable and stronger. These changes impact the total strategy for the project. Today, the changing face of real estate development also focuses on more rental projects than condo projects. In addition, there’s less retail, there’s more big box stores and logistic centers. Space is being altered dramatically. Today, we see fewer people in offices, more people working from home.

Now tell us more about the new restaurant sensation you’re involved with, El Turco.
I started by helping a good friend of mine in Miami. I was introduced to the project as an investor. I still am and it’s quite a success. However, I see the restaurant strictly as a real estate project. Because if you can manage your real estate correctly, and add the right components, you have a success. The restaurant has grown and has reached East Hampton, New York. Next, we are looking at Palm Beach. I follow the money—and the people who love the tasty food. And not being a manager or an executive chef, I enjoy bringing my real estate skill set to the table.

What do you value in people?
Honesty, integrity, and an excellent work ethic. Real estate is a talk industry. Because it’s all about the money, it’s all about the returns. So, when your partners are honest and possess integrity, it’s good. You are getting superior performance. That’s good.

Lastly, is there anything you wish you had done differently? 
Well, if I come back in a second lifetime, I would certainly start in New York City. Real estate and the city go hand in hand. Because real estate is the core of living here. Whether you visit a hospital, office building, box store—it’s all there. The best opportunities can be found here.