When the Dog Catches the Bumper: An Interview with Jared Della Valle

architect-developer | architect as developer | architect & developer | alloy llc

In March 2013, BUILD interviewed Jared Della Valle in a two-part special. Jared Della Valle is the CEO and president of Alloy, LLC, an architecture and development company in Brooklyn, NY. BUILD is an industrious architecture company based in Seattle, WA. See the first part of the interview at arcadenw.org and the second part of the interview at blog.buildllc.com. See more articles and my own interview with Jared {here}.

In the interview, Jared describes his frustrations of the profession while starting his first business, Della Valle + Bernheimer, with his then partner Andrew Bernheimer. “Architects make all the decisions anyway, and they influence the process. They just never got paid for how hard they work.” His first few projects were typical for young offices who are still proving themselves to the world.

“In New York City, it’s so hard because everything is an interiors job. To get a new building is impossible. In construction management school, I had to take two business classes. One was just accounting, and the other was how to write a business plan. So I was working at the construction company, and we were starting our own work. We were on our third interiors project, and I was thinking to myself, this is not what I want to do, this is stupid. I don’t want to do interiors, I want to build something here in the city— and I didn’t want to wait.”

245 Tenth Avenue | Alloy LLC | Jared Della Valle | Architect & Developer | Architect as Developer | Architect Developer
245 Tenth Avenue. Designed and developed by Della Valle + Bernheimer.

Jared knew that architects have a difficult time looking for work. They generally have to wait until someone who is looking for a renovation or new building to come and find them. He just couldn’t sit around and wait for the phone to ring. Jared got a real estate broker and had him approach owners and inquire about purchasing their property. “He was older and looked the part. With him being in front of me, no one ever knew how young I was. So I just started putting offers on buildings, and I would force myself to write business plans for the deals I was looking at. When an offer would come in, I’d tell them to send it to my attorney. My attorney was a friend of mine, and I’d tell him to just sit on it while I wrote the business plan to get the cash. I’d get it all wrong because I never took any real estate classes. I was using all the wrong words; I didn’t know how to do the underwriting for it. I didn’t know how to do any of this.”

That never stopped Jared. He spent his days working on architecture at Della Valle + Bernheimer and his nights figuring out real estate. He would discover real deals that were happening around him and plug those numbers into an excel spreadsheet. He was reverse engineering the pro formas and trying to learn as much as he could along the way. He was still young and ambitious. “If you’re in your 20s or 30s and you’re unmarried, my advice is to work hard. You don’t have to get home early. You can balance having a social life and working really hard. You can focus on career choices and make long-term decisions.”

459 West 18th Street | Alloy LLC | Jared Della Valle | Architect & Developer | Architect as Developer | Architect Developer
459 West 18th Street. Designed and developed by Della Valle + Bernheimer.

Jared didn’t have money to become a developer on his own. He needed to hustle. He knew that in order to be relevant, he needed to be resourceful for other people. “It doesn’t matter what you are doing. If you don’t have the resources, figure it out. Ask a lot of questions. Go for it. Don’t worry about failure. There’s no other way but to get out there, be scrappy and get it done. Nobody is going to do it for you.”

Jared started putting deals together that he thought would work. He learned that it is the deal itself that is more important than anything else. Investors are looking for a place to make money, and Jared knew he needed to find the right deal to facilitate that. “You learn that great deals are very easy to finance, and okay deals are very hard to finance.”

459 West 18th Street | Alloy LLC | Jared Della Valle | Architect & Developer | Architect as Developer | Architect Developer
459 West 18th Street. Designed and developed by Della Valle + Bernheimer.

Once he started to figure out which deals were worth pursuing, he started approaching potential investors. But Jared didn’t start out by approaching the investors he thought would be best for the project. He knew that you only get one shot at this. He wanted to ensure that when he approached his best opportunity for an investment, that the deal was fully vetted. He began approaching investors that he thought would not have invested anyways, but could at least be exploited to bounce deals off of. “You learn from everybody else exactly what is wrong and what questions you should be ready to answer, so that you’re ready to go in and ask somebody who is actually going to write the check.” This gave Jared an opportunity to have someone else question the deals he was putting together and to refine the pro forma. He would go through this process before approaching the person he thought would truly invest. “The person that you’re most likely going to get the money from you show the deal last.”

Jared was now talking to investors about real projects that he wanted to put together. “I spent all my time networking with people, telling them that I’ve got this deal and do they want to invest? I explained that I’d do the architecture, which was great—no one ever questioned that I would be the architect.” Jared was spending his nights creating the deal and the potential project for the investor. He was putting in sweat equity on projects that may never happen. But he realized that was where his value was. He was able to do things on his own time that developers otherwise had to pay an architect for. He used his architecture as equity and approached investors with this mindset. “I would make a deal with someone and try to get a loan period, where my deposit wasn’t hard or I didn’t have a deposit while I was talking to investors. Then, I would try to put together the money for the deposit, and always offered to not take a penny during development. Investors were willing to overlook the fact that I didn’t have experience because I didn’t take any fees. I’m going to do everything and I’m going to invest it into the project. I wasn’t looking to just collect a check. I’d say, “I’ll get mine at the back end just like you. You put up the cash, I’ll do all the work, I’ll take nothing, and I’ll get my piece at the back.” This was very effective.”

See the first part of the original interview at arcadenw.org and the second part of the interview at blog.buildllc.com. See more articles and my own interview with Jared {here}.


Jared Della Valle has been a real estate professional and architect for more than 20 years and has managed the acquisition and predevelopment of more than 1 million sf in New York City along the Highline, In the Hudson Yards and in DUMBO, Brooklyn. Jared is the founder and CEO of Alloy, LLC.

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