“Art, design and architecture all work together and play important roles in our projects,” said Keith Rubenstein of his lucrative real estate empire, Somerset Partners. But the company reaches far beyond development. What started as a business concentrated on the apartment sector in smaller markets has since transitioned into a global venture—functioning as an equal parts real estate private equity and investment firm, as well as a development, operations and management company. But it’s more than an innovative business model that sets Somerset Partners apart from other real estate developers; it’s the constant and meticulous influence of Rubenstein’s aesthetic and artistic sensibility that gives each project a unique identity.
It makes sense; Rubenstein and his wife, Inga, are avid art collectors with several hundred pieces by many contemporary artists.
“We own pieces by the usual suspects like Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons. We also collect lesser-known emerging artists,” said Rubenstein of the impressive collection he and his wife, Inga, have curated. As such, Rubenstein makes sure that all of Somerset Partners’ projects emulate his superior standard of art, design and architecture.
Rubenstein’s 450 Park Avenue is arguably his most notable project and is home to Phillips de Pury & Company auction house. This project excels from both an artistic and architectural standpoint.
“[It’s] the perfect example of how art and real estate relate to each other,” Rubenstein said of the property. “When we purchased 450 [Park Avenue,] we felt the building—despite its great architecture and location—lacked an identity. This was mainly due to how the retail space was configured and occupied. We managed to assemble a world-class retail space with amazing light and visibility. At around the same time, Russian friends of mine purchased Phillips de Pury & Company. I went to Moscow and presented the opportunity of them moving to 450 Park Avenue. They recognized this as an opportunity to enhance their brand and capture market share. They are a perfect user for our building, and we have now positioned 450 [Park Avenue] as one of the top office buildings in the city.”
While 450 Park Avenue is certainly a standout property, it is not the company’s only success. Somerset Partners boasts an ever-increasing list of esteemed properties around the world; 1801 K Street in Washington, D.C. is one such example. The building is a modern, glass façade office building with timeless architecture that is a bold, yet still a non-abrasive addition to Washington’s most prestigious row of lobbying and law offices.
“1801 K [Street] was another important project and showcased our development skills,” said Rubenstein of the triumphant redesign. The structure was completely undertaken and transformed into a glimmering, high-performance trophy class building using a very innovative technique. “1801 K [Street] is a unique piece of property centrally located only four blocks from the White House. We undertook a very aggressive, complicated and difficult complete renovation. What made it most unique was the entire building was rebuilt while it was 80 percent occupied. I’m not sure if such a complicated repositioning was ever done in an occupied building and not sure it will ever be done again. The plan, design and execution were a huge success.” The innovative nature of the approach does not stop with the construction process. The composition of the White House’s new neighbor was incredibly eco-conscious; diverting a significant amount of construction material from landfills while boosting the building’s overall sustainability.
Somerset Partners’ most recently completed project, One Sandy Lane, is of a completely different nature than 1801 K Street, but is breathtakingly exquisite in its own right.
“One Sandy Lane, as the name implies, is one of the most special residential projects in the Caribbean, if not the world,” said Rubenstein of this obvious labor of love in Barbados. “I have never seen a project built with this high of a level of materials, craftsmanship, or detail on the market. In addition, it is a unique piece of beachfront real estate in Barbados, one of the most sophisticated and safe of the Caribbean islands. You have something really special, literally fit for a king.”
One Sandy Lane, which has eight stunning condominium residences, is situated in St. James, on Barbados’ Platinum Coast. It comes as no surprise that the aesthetically astute group tapped a local architect to create the concept for the project, allowing for a ravishing design that organically fits into the landscape and surroundings.
“These residences are a combination of architectural sophistication and master craftsmanship,” Rubenstein said. “The exquisite residences are surrounded by immaculate— better described as magical—tropical gardens overlooking the clear blue waters of the Caribbean Sea.” Always a cut above, the luxuries expand beyond the superior quality of the building and include a vast list of amenities and world-class service.
Rubenstein, who says the most important life lesson he learned while building his business is that credibility is everything, waited until the One Sandy Lane project was “150 percent” complete to commence marketing, which began in early November.
“They are finished completely and simply need furniture. Unlike most ‘for sale’ developments, this building has been crafted as fine as any custom home in the world. No expense was spared. As such, a purchaser would not need to perform any renovations but simply decorate and move in.” The units are each around 9,000 square-feet and priced between $20 million and $26 million.
“Do as you say you will and be passionate and dedicated,” Rubenstein said. He is, if nothing else, both passionate and dedicated in all areas of his life. Whether it is his commitment to living a healthy lifestyle—10 cups of tea daily, 45 minutes of jump rope and daily weight training sessions–his devotion to his family, enthusiasm for travel and fine dining, or his unwavering commitment to each project he undertakes, Rubenstein is undoubtedly devoted to anything he sets out to accomplish.
It is only appropriate that Rubenstein lends the same devotion to personal projects. He is nearly four years deep in a complete restoration and modernization of a remarkable Beaux-Arts limestone mansion on the Upper East Side that he and his wife and children will soon call home. Concurrently, Rubenstein is working on plans to launch an international residential sales and marketing firm under the Somerset Partners umbrella. “I’m the same person in and out of business. I enjoy everything I do and have never been bored,” he said.