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Getting a piece of the action

Homecoming real estate broker provides services to Grove Hall area

Karen Morales
Getting a piece of the action
Karriem van Leesten’s Boston office is in Grove Hall, not far from where the real estate investor grew up in Dorchester.

Karriem van Leesten IV recalls his first parlay in real estate when he was a rising junior at Boston University and bought his first multi-family home in Dorchester. He renovated it and sold it a couple years later. Today, he is the real estate broker and president of STAD Real Estate Development Corporation, with nearly 19 years of experience.

“Stad” translates to “city” in Dutch, and also is an acronym for Strategic Targeted Acquisitions and Development.

“I’m a firm believer that the city is where development happens and where typically all the action is,” said van Leesten.

Described as a “one-stop shop for real estate services”, STAD specializes in sales, leasing and real estate brokerage for commercial, retail and residential acquisitions.

Van Leesten founded STAD in 2005 in Miami, Florida, six years after graduating from Boston University. STAD had previously operated only in Southern Florida up until March 2016, when van Leesten incorporated STAD’s new Massachusetts branch and set up office in the neighborhood in which he grew up.

“It’s like being back home. I can walk to my old house where I grew up from here,” said van Leesten.

Van Leesten said he was approached last summer by United Housing Management to act as co-project manager for the renovation of the former Grove Hall Boston Public Library branch into Freedom House’s new teen center. Freedom House will offer tutoring, mentoring, financial aid advising and college coaching to teens in the area.

“This project meant a lot to me and is an opportunity for me to do something good in the community,” van Leesten said. “And that’s why I located my office here as well, being here, close to the action.”

First buy

As a young student in Boston in the late ’90s, van Leesten said that he was inspired to purchase a home when his cousin, who was also in college, started working full time and became a homeowner. Van Leesten switched his class load at Boston University to evening school so that he could work full time as a Section 8 Housing program representative for Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership and qualify for a mortgage. “I didn’t have my real estate license yet, but just started buying properties as an investor,” said van Leesten.

When he moved to Miami shortly after graduation, he served as an acquisition and development consultant for various real estate companies, developers and investors, as well as government and nonprofit clients. He has experience working as a budget analyst for Miami Dade County and project manager for City of Fort Lauderdale’s Community Redevelopment Agency.

In 2004, he received his real estate license and from 2005 to 2011, STAD mainly served as a real estate consulting firm but then expanded into brokerage services.

“I didn’t want to leave anything on the table,” said van Leesten. “For example, if I analyzed a project for a developer, then I could also stay on board and do the sales for them.”

As a broker, van Leesten utilizes his experience in both the private and public sector to source leads, conduct marketing, analyze finances and identify sources of funds.

According to van Leesten, 40 percent of STAD’s business is in Boston, and 60 percent is in Miami. Currently, STAD has commercial space for lease in Grove Hall and Roslindale and a couple of sale deals in the pipeline. Van Leesten is also property manager for a 14-unit building in Grove Hall.

Growing opportunity

Since his college days, van Leesten has noticed some changes in the neighborhood. He’s now working to be a part of those changes.

“There’s new construction developed on formerly vacant lots, and a lot more commercial activity in this area and Boston in general,” he said. “I would like to be a business owner and community leader that will be here for a long time and able to provide excellent service for residents, just as the others have done in this community in the past. Years ago, Blue Hill Avenue had a lot of commercial black-owned businesses.”

He refers to businesses like Ernest Scott Insurance Agency, Nova Sheen Dry Cleaners and Walaikum Burgers, which have continued to be in business for 40 to 50 years.

For van Leesten, locating his office in his old neighborhood is not only strategic but also gives him an opportunity to reconnect with the community. He shared a moment he had recently with a young boy in the neighborhood who walked by his office looking for someone. Throughout their conversation, the young boy shared that he had torn his shoes while playing basketball and was hoping the person he was meeting up with could give him a new pair for a game he had that night. After not being able to find the person, van Leesten offered the boy his 17-year old son’s shoes that were barely worn because “he actually didn’t like the color.”

“If I located my office outside the city in a traditional office building, I would not have that interaction on a daily basis with people,” said van Leesten.

He offers some advice to those who may be interested in pursuing real estate: “You have to be patient, be a people person and be willing to fail,” he said. “Because not every deal is going to close.”