ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Gary Goodman has always built things.
Even as a kid in suburban Chicago, he knew how to put hammers and saws to good use.
“I had all these animal habitats and built elaborate cages and things for (animals),” Goodman says from his office at One Sun Plaza, the Albuquerque headquarters for Goodman Realty Group. “(I) just always liked building stuff.”
His craftsmanship became his livelihood after college. He spent his 20s designing and building furniture, developing a national reputation. By the late 1970s, he says, “there probably wasn’t a contemporary furniture store in the country that didn’t have something that I designed or made.”
But then he turned his focus to bigger projects.
The son of a Chicago real-estate mogul, Goodman began remodeling and restoring old homes around Chicago in the 1970s. When the condo market tanked, he started turning old lofts into office space and art showrooms. He later moved into shopping centers.
He partnered with his father on some projects but describes his own approach as more hands-on and aesthetically driven.
“I’ve just kind of extended the furniture thing: make (a property) pretty, and people will like it,” he says.
It was natural beauty – and, OK, the skiing – that drew Goodman to New Mexico.
He bought his first house here in 1983 and gradually concentrated his professional activities in the Land of Enchantment. His company now owns about 2 million square feet of office, retail and hospitality property around the state.
His highest-profile projects include Hotel Andaluz in Downtown Albuquerque – a onetime Hilton that Goodman shepherded through a $30 million renovation – and the sweeping redevelopment effort at Winrock. Goodman’s long-term vision for Winrock Town Center includes shopping but also more than 1,000 residences, a hotel with conference facilities and a centralized, two-acre park with a lake.
Q: What were your interests growing up?
A: Sports, girls. Those were my main interests. I had always been interested in animals. And gardening – always had big gardens and lots of animals.
Q: Was your dad a developer too?
A: He started out as a retailer and then got into shopping-center acquisition and development.
Q: What kind of retail did he do?
A: He started out in Army surplus after World War II and developed the first chain of discount stores in the Midwest. It was Goodman’s Community Discount department stores. He was like a big star when I was a kid. He had television shows, about 40 shopping centers with his stores in them. He started acquiring other chains. He was known throughout the city.
Q: What attracts you to a development project?
A: Well, right now, at this point, I’m able to pick things I think will have community impact, and I very much enjoy taking the experience I’ve had in much larger markets and bringing things new to New Mexico.
Q: How did you end up here?
A: My dad had purchased a property here in the ’60s and in the early ’70s, I came out here to help him renovate the project. We still have it; it’s (at) the corner of Menaul and Carlisle. … It was like my first exposure. Then, after college, I was living in my VW bus. I traveled the country for seven or eight months and came through New Mexico and I was just very attracted to it. Then, by the early ’80s, I was a very serious skier and fell in love with Taos. (In) ’83, I got a home in Santa Fe, just started having business interests here, started acquiring property. (I) loved the culture, the people and the outdoors here.
Q: What is the biggest difference between development in Chicago and Albuquerque?
A: The differences are so vast. (laughs) It’s hard to pick which would be the biggest. I liked it here because it’s a place that has a tremendous amount going for it, and an opportunity to really add to that.
Q: What’s been the biggest challenge associated with redeveloping Winrock?
A: The biggest challenge is getting tenants interested in Albuquerque. There’s not a big economic story to tell. Very weak private sector, very slow job growth. As long as the federal government was adding jobs in recessions, Albuquerque looked good. As soon as the federal government started subtracting jobs, Albuquerque looked really bad, because the private sector is so anemic. So now we have the task before us of creating a private sector.
Q: Seems like you’ve had some momentum there.
A: We have. We have very good momentum now. It’s been hard to develop, but Nordstrom Rack signing their lease, DSW (signing on), now Sports Authority is going to open a new flagship store at the property. Ulta signed a lease, and we have some extremely exciting things in the offing. … Dave & Buster’s is going to open (this week). BJ’s is just mobbed all the time, just crowded all the time, and (Regal Cinemas Winrock Stadium 16 is) one of the top-grossing movie theaters in the country. It’s right near the top. It’s an amazing thing.
Q: What is the best compliment you’ve ever received?
A: The best compliment is that Falko Steinbach at the university (of New Mexico) composed an original piece of music in my honor. I’d say that’s the best compliment I’ve ever gotten. I was really very impressed. … He wrote a composition in my honor and called it “A Beautiful, Restless Mind,” so I guess that’s the greatest compliment I’ve ever gotten. He’s an immensely talented composer with a worldwide reputation.
Q: What are your pet peeves?
A: Not striving for perfection and not watching the details.
Q: What is your perfect way to spend a day off?
A: So many perfect ways: With my horses, kite-boarding, and with my children and new granddaughter.
Q: What is one food you can’t live without?
A: Probably baba ghanoush, good baba ghanoush. I’m a vegetarian.
Q: What was your last splurge?
A: It was probably the hotel. (laughs)
Q: Those projects always cost more than you expect, don’t they?
A: Especially when you’re doing something that’s a personal statement. That’s a setup to get carried away. Whenever developers fall in love with the bricks, they get in trouble.
Q: What would you do with an extra hour every day?
A: More cardiovascular activity and maybe I’d learn to meditate, which I think I’m singularly incapable of doing.
Q: How would you describe yourself in three words?
A: A detail-oriented perfectionist. I think everybody would agree with that. All the people that I drive crazy on a daily basis would support that.
One on One
with Gary Goodman
One on One
with Gary Goodman