The Philadelphia Business Journal announced the 2021 Dealmaker and Deals of the Year. MPN Realty President & CEO, Ken Mallin, took the top dealmaker nod while his deal alongside Neal and Victor Rodin at 5th & Spring Garden took the first place spot in Multi-Family Land Deals. We take a look at why Ken is such an admired leader.
Ken Mallin is the President & CEO of MPN Realty, one of the premier commercial real estate firms in Center City. A Philadelphia native, Ken attended Central High, going on to Temple University where he earned his BS in Business, and then to University of Pennsylvania earning and MS in Organizational Dynamics.
With his business and leadership background, Ken began his career in the real estate industry more than 40 years ago, starting out in residential real estate. After collaborating with developers to shape the Philadelphia skyline, he quickly realized his passion for commercial real estate and decided to switch his focus.
Armed with extensive real estate, investment, and community knowledge, he founded MPN in 1992. Since its inception, Ken has led MPN to dynamic growth, achieving designation as one of Philadelphia’s fastest-growing companies by Philadelphia Business Journal not once, but twice. Dedicated to creating and maintaining strong client relationships, Ken’s unparalleled expertise has aided his clients in bringing new life to old buildings and positively transforming Philadelphia neighborhoods and markets. Named a CoStar Power Broker several times throughout his extensive career, Ken specializes in sales of investment properties, development deals, and commercial real estate. He is well-regarded within the real estate community for his ability to arrange large commercial transactions, including the recent sale of the historic Freeman building as well as arranging the assemblage for 10 Rittenhouse. Over the years, he has assisted many clients in assembling parcels that will one day be the next high-rise development.
Alex Snyder is one of MPN Realty’s newer associates and has been on the receiving end of deep mentorship with Ken Mallin on what it takes to build a successful commercial real estate practice. “It’s easy to think about great ideas, but it’s twice as difficult to try and put those ideas into practice,” Ken told Alex at the outset.
Ken was not handing out empty advice but sincere words of wisdom coming from years of experience crafting hundreds upon hundreds of deals – some easy and some not so much. “There will be deals that turn around seemingly overnight, he said, “And others that are like 5th and Spring Garden which took five years to complete.”
To say 5th & Spring Garden was a challenge would be an understatement. Over the years, other brokers had tried but were unsuccessful. It was Ken’s ability to share his expertise, gain trust, and continuously demonstrate throughout the transaction that he was able to align all stakeholders toward a common goal. There were multiple condominium entities and sellers involved, and Ken’s creativity and patience pushed the complex deal across the finish line. The result will be a 13-story apartment building, housing 382 apartments, underground parking, and 100,000 SF of ground-floor retail space for the Northern Liberties neighborhood. An Amazon is reportedly leasing 40,000 SF.
“First and foremost, Ken is an astute observer of human nature, and a good listener,” says longtime client Scott Janzen. “He recognizes that potential buyers and tenants will sell themselves on an opportunity, given the right information. Thus, he paints a general picture, but allows room for the potential customer to fill in the details that make it their own decision. In a business world that increasingly commoditizes everything, Ken recognizes the individual characteristics of both the real estate product he works on, and the clients he serves. His success is due to this personal approach, to his consummate knowledge of the market, his skills at listening and observing, and his love of the business — all leading to outstanding results for his clients.”
Ken believes that to be successful in the business, to be a dealmaker, is all about relationships. “It’s about honesty. It’s about earning the trust of your clients,” he says. “When you follow through on your word, it builds a solid foundation. That’s what translates into successful deals and long-term clients.”
MPN Realty’s Managing Director of the Leasing Division, Nadia Bilynsky, tries to emulate Ken’s client-first approach in her own practice. “Ken listens thoroughly to his clients, always putting their needs first and considering what will benefit them most rather than injecting himself into the equation. When faced with tricky situations or difficult conversations, Ken meticulously thinks and talks through every angle to find the best solution.”
His longtime partner, Joshua Nadel, concurs. “Too many brokers focus on what THEY want. Ken will stand in the shoes of a buyer and seller and see the transaction through their eyes. He’s the best I’ve ever seen at putting the puzzle pieces together.”
After more than thirty years in commercial real estate, Ken has developed a vision for the future and is always looking for opportunities for his clients, the city, and his colleagues. “Ken has established a collaborative environment at the firm that has nurtured careers and has deeply valued and acknowledged the strengths others bring to the table,” Veronica Blum, the newest partner at MPN Realty.
A Philadelphian by birth, Ken knows the city because it is part of him. He has sold buildings and facilitated developments across the city, working on creative deals with the vision and possibility of changing the skyline. He doesn’t seek accolades, but instead quietly moves on to the next possible interesting deal. For example, he put together the assemblage for 10 Rittenhouse and has assisted clients assemble parcels that will one day be the next high-rise development.
With his intuitiveness of the city, Ken guides the MPN team to areas of the city that would benefit from their focus and expertise, whether it is to where large-scale multi-family projects are possible or to encourage quality retail tenants to expand into new-to-them commercial corridors.
“Ken and his firm have leased and sold many, many, many buildings in Philadelphia, particularly in Center City,” Janzen says. “Walk down one of the “tree” streets with Ken, and he has personally sold multiple buildings on what feels like every block, selling some properties more than once.”
And why? Because as Philadelphia City Council member and real estate broker Allan Domb says, “Ken Mallin is the ultimate professional in the real estate industry. He does an excellent job in representing his clients’ and customers’ interests but more importantly he focuses first on what is good for Philadelphia! He recognizes that what benefits the city will benefit everyone!”
In 2021, Ken had more than twenty deals totaling almost $150 million. While some deals were relatively simple transactions, others had to be crafted and were years in the making, which Ken guided to the finish line with penultimate patience and finesse. Two of those deals:
5th & Spring Garden (501-35 Spring Garden Street): Taking five years to complete, Ken took on the challenge of selling the 100,000 SF property back in February 2016. There were eleven condominium entities with six different owners and the level of complication of getting everyone on the same page was enormous. According to his discussion with the Philadelphia Business Journal, “Some owned segments that had frontage on Spring Garden while others owned other portions. An analysis was done to figure out what each was worth. Once that was finally determined, Mallin approached several prospective buyers and multiple offers were made.” The sellers decided to go with RREI LLC, a Philadelphia real estate company run by Neal and Victor Rodin for $16.05 million, who has gotten the city approvals for a 13-story building to include 382 apartments, underground parking, and 100,000 SF of ground-floor retail space. There is an executed for 40,000 SF, reportedly for an Amazon Fresh.
10th & Fairmount (920-42 Fairmount Avenue): The owner of this large warehouse property was ready to retire and wanted to find the right buyer. Initially the thinking was a perfect development opportunity because of its proximity to Phase 2 of the Rail Park. The property sits right next to the entrance. There was interest from developers, but it just didn’t seem to work for each side. Then Covid hit and delays emerged. The horizon for 10th & Fairmount as a development site seemed to be pushed and it wasn’t the right time. After conversations with the seller, Jim Trachtenberg, Ken focused on seeking an owner-user for the property. The perfect operator came along but not yet ready to buy. So, Ken took a creative approach and suggested a simultaneous lease and a purchase. It was this out-of-the-box thinking that got the deal done. The user, Joe Volpe of Event Venues, had two years of a lease before buying. Turns out he was ready to seal the sale after just six months.
Many brokers tried to sell the shopping plaza at 5th & Spring Garden and just couldn’t get it done. Jeff Seligsohn, partner at SSH a brokerage firm specializing in office leasing/sales, referred Ken to the condominium owners, who thought Ken would be the one to figure out such a complex sale. Starting with guiding the condominium owners through the valuation process, finding potential buyers, negotiating the deal, navigating due diligence, Ken singularly brought this deal to fruition.
Out of the starting gate, the project at 5th & Spring Garden had its challenges. The first being the valuation of the property. The ownership consisted of six different owners across 11 condominium entities. What complicated matters was that all condominium interests weren’t considered equal. Some of the units facing Spring Garden Street were higher value because they could have premier retail value with higher profile tenants, while others would be considered flex space. Ken had to convince all the owners how their individual values varied and why. First, he determined the overall value of the property, then met individually with each owner to explain the whys, hows and specific valuation process to get them on board. This alone took about six months.