The Change Order Group (COG) is a real estate developer and consultancy delivering an urgent technical response to the multiple crises affecting today’s global built environment and capital markets. The group is committed to providing simple and sound solutions for investors and developers to do the right thing by their assets, tenants, and the planet.
Why This Is Needed Immediately
It’s little secret that, relative to other industrial sectors, real estate has a disproportionately large impact on the health and well-being of the planet, its people, and global economic security. Despite this capacity to begin ameliorating the impacts of global warming or contravene racially and economically exclusionary housing policies, the majority of global real estate development (and North America, especially) is presently:
- Catastrophically unprepared for structural and fiscal asset risks posed by climate, shifting demography, public health, and social threats, recently evidenced by devastation created by climate events in Texas, wildfires in the western U.S., COVID-19, the lock-down, and riots across the country.
- Car-centered, ugly, ahistorical, uncomfortable, over-sized, lifeless, and disposable in its design and fabrication.
- Developed and operated in a way that prioritizes the maintenance of a bloated capital stack and capital market investment uniformity over optimal real estate/asset performance and common good (ESG).
- A debt-burdened, non-regenerative industrial sector that perpetuates historic cycles and systemic economic, cultural, and racial oppression and exploitation.
Our “businesses”*/what we’re selling:
- A standing, self-directed COG research and content body focused on aggregating and analyzing large bodies of economic, climate, policy, cultural, and AEC research and data. We will be publishing public facing content to disseminate timely and pertinent data, analysis, and trends.
- A COG consultancy that helps developers, investors, underwriters, and other real estate stakeholders directly apply our data research to their assets, whether application is high-level investment decisions or developing building-specific systems.
- A COG real estate development company that’s able to directly execute on our data-derived, reason-and-research-based programmatic interventions on new and existing developments. This arm is intended to JV with other developers committed to preparing their assets for present and/or potential threats to their asset stability.
*Using lean management and emergent pattern principles, each business acts as an on-demand entity, made up of highly-vetted, autonomous partners working toward a coordinated effort.
Our Built Product: The Minimum Viable Development (MVD)
From our research body, we will be developing a full-suite data analytic, policy, financing, development, construction, operation, activation, and underwriting protocol. The protocol is an adaptable system used to prepare the world’s presently unprepared built environments for the profoundly destabilizing market and environmental forces that will dictate how the remainder of the 21st century unfolds for humankind. We call this protocol the Minimum Viable Development (MVD).
The MVD protocol will take new and existing real estate assets and ready them for the future —or ready for the present, as the case may be.
An MVD asset means every aspect of its development and operations is done in accordance with robust economic and environmental data; that it’s built and planned with social and ecological integrity; and that it incorporates global design and technological best-practices. MVDs are designed as the built structures that enable and encourage universal health, happiness, and social justice.
The COG consultancy and/or development arm works with global partner investors, developers, policymakers, and other real estate stakeholders in select climate-stable regions, helping them incorporate the MVD protocol into their existing or new developments. In order to maximize asset utility and stability, the protocol “stacks” multiple programs onto one site and COG acts as the command center for programmatic implementation. Examples of MVD interventions in our suite include rehab protocols for deep resilience and Passive House-level efficiency; design and engineering systems for food, energy, water, and waste into new or existing buildings and sites; master-planning for large-scale retrofits and re-programming of lagging assets (e.g. commercial and hotel to mixed-use retrofits).*
Post-deal, we provide continuous access to our scalable solutions, drawn from the top people and tech in the world.
MVDs fill the large technological and social gaps created by status quo developers and retrogressive policy. We see them as providing their owners and users economic, ecological, and existential firmament to build a new society.
*Our main focus right now is multifamily, multi-unit, mixed-use, and hotel development, but the protocol has commercial applicability as well.
The COG OG’s (Team)
(In reverse alphabetical order)
Issi Romem, Big Data
Anyone with a passing interest in real estate economics probably knows Issi–aka Dr. Issi Romem. Currently heading his own research consultancy, MetroSight, Issi was previously Chief Economist of Trulia and Senior Director of Housing & Urban Economics at Zillow. He is a longtime fellow at UC Berekely’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation and has been published and quoted far and wide.
I first ran across Issi a few years ago when the YIMBY movement was taking off. His name and research kept showing up as the main engine driving that and many of the most important real estate economic stories of the past five years. Issi was the first person I contacted about COG in 2019.
Besides getting to know Issi as a man of high character and profound intellectual capabilities, I wanted Issi involved because I saw his research being ignored time and again. He did a superlative job giving an overview of the absurd way in which American real estate is developed, about the need to innovate in construction, and a lot more. He presented clear messages, backed by robust data and rigorous thinking, and the real estate industry did little, nothing, or the opposite.
Though there’s been some twists and turns in getting COG off the ground, Issi has maintained our mutual interest in answering the trillion dollar question: what if the data and research were applied to actual real estate development and investment, instead of being ignored or being a project side note?
As we have it, Issi and his team will be leading up the big-data research entity with a focus on climatic and economic migratory patterns. This body will drive public and private research projects, shape our product suite, and dictate testable hypotheses for high level real estate development and investment decisions. @issiromem
Greg Lindsay, Climate and Policy
Greg Lindsay is a lover of questions, information, connections, and intellectual rabbit holes. This love has made him a super-connector of people and projects at the vanguard of multiple sectors including urban development, climate policy, mobility, and housing affordability. Professional highlights include his current gig at NewCities as their Director of Applied Research; he was also a senior fellow of MIT’s Future Urban Collectives Lab and a visiting scholar at New York University’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy & Management. While marginally relevant to the COG endeavor, it should be noted Greg is a two-time Jeopardy! champion and the only human to go undefeated against IBM’s Watson in that competition.
Greg has been on my radar for years, but really came to my attention after hosting a NewCities’ Affordable Housing Summit in 2019. He did an amazing job of keeping the content relevant, the energy high, and the crowd packed with (mostly) sane, intelligent people actually working in sectors responsible for producing affordable policy and affordable housing. He did the unthinkable: he made a conference filled with largely institutional players feel relevant and productive.
He repeated this feat recently with NewCities’ Higher Ground Conference, which was one of the first non-academic conferences I know of that treated climate migration for the massive market and existential threat it is.
Greg is our ears and eyes to the world of policy and innovation, with a strong focus on climate justice and economics. He’ll likely be working with Issi in shaping our research questions and generally keeping the project on top of the news. @Greg_Lindsay
Thomas Kosbau, Master-Planning, Systems Design
Thomas has his own post, so I won’t spend much time repeating my enthusiasm for having him in the group. Thomas and his shop ORE Design, have consistently championed designing and developing large-scale, future-focused, culturally and environmentally resilient projects with grassroots and institutional clients alike.
The project of his that most captured my imagination was the DeKalb Outdoor Market–the temporary container “third space” combining retail, community events and programming, and agriculture, set up on the site that later became City Point Brooklyn. I was only able to visit once, since there were always lines to get in, especially on summer nights.
I give a lot of credit for track record. When other architects were focused on affixing their name and cashing out on one of downtown Brooklyn’s countless as-of-right towers, he chose a humble but programmatically dense and productive project that made downtown Brooklyn worth living in.
Thomas will be building out the AEC aspect of our research and MVD product suite. He’ll be doing this while applying that research through our development arm, creating unique architectural and system programs for existing and new developments. @ORE_Design
Matt Hoffman, Capital Guy
Matt perhaps is the most intrepid soul of our team. Whereas the rest of us have our own funky brands and universes, Matt is in the trenches transforming the reflexively conservative world of institutional investing and development.
Based in the DC area, his decades of real estate industry experience include serving as Vice President of Innovation for Enterprise Community Partners, Inc., a national real estate financial services platform serving the affordable housing sector. In that role, he built an investment portfolio of housing technology companies and led the launch of an online impact investing brokerage. He later founded and currently runs his own early-stage VC shop, HousingTech Ventures, focused on innovative solutions for increasing housing health, affordability, availability, and attainability.
I was introduced to Matt by our mutual friend Atticus, and in him I found one of the few VCs–and certainly real estate/proptech VCs–whose attention was set on meaningful problems. Frankly, he was one of the few investors who was willing to talk to me at all, since I want to shift a lot of the decision-making and financial upside from investors to the people who are building and operating real estate.
It’s my observation that many deals and investments are burdened by the payroll that includes a dozen junior or mid-level investment officers–ones that collectively do what someone of Matt’s capabilities can do much better by himself. Moreover, those same dozen junior officers will often hire Matt to consult about value-add innovation and by-design market-rate affordable housing. But oftentimes by the time a project has a big team and consultant on their pay roll, affordability (by any means) becomes nearly impossible.
I figured it was more efficient to have Matt from the get-go. He can help us find the most direct, logical, and lean paths to capitalization and fiscal sustainability, and we then pass on the savings to our partners, investors, and consumers!
Matt will be heading up COG’s relationships with our various institutional partners, which includes investor relations, corporate, nonprofit, and municipal partnerships, and thought leadership in those domains. @housing_tech LinkedIn
David Friedlander (Me), Omniscient Narrator/CEO
I’ll keep it brief since the caliber of my company says better things about me than I can for myself. I am also aware how many words pictures speak and have chosen my pictures carefully.
I’ll use a little space to state that I am confident in my capabilities to lead and work alongside this group, who I consider to be the world’s best and brightest thinkers and doers.
And I’ll also confess what I blurted out on a team call the other day: “I’m out to save the planet.”
Large populations and parts of the planet are dying or being left for dead. There’s still a lot of beauty in the world, and I’m doing–and will continue to do–everything in my power to preserve and grow the things worth saving.
Someone has to do it…like forty years ago.
Based on the team assembled here, and the scope of our collective ambition, I feel we are more likely to fulfill on this ambition than any existing public or private entity. @deepfriedlander @thechangeorder
Darrick Borowski, Placemaking/Design Strategy
I’ve known Darrick Borowski the longest of anyone on the team. We met through our respective love of urban living, space efficiency, high design, and Phish. He was–and continues to be–a professor at the School for Visual Arts (SVA). When we first met, he was working at Jordan Parnasse Digital Architecture (JPDA), where Darrick had done some amazing micro-housing design.
Darrick later struck out on his own with ARExA Architecture, which, like Thomas’ work, had a focus on whole systems design and deep resilience. One of ARExA’s main clients was WeWork and he later was brought on-board as their global Design Chief of Staff.
I’ve always been a fan of Darrick, even when I was critical of WeWork’s business model and culture. He was the main force behind WeLive. As problematic as both of us think that project is, it is also awesome on so many levels. Darrick managed to incorporate a lot of ideas most architects dream about in terms of maximizing space use and user experience. Had the economics been a little different, I would have loved to live there.
More than anything, Darrick is a true creative who gives a shit about using design to make the world and peoples’ lives better. He has spent his career researching and designing for ways in which the built environment can be used to foster vibrant lives and communities. Darrick will bring his unrivaled depth of academic, applied design, and construction experience to the MVD product offering and work with the COG consultancy and development arms on implementation. @dborowsk
Starcity/Jon Dishotsky, Partner Developer
A big part of our plan is establishing partnerships with future/reality-friendly developers. These developers are ideally ones who’ve already made progress in tackling systemic issues in the marketplace. Jon and Starcity are that. With $75M raised, their recent acquisition of Ollie, and thousands of units under development and/or management, Starcity is proving itself as both the top co-living owner/operator, and an emerging power-player in the overall low-to-medium-income urban multifamily/mixed-use development marketplace.
Starcity has always been focused on using design and technology to make urban housing and cities more human and accessible. While a huge portion of the rental market is suffering, co-living–with its built in sociability and flexibility–has remained strong in the midst of the lock-down. With the shifting nature of work, retail, and entertainment, people are spending more time and expecting more from their housing. Starcity’s community-focus gives people the thing people the thing they want the most: connection with other humans.
Starcity brings to the COG offering a refined and vetted residential design and operation platform and partner that can be layered onto our systems. With Starcity, COG brings an end-to-end design and operation team that can work with other partner investor and developers on developing new and existing assets.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Jon has become a trusted friend over the past few years, and the last year in particular. Like most of the team, Jon has seen and supported me through some tough life events. He’s lent me friendship and confidence when I was an industry pariah (read: this morning). He’s seen me through a lot and I am confident this depth of relationship will help our development efforts. @jondiskhosky @startcity
Where We Are At and What We Need
With our roster set, and our pre-seed plans gelled enough to receive investment capital, we are going live. What this means:
- We are raising a seed round for a two-year runway to build our various verticals out and get to black. Though we are open to any investor who appreciates what we’re doing, an ideal investor might have a strategic pipeline of projects on which we can apply our research; this might include large and medium regional developers; underwriters; and institutional ESG and real estate investors.
- We are accepting inquiries from partner developers for site development along the lines of the MVD protocol. Our main focus is the West Coast and Pacific Northwest but we are open to other markets in and out of North America.
- General inquiries from strategic partnerships with serious developers, startups, and aligned parties.
- Media and speaking engagements.
For investor, media, and partnership inquiries, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
David Friedlander, Chief COG