Vishaan Chakrabarti, Developer, Architect and Planner, Will Lead Columbia’s Expanded Real Estate Development Program

Sept. 9, 2009Bookmark and Share
Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation has named Vishaan Chakrabarti, an architect, former city planning official and executive vice president of design and planning at Related Companies, as the first full-time director of its real estate development program. The creation of the position—the program’s first endowed professorship—was made possible by a generous donation from alumnus Marc Holliday and his wife, Sheree Holliday.
Vishaan Chakrabarti talks about Columbia's real estate development program. (3:51)
“The search for the Holliday Professor was probably the most comprehensive in the architecture school’s history, with a set of exceptional candidates,” said Mark Wigley, dean of the school. “Vishaan brings an unprecedented ability to lead at all scales—program, to school, to university, to city, to nation, to globe. I regard him as an outstanding asset and I am very happy to have a person of such quality to match the highest aspirations of Marc Holliday’s extraordinary generosity.”
The creation of the Holliday Professorship is the cornerstone of a larger strategy to upgrade and expand the school’s real estate development program. Chakrabarti will oversee and refine the new three-semester curriculum, featuring a holistic emphasis on the acquisition of theoretical frameworks, practical core competencies, and advanced research abilities to prepare graduates for the challenges and opportunities of the real estate industry.
“This is a wonderful gift in support of the University—one that acknowledges Columbia’s position of leadership in a field so essential to New York, and further enhances the University’s role as an engine of innovative ideas for our city’s future,” said University President Lee C. Bollinger.
Among Chakrabarti’s immediate goals is to launch a search for the Paul Milstein Professor of Urban Development, the program’s second full-time faculty position, expand career services for students and raise capital funds for new facilities on the Columbia campus.
“Real estate today is at the epicenter of the forces shaping our world, be it the economy, the environment, the design of cities, or the planet’s irrevocable shift towards urbanization,” said Chakrabarti. “Columbia’s rigorous professional program—structured in the context of the world’s most innovative laboratory for architecture, planning and preservation—provides an unrivaled platform to tackle these pressing issues. Immersed in both the profession’s financial analytics and its allied arts, our students have a unique opportunity to become the optimistic, opportunistic and visionary developers our new world will require. It is my deep honor to accept the directorship and work with Dean Wigley during these pivotal times.”
Holliday, a 1990 graduate of the program, is chief executive of SL Green Realty Corp., a real estate investment trust that acquires, manages and repositions office properties. Under his leadership the company has grown to be the largest owner of commercial office properties in Manhattan.
“Under the leadership of Dean Wigley, Columbia’s real estate development program is moving aggressively to address a number of challenges arising in the real estate industry,” said Holliday. “In times like these, it is especially important to generate new ways of thinking and invest in the future of the profession. I am pleased that Vishaan Chakrabarti will play a key role in that effort as the program’s first full time director, and as a graduate of the program and benefactor, I am happy to be a part of it.”
From 2002 to 2005, Chakrabarti served as director of the Manhattan office of the city’s Department of City Planning. He gained approvals for the redevelopment of Manhattan’s Far West Side and Hudson Yards, directed the city’s design response to the reconstruction of Lower Manhattan and worked on the transformation of the High Line railway into a city park.
Chakrabarti has been an associate partner in the New York office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and a transportation planner with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. He holds a master’s degree in architecture from the University of California at Berkeley, a master’s degree in city planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and dual bachelor’s degrees in art history and engineering from Cornell.
He is leaving his position with Related Companies where he has led a number of major development efforts since 2005. At Columbia, he will continue his advisory and advocacy role on plans to redevelop Midtown’s Penn Station and expand it into a future Moynihan Station within the old Farley Post Office building across Eighth Avenue from the current facility.
Columbia’s master’s degree program in real estate development, now in its 23rd year, is part of a decades-long tradition of comprehensive education at the architecture school. The program focuses heavily on the importance of quality design and creative entrepreneurship throughout the development process. The expansion of the program, made possible by the Holliday donation, will facilitate even greater collaboration with other schools at Columbia, including its business school, enabling Columbia to strengthen its leadership role in delivering a well-rounded education in architecture, planning, preservation and real estate development.
The gift in support of the professorship and program counts toward the $4 billion Columbia Campaign, a University-wide fundraising effort launched in 2006. With more than $3.26 billion raised to date, the campaign is expected to conclude by the end of 2011.