ULI NY features ‘Five Minutes With’ Martin Dunn, Founder and President of Dunn Development Corp. He talks about his father and the influence of his advice, his favorite NY Landmark, and Navy Green in Brooklyn – a finalist in the Housing category for the Awards for Excellence.
Who was the most influential person who left a mark on your career and what was the best advice he or she gave you?
My father, Raymond Dunn, had the biggest influence on my career. He always encouraged us to take initiative and if we saw something that needed to be done, to go ahead and do it and not assume someone else would. But he especially encouraged us to take risks. He was an All American athlete in three sports in high school and later coached my siblings and me in youth sports and so there were lots of sport analogies – about how you have to strike out if you want to hit a home run and how you miss 100% of the shots you never take (from Wayne Gretzky). He applied all of those concepts to the life and career advice he gave. I never became very good at hitting a baseball, but I did risk all of my summer and college job earnings to start my first business when I was 19 and a sophomore in college. And I’ve taken significant risks throughout my career – such as starting Dunn Development Corp. on my own with no financial partner or backer. It becomes harder psychologically to take big risks when you have more to lose (even when you are more able to afford to lose), and so when you are young and early in your career it is especially the time to take risks and develop that as a habit.
What is your favorite building in New York that isn’t one of yours and why?
Grand Central Terminal is my favorite, both because of the beauty of the architecture – from the grandeur of the Main Concourse and the Sky Ceiling to the more intimate spaces like the Whispering Gallery – and because of how it functions. It is a public crossroads where commuters, tourists, locals coming for a meal, people like me just walking through and even the homeless looking for a dry and warm place to sit for a bit are all together. It is crowded but never feels unpleasant (I can’t say the same for other public crossroads like Times Square) which I think has a lot to do with the architecture. Whenever I take the subway to midtown east for meetings I always walk through the Terminal; it seems to be a shortcut to everywhere and a hub of everything. When I see tourists taking pictures it reminds me to look up and appreciate the beauty of this public space that is so easy to take for granted.
What makes you most proud of your ULI NY Awards finalist?
I am most proud that together with our partners L+M Development Partners and IMPACCT Brooklyn (formerly Pratt Area Community Council) we were able to create a truly integrated and highly successful mixed-income, mixed-tenure and mixed-use development at Navy Green that has brought a wide range of people today from the formerly homeless to market rate homeowners and everyone in between and has created a thriving new community. By combining top notch design and construction with community planning and a public private partnership, Navy Green was broadly accepted by both the community and the market, enabling us to achieve our socially conscious mission goals and our financial ones at the same time.