This is the benefit Dan Braun received when in his mid-twenties in 2003 he joined his father, Gabriel “Gaby” Braun, z “l, to manage and lease the industrial portfolio of the commercial real estate company of Houston-based family. Today Dan Braun, whose father died in May, shares his on-the-job knowledge with business partner Alec Lapin, a promising 25-year-old who oversees the Urban Office activities of the business.
Together, Braun and Lapin are seizing the opportunity created by the coronavirus pandemic to purchase and redevelop downtown properties, in the interests of growing the business and using their resources to expand their reach with the Jewish community.
“We buy these old buildings and make them cool,” Braun said.
The Urban Office lounge area
Spread across its operations in Houston, San Antonio and Austin, the company is looking for buildings that the market generally sees as demolitions, but which it believes are in fact well suited to what it describes as a reallocation of retail. experience-driven – a host of on-site amenities for the busy professional.
“People want to be able to get to their desks and come in and out,” Braun said.
It was during a lunch in an Italian restaurant a few months before the pandemic took hold last year that Rabbit got the business pitch from Braun.
“He didn’t make me an offer,” Lapin remembers. “He just said things are going well here. He basically told me the whole story of Braun and where Braun is now. I heard the whole story and he said, “Let’s keep in touch. “
Fast forward to the pandemic, and restaurants and bars inside Houston’s 610 Loop have been hit hard.
“I called Dan and said, ‘I wanted to check with you,’ and he mentioned this concept, Urban Office,” said Lapin, who joined the company in January. “He said, ‘This is our next big idea.’ “
Urban Office identifies distressed buildings that it can afford at a reasonable price, empties interiors, and divides the space into small offices that appeal to lawyers, realtors, insurance companies, and marketing firms.
The all-inclusive pricing model and amenities – from restaurants to hair salons to gyms – are an appeal, according to the team at Lapin, which makes Urban Office competitive against WeWork and other similar offerings on. the market.
“A lot of them were bought before COVID,” Rabbit said of the buildings. “Retail was hot, but a lot of people were running away from the office. That’s when Dan said, “We want a job. If he had waited six months we would still have been under construction and a lot of people would have returned to work and we would have missed the opportunity.
The success that Braun and Rabbit have had in commercial real estate has supported the philanthropy of Houston natives in the Jewish community.
“I’ve always been passionate about Houston and the Jewish community,” said Lapin. “My parents, grandparents, have always given of their time.
Among other things, he works with ReelAbilities, a local film festival supported by the Jewish Family Service that highlights people with disabilities who have done extraordinary things. It helps to review dozens of films and choose the best which are then shown at the festival. Lapin is also chairman of the Young Professionals Council of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Houston.
A member of the Beth Israel congregation, Rabbit, who is engaged, comes from a long line of former synagogue presidents.
“I’m a kind of a person when I focus on something, I literally do anything to get it done,” he said.
Braun, for her part, sees her philanthropy as a rite of passage, just as her father saw it and the family business since making its first industrial acquisition in 1989.
Since 2017, the Braun family has sponsored an annual trip to Israel for 10 faculty members from Emery / Weiner School.
“Jewish education is very important to our family,” said Braun, who has four children who attend Beth Yeshurun Day School.
“One of the things my father wanted to build, and we want to build, is advocacy for Israel. Hopefully through this trip there will be a better connection between the professors and their students and the importance of Israel in the community.