REFA Honors Karp and Fischman of New England Development at Annual GalaOctober 12, 2017 - By Michael Walsh
BOSTON–It is a distinguished award bestowed to those who have given back through community service, charity and outstanding contributions to the real estate industry; and for nearly thirty years its many recipients have played major roles in pioneering neighborhoods and commercial developments throughout the Bay State and beyond.
Stephen Karp and Steven Fischman (aka the two Steve’s) of New England Development were honored with the 2017 Robert S. Swain, Jr Distinguished Service Award from the Real Estate Finance Association at the Boston Marriott Copley Place. It is an endowment that Karp is privileged to be associated with. “I’m extremely happy to be given an award named after somebody that we all [in the industry] inspire to be like.” Karp furthered his admiration of Swain as he [jokingly] recalled a conversation decades ago between the two regarding investing in Route 495. “We talked about 495 and the Mass Pike and how I thought it would finally come together … as we looked at investing in 140 acres - Bob Swain said, “I’m not sure if (495) is an investment or a liability.” Karp humbly reflected upon the business advice and conversations from Swain as being a privilege and a mentor.
The Karp and Fischman duo began about twenty-five years ago; when Fischman was a Partner at the Boston law firm, Goulston & Storrs, and Stephen Karp was in need of a leader to help take the company to the next level. Industry legacy, Bill McCall recalled (via video honoring the two) the day he received a call from Karp inquiring about Steven Fishman, and his intermediary role in their partnership, “He said, “Hey Bill, you know Steve Fishman … I’m thinking of bringing him out, making him a partner, what do you think of the idea?” I said, geez Steve, I think that would be terrific - you’re a developer, frequently developers shoot from the hip and Steve Fischman is a very disciplined professional, knows real estate - I think it would be great … two days later I get a call from Fischman, “Hey Bill, Steve Karp asked me to come out and work with him, what do you think?” … It really sounded like a great marriage and that’s what it turned out to be,” grinned, McCall.
Like most long-term partnerships, their idiosyncrasies have a way of developing nicknames and sarcasm to keep the relationship light and long-lasting. Fischman says they have individual roles and personalities, which makes their alliance successful, and sees himself as the clean-up crew. “Steve (Karp) is often the creative force and I’m filling in the details at the end … I described him as “pig-pen” he’d go forward and create this cloud of dirt behind him and I’d be the guy coming from behind and cleaning it up,” quipped Fischman.
Their relationship has seen them develop dozens of malls in New England, starting with the Liberty Tree Mall in Danvers, in 1972. “I think we built nearly fifty percent of all the closed malls in New England during (about) a twenty-five year period, Karp proudly proclaimed. But their footprint is not restricted to the region. New England Development’s retail success has evolved and branched throughout the country, with malls operating on both coasts, North and South. “They’re not afraid to go anyplace if they’ve got a good idea,” lauds McCall. As for one of their proudest projects, back home in Massachusetts, at the Pine Hills in Plymouth, both Steve’s eagerly speak of their successful lifestyle communities. “We’ve created a living environment … we have three golf courses on three thousand acres … we run a supermarket there, I’m very proud of the Pine Hills,” Fischman buzzed. A partnership that he also thanks REFA for acknowledging. “I consider it an honor that REFA chose to honor me with Steve … there is a part of me that says he may be more experienced and more deserving than I am, but I think we’ve been an awesome team,” he humbly added.”
Yet with all their career success stories shared about the “two Steve’s, the most repeated accolades at the REFA Awards Dinner were in regards to their altruistic commitments. “They are devoted, philanthropic, and they’re visionaries,” affirmed, Industry Veteran and U.S. Head of Capital Markets for NGKF, Robert Griffin. “They’ve had major roles in two of the world’s best hospitals, with Mass General and Children’s … they’re amazing people,” Griffin asserted.
As Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Boston’s Children’s Hospital, Stephen Karp was commended for his visionary contribution to the renowned healthcare facility by its President and CEO, Sandra Fenwick. “Over the last three decades, Steve has truly transformed the master plan at Boston Children’s … he has been such a gift … and Steve Fischman has also been an incredible contributor to this community, whether it is in healthcare at Partners or over at Newton-Wellesley - the two of them are an amazing partnership,” she honored, via video.
On a night when five hundred, plus professionals gathered to honor the development duo’s past performances, Stephen Karp and Steven Fischman couldn’t help but envision the future - after all, that is what they do. “We’re not done, we have projects beginning in airports, we have malls that are being transformed … bricks and mortar are here but there is a force to change, which ignites opportunity,” claimed Karp.
Perhaps the most endearing and well-aligned commendation of the evening came from one of the industries legends and past Swain honoree, Bill McCall, on the duo. “They’ve given back, given back a lot, and we’ve all benefitted greatly by it.”
On an evening well chronicled by the generations of developments, dozens of malls, and decades of enrichment from the team of Karp and Fischman, it can be summarized as a night when the real estate masses gathered to honor the visionary duo, who championed as one for the Distinguished Service Award.
To View photos of the 2017 REFA Gala, Click Here.