Saturday, November 28, 2020 10:43 pm

Q&A with Craig Krumwiede, president and CEO of Harvard Investments

Craig and his wife Alison on a bike trip across Vietnam. /Photo provided by Craig Krumwiede

Rose Law Group Reporter

In this week’s continuing Q&A series we spoke with Craig Krumwiede, president and CEO of Harvard Investments, via email.

Harvard investment has become such an incredible driver in our real estate market. First, tell us the genesis of the company and your involvement?

After law school, I worked in international tax law at Deloitte & Touche. All my clients were real estate investors from other countries investing in the U.S., including the Hill family. The Hill Companies is a widely respected organization from Canada that has been in business over 100 years. I let them know I was considering joining a different firm and they said, “That’s great, but why don’t you join us, and if you don’t like it, you can go back to selling your time by the hour.”  I had just gotten married and bought a house. My wife Alison had a good job as an attorney, so we decided to take the risk and it has been a wonderful 36 years.

When I joined Harvard Investments 36 years ago, we were focused primarily on land investments. It wasn’t until the 1980s when I became president that we transitioned into full-fledged development — really out of necessity, because no one was interested in buying raw land at that time. It took a while to figure out all the complexities, but I dug in and found out it is something I am truly passionate about.

It seems like you were going gangbusters before the downturn doing master plans and now you’re doing that, but you also seem to have performing assets. What was your pivot during the economic chaos and it actually turn out to benefit you overall? And a blunt follow-up to that… was the economic downturn as bad for you as it did for the rest of the Arizona real estate players?

Prior to the downturn, we were incredibly busy with numerous projects. Right before the crash, we got lucky; people started making offers on our properties and we sold a significant portion of our portfolio. We still got hurt pretty badly, but I told Chris and my partners in Canada that this was a second-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so we bought a tremendous amount of land during the crash, enough to build 35,000 homes. It led to a lot of sleepless nights, but I have a great team and we all hung in there, believing we could keep our heads above water if we worked hard at it. We stayed extremely busy during the crash, seeing opportunities to get involved in other asset classes, including Waypoint, which we have since been able to pivot on. At the time, my brother Dave told me about the Waypoint land and said you’re the only one I know crazy enough to buy this right now. And we did. But it has turned out great and has been really fun working with my brother.

What is your favorite project that you’ve ever been involved in? If you can’t pick one let’s say what’s your favorite master plan and then what’s your favorite commercial project?

With each project, I take what I’ve learned and apply a little bit from the last project, and a little bit from my 36-year history and then try to add new and creative twists. I think about what the homeowner, builder or tenant would want, what the office employee would want, that would make them proud to live or work there. That’s the Harvard way, going above and beyond what is expected of the developer to create legacy projects that truly build up the community. Honestly, we work with great architects, planners, builders etc. so we can exceed the “requirements” in quality, infrastructure, and amenities – on projects like Talking Rock in Prescott, and Cadence at Gateway in Mesa – but that is what makes our developments succeed. We want the person who lives there to be just as proud of being a part of it as we are. We really get that what we build will likely affect generations of people. Most recently, we are really proud of the work we’ve done on Waypoint and Cadence at Gateway. These are two very different projects, but both help position Mesa in such a great way. They set a new bar in office and master planned development and demonstrate who Harvard is as a community partner

Ok so we have to ask as we understand you are incredibly well traveled. What is the craziest trip you ever took? What is the one place you recommend other people go that is a little off the beaten track? And what is your favorite place to visit? Oh, and then tell us something unique that you do in that favorite place. 

Alison and I try to take a bike trip every year or two. We have been in amazing places in the US, Canada, Europe and Asia. Our craziest trip was riding the roads of North Vietnam. It was an incredibly wonderful trip, sharing the roads with thousands of scooters and buses. The traffic rules were easy: Green means go, yellow means go, red means go – never hesitate. It’s amazing but it works! I would highly recommend a bike trip just about anywhere. The speed of it makes you see a place in a different way. You can see and smell what’s going on, it is literally right in your face, but you also cover a surprising distance in a relatively short time, meet local people and get such a great sense of a place.

While we have biked as far away as New Zealand, which is incredible, there is still no place like home and we really appreciate seeing so much of the United States. A few years ago, we biked RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa), a seven-day bike ride across that entire state, that as many as 10,000 people will participate in. My partner Chris and his wife Jan, as well as our counsel Jon Titus and his wife Laura rode with us. It was so cool to have townspeople line the streets as we rode by to cheer us on and hand out lemonade – or anything fried and with pork. It was like eating at the State Fair for a week!

Do you have the vibe of a guy who knows good food and wine? Let me clarify to say you look very in shape (you Do not appear to be a guy who ever over eats), but you just seem sophisticated in that sense. What is your favorite couple Arizona restaurants and what are your favorite meals? What about in the world?

In Arizona, we love to sit at the bar at Rancho Pinot Grill. Veneto Trattoria is also a favorite and we do like to eat at home. When traveling abroad, it has nearly always been the small local restaurants and eateries we stumble across on our bike trips, rather than the larger established restaurants. We find the most delicious, most memorable meals that way. To be able to enjoy those unknown spots with Alison in new places… that has made them my favorites.

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