(Editor’s note: Lehigh Valley Business this week named 18 people as the most influential on business in the region. This is one of the honorees.)
Mark Mulligan does not hail from a traditional background in commercial real estate. He grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and spent 10 years in Manhattan, where he earned a master's degree in opera from The Julliard School and was performing at night in the city.
But during the day, he began buying apartment buildings and slowly his love for commercial real estate development was nurtured.
He now lives in Frenchtown, N.J., not far from where his company, VM Development Group LLC has an office, with a second location in Easton.
It's the city by the Jersey border that Mulligan sees as the greatest untapped resource for development in the region. With a solid group of well-designed buildings with large windows, expansive storefronts and attractive, historic architecture, Mulligan has found adaptive reuse and redevelopment to be his company's forte.
He formed VM Development with business partner William Vogt in 2009 and soon after started work on Pomeroy's Lofts. It was the first big commercial project in the city in quite some time that took an older unused blighted property and transformed it into a commercial space with two active restaurants on the ground floor and upscale apartments on the floors above.
When he first spotted the site, Mulligan saw the opportunities the building offered and decided to split the structure in two parts to maximize its potential.
“My guiding principle is, do what's right for the building. If you do that, the rest falls into place,” Mulligan said. “The investor makes money for the firm. Everyone does really well when you do the right thing for the property.”
Since tackling the Pomeroy's Lofts project several years ago, and more importantly, seeing it through, Mulligan has demonstrated a commitment to the city's revitalization. And he also was bold enough to be among the first developers to take an active stance and invest in the city by taking on numerous projects. It's clear to see why Mulligan is one of the most influential business people in the Greater Lehigh Valley.
He was not content to rest on this one project and saw additional redevelopment opportunities. He bought several more Easton properties through his investors, including the Governor Wolf building, Alpha Building, National Building and the Silk Mill complex, the latter of which consists of more than 20 properties.
Work is underway to transform the historic Wolf building into 50 upscale residential units, ready for delivery by the fall. For the Silk Mill, construction on the buildings should start by May. It will be a multimillion dollar mixed-use project that has been in the works for years, including 150 residential units and multiple spaces for retail and artist users.
“I enjoy doing what I'm good at,” Mulligan said. “What I am good at is looking at a property and knowing what to do.”