The legendary developer spoke at Inman Connect about his motivations for doing business.

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Developer Don Peebles has built one of the biggest real estate empires in the nation, but like any businessman, he’s made some mistakes along the way.

One of those was listening to consultants instead of real estate agents, he said during an Inman Connect interview with Kofi Nartey in New York on Wednesday.

When deciding how to price his buildings, most of his advice comes from institutional advisors — who frequently miss the mark because they don’t know the market as well as agents.

“You leave so much money on the table because they’re not on the ground and they’re not selling to the consumer,” he said. “I’ve learned to listen to the brokers who have boots on the ground in pricing our properties.”

It’s just one of the lessons Peebles has learned in his storied decades-long career, which isn’t slowing down as he seeks to create the tallest skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere on Manhattan’s West Side dubbed “Affirmation Tower.”

If built, the tower would be the first women-built, Black-owned skyscraper in the world, landmarks Peebles said should have been already passed years ago.

“All of those things should have happened many years ago,” he said.

The building is part of Peebles quest to support an economy that looks more like the United States — an essential step if America wants its capitalistic democracy to remain, he said on Wednesday.

“We’re in a capitalistic democracy, so the pillars of our democracy rest on capitalism,” he said. “And in order for this democracy to endure we have to have one that is equitable and fair, because the more people that are left out of this capitalistic democracy, the less likely people are to buy into it moving forward.”

Part of this process involves being upfront about the challenges faced by non-male and non-white businesspeople, he said.

“We have to recognize that women and people of color have had an unfair obstacle in front of them, an unlevel playing field,” he said.

The developer says what motivates him this far into his career is the desire to make waves, something he credits to his upbringing in Washington D.C., where capital was second to political power.

“What I’m motivated to do is to do my part to make our society more equitable,” he said. “I really wanted to be a transformer, from an early age.”

Email Ben Verde

Inman Connect
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