Jaime and Garrett Lee on Jamison’s Development Pipeline of 6,100 Multifamily Units

Jaime and Garrett Lee on Jamison’s Development Pipeline of 6,100 Multifamily Units
The Sawyer in Koreatown.

Jaime & Garrett Lee
Jaime Lee is chief executive of Jamison Realty Inc., and Garrett Lee is president of Jamison Properties

Founding: Founded by their father, physician David Lee, the company is family-owned.
Current multifamily portfolio: More than 4,000 units
Pipeline: 2,100 units under construction and 4,000 in development

Koreatown-based Jamison has had a busy few years. The company, founded by physician David Lee, started with a focus on office spaces but in recent years has been developing multifamily properties in Koreatown and nearby markets.
To date, it has delivered more than 4,000 units and has more than 6,000 additional units that are either under construction or in development.
The business is now run by Lee’s children, including Jaime Lee, who oversees leasing, and Garrett Lee, who manages development.

You’ve had a lot of projects open during the pandemic. What has the reception to the properties been, and how has the lease-up gone?
JL: We’ve had a significant turnaround. I really felt one of the benchmarks we were working toward was a lot of offices were going to call back their employees around June 1 … but then the delta variant hit and stalled a lot of companies’ return-to-work plans. Regardless of that … we’ve seen a tremendous increase in the leasing demand. Starting at the end of March, early April, we saw people coming back, and throughout the summer it’s been incredibly busy. We were pretty much at 100% occupancy at the first 10 buildings that we opened … and about 90% occupancy on four of the latest projects that we’ve had open, the most recent deliveries.

GL: It’s almost better occupancy than pre-pandemic.

JL: It is.

A lot of your properties are in Koreatown. How has that market fared during the pandemic?
JL: It’s exceptionally strong. That’s where the vast majority of our activity is concentrated. Hollywood is a little bit slower, but it’s picked up significantly, and we’re over 90% at our Hollywood project, and in downtown, at our Circa project, we’re 100% occupied.

Are there any other markets you are interested in moving forward?
JL: We have eight construction starts this year alone. … Two of those are in the Westside … and we will also be breaking ground soon in East Hollywood. Those are the new areas. We are expanding our development footprint.

Has Covid impacted the way you look at properties?
GL: We’ve always done adaptive reuse from office to residential, and now with Covid, we are looking at a few more of those. The office market hasn’t bounced back yet. For new properties, we haven’t changed too much in how we design our buildings.

JL: The drive toward amenity-rich buildings is clear. … There aren’t Covid-specific things that we’re building into these projects, but we are providing great amenities that make the communities great places to live.

How have rent collections been?
JL: They are still pretty strong. The state taking over rental assistance has made a significant difference. … A lot of people are back to work, too, so we have seen an uptick in the actual payments and less of a need to rely on (the Emergency Rental Assistance Program). Since the state took over, we’ve seen a lot more payments unlocked to the tenants who qualify.

What’s next for Jamison?
JL: We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing. We still have a robust development pipeline and are looking at five to eight construction starts every calendar year … and delivery of five to eight buildings every calendar year.

GL: The market is still really strong and stronger for multifamily. It’s still a great place to invest in. We’re going to continue what we’re doing on the multifamily side.

JL: There’s still a housing shortage. It’s important to figure out how we can clear roadblocks and develop multifamily.

— Hannah Madans

Keep reading the 2021 Who's Who in Real Estate special report.

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